Fresh air…

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From the archive:

I had an odd and unexpected encounter today. One of those chance meetings that seem small and unimportant yet which leave a mark deeper than we realise at the time. I had wandered over to the next village this afternoon… on a quest for information about a legendary tree…one with a history some two thousand years in its growing. While I did not find the one I was looking for, I found what I needed to know about its eventual demise and unlooked for replacement. Of course, Quainton is a glorious old village with wonderful buildings… and so many overhead cables that getting a decent shot is nigh on impossible. But although I had the inevitable camera in tow, that was not my primary reason for the jaunt. I just needed air. It has been a rough few days.

lilies 760I met a lovely old gentleman in the churchyard who taught me a lot about the village and showed me the oldest buildings still standing there, telling me of the medieval forge and culvert discovered under one of the houses when it was renovated. We walked through the village together and he told me of how it had changed over the years, pointing out the chaffinches, dragonflies and blue-tits as we walked, and taking time to show me the house-martin’s nests under the eaves of one of the houses. It was a slow, leisurely progress, stopping every few steps for the dog to sniff and my companion to rest. He was a very old man.

lilies 753It is a mellow place with the traditional village green bordered by cottages whose roofs are sighing with age and the George and Dragon… what else?… looks out to the ancient preaching cross and the windmill that is the most visible landmark of the village.

lilies 756It is the details that I notice though. The little marks of human hands and humour, like the variety of thatch creatures perched on the roofs, the village pump, or the small crosses carved into the stone of the church by pilgrims who have long since reached their ultimate destination. In many of the churches there are little games carved into the pillars and walls near the pews… often low enough to be out of sight of the officiant. You can imagine small hands surreptitiously working away to make these miniature game boards, whiling away the boredom, perhaps, of a service then in Latin and beyond their reach.

lilies 702I love the quirkiness of the fads and fancies that traverse the ages… from the civic pomp and ceremony of the Victorians to the graphic representations of death from earlier times.. the memento mori that may appear gruesome or shocking to our eyes today, yet which served as a reminder that in death there is neither princely estate nor poverty… it is the great leveller of all and in the beyond of their belief only the riches of virtue would hold meaning. In an era before the advent of antiseptics and antibiotics, when life was fragile and tenuous and dying not a sanitised process, perhaps they did not shrink as we do today from its presence.

lilies 697My companion and I stopped before the place that had once been the old rectory, now undergoing renovation. He admired the new capstones on the gateposts while I quietly admired a bronzed and shirtless Adonis worthy of any sculptor’s efforts.  The old man asked me suddenly what it was that made me take photographs… what was it I tried to capture? I turned my glance from the flexed and gleaming muscles to the equal and warmer beauty of the wrinkled face and the twinkling, questioning eyes. I had a fleeting vision of the thousands of pictures on my hard drive… birds and flowers, skies and buildings, trees and faces, architecture and hilltops, history and humour…and realised I had never really asked myself that question. For a moment, looking mentally at that dizzying array of images I was at a complete loss. There was, it seemed, no common thread. A mish-mash of images, a plethora of subjects…They are not all pretty pictures, not all are gentle, some are harsh, some wild, some dark… and beauty is such a subjective vision anyway…

lilies 698Then I saw it, the common denominator, winding through them all, a sparkling cord that bound them together. I chuckled as I understood the Ariadne’s thread that has always led me, I think. “Life,” I answered, still laughing at myself. “I love Life.” My companion smiled and nodded, satisfied, as if he were a teacher and I a dense pupil who had finally understood. Maybe he was right.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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30 Responses to Fresh air…

  1. A beautiful post, Sue. Very healing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Léa says:

    Oh Sue, what a delight! Perhaps not what you had thought you were there for but life will do that if we are open to it and clearly, you were. What a charming escort…


  3. jenanita01 says:

    The village certainly lives up to its name… but what happened to the tree?


    • Sue Vincent says:

      The poor tree was lost… though a scion of the Thorn was returned there not so long ago. The old tree was cut down in1962, by the rector who was fed up with the visitors to his garden. It had drawn crowds who had come to see if it still flowered at Christmas when the calendar changed centuries ago and retained its reputation as a Holy Thorn:
      “In Quainton, in Buckinghamshire, above two thousand people went, with lanterns and candles, to view a blackthorn in that neighbourhood, and which was remembered to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, and that it always budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went all off at night. The people finding no appearance of a bud, it was agreed by all, that December 25 (new style) could not be the right Christmas-day, and accordingly refused going to church, and treating their friends on that day as usual: at length the affair became so serious, that the ministers of the neighbouring villages, in order to appease them, thought it prudent to give notice, that the Old Christmas-day should be kept holy as before.” William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827 (Volume 1, December 24)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for taking on this journey Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely post, Sue. I think your love of life comes across pretty well in your posts and your images 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. memadtwo says:

    And the gate in green is the perfect ending to your post. There is always another to open. (K)


  7. A delightful wander through the old village, Sue. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rae Longest says:

    LIKE! LIKE! LIKE! I wish the old man had let you take his picture, but perhaps that would have been too intrusive.


  9. Beautiful post, but you really had me at the windmill picture…always a favorite. Don Quixote wannabe.


  10. Wonderful wanderings, Sue. The very old man was your gift for making the journey. 🙂


  11. Thank you. Such journeys are really full of experiences we never thought before, but i always have the problem bringing smalltalk to the max. LOL. Have a great sunday. Michael


  12. Jennie says:

    Beautiful post, Sue!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Writing Links…9/18/17 – Where Genres Collide

  14. macjam47 says:

    What a gift to be able to walk with such a wonderful companion and learn the village’s secrets. I loved your analogy of the teacher and the student at the end. I was not surprised by your answer, that you love life is evident in your photos.


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