I have become obsessive about two things at the moment – well actually, maybe, three. Firstly, although I am not one to usually make any New Year resolutions – I invariably don’t keep them for very long and it all seems a complete waste of time – this year I have made an exception by making just one! I am going to try and walk an average of 5000 steps each day throughout the year. So far so good! I am achieving my objective which is not very demanding I will concede. So obsessive have I become about the walking I note down my daily score – yes, of course, it is also recorded on my phone! Yesterday was a red letter day – I acceded my target by over 2000 steps! My second obsession is linked with the first – I take a daily walk down the lane and if I am suitably clad and have stick in hand I walk across the fields too, if not I walk to the end of the lane and then on my return journey I walk through the churchyard and back home past the pub. The walk is always taken around sunset and here we come to my second obsession – I take copious photos on my phone of the sunsets. It is not enough to take just one or two. True they are usually dramatic and spectacular. The sun peers through the iron black branches of the trees that border the churchyard as it sinks slowly into the earth. It is reflected in the gently rippling water of the pond, it highlights the rustling fronded seed heads of the bleached reeds gilding them and changing them to precious delicate gold filigree. The purple bruised clouds become scarlet red, shocking pink, rose gold as they hang like a gaudy blanket pressing down on the darkened fields beneath. All of it I have a compulsion to capture – those fleeting moments that will never be the same again. There is a silence and stillness that is only interrupted by the fleeting flight of cawing rooks from the churchyard trees or the screech of seagulls as they head for the shore line in the distance. The sheep graze seemingly unaware of the drama above them. Perhaps they have seen it some many times before. The third obsession is not just mine – I share it with a friend. We are, as some of you will have noted in previous posts, surveying and making a record of the graves in the churchyard at New Romney. We have completed a section of the North side, and we started on the South side before the bad weather set in for winter. There was no way we two “older” persons were going to crawl around in the winter in the churchyard and so we have taken ourselves inside. All across the church floor there are memorial slabs that record the deaths and in many cases details of the lives of the past worthies of this ancient Cinque Port. They are utterly fascinating. They have become the third obsession. We have photographed each of those in the South Aisle, now moved on to the North Aisle and are heading towards the Altar there. Some are partially obscured by pews or the choir stalls, some are badly worn and some just rather enigmatic in the script we can decipher. We are very fortunate to have been given permission by the Church Warden to look at a written record of all of these slabs which was undertaken by NADFAS some years ago. We obsessively photograph the slabs, the entry in the documentation, and then when we return home we each equally obsessively research each individual that we have recorded. Then we share our findings via email – sharing obscure scholarly articles, finds on Ancestry, pictures of the houses, long since gone, that these man and women of parochial standing and some considerable wealth lived in and owned. We get monumentally overexcited about our findings, record as much as we can in notes and data bases and rush off on tangential journeys into strange scholarly byways that have little if anything to do with the individuals concerned. We have managed to learn several “new” computer skills along the way, found out about Cinque Port stuff that we never knew and probably don’t need to know now, tried desperately to decipher Wills that are convoluted and obscure in their language and script, discovered a few quite exciting – to us – facts about those who lived and worked in New Romney. My favourite to date is probably one John Mascall to fitted out seven ships and set himself and his brother and quite possibly his brother in law too as privateers – they all appear to have made it a profitable trade! Others are not backward in coming forward in recording their municipal status in this small community. They take enormous pride in the fact that those who are long gone served as Jurats or Mayors or in one case a gentleman who has had listed on his memorial slab the facts that he was three times Mayor, a Baron of the Cinque Port of New Romney and carried the canopy at the coronation of Charles II, was the Bailiff at the Yarmouth Fair, Captain of the Trained Band and that he died aged 41 in 1669. It is quite sobering to think that he would have known of, and survived, the Plague that ravaged this country in 1665, that he would have heard of the great Fire of London in 1666 and that he lived through the Commonwealth of 1649-1660 and the Civil War (1642-1651) and to see the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. I wonder how these momentous events in our history affected him and his life. Which side did he favour in the Civil War? How did he fare under the rule of the Puritans? I suspect that like so many he would have been pragmatic about the changes – he would have gone along with things but perhaps never giving any firm allegiance to anyone or any cause. I suspect his first concern was himself, his farming business and his family.
I want to tell their stories, I think it is important that they are all recorded and that they never disappear. Why? I have absolutely no idea! But back to the sunsets. Yesterday’s was particularly spectacular. The skies appeared to be on fire. The church was a stumpy silhouette, the trees provided a blackened screen of twigs and branches, the clouds were a fluffy firmament of pinks, reds and purple shades. Below I have put some of my pictures from last evening.