I've been away and so I'll be catching up on everyone's blogs and comments in the next few days. But guess what - here is the missing post! (or nearly - actually, I've changed it a bit). Graham B kindly sent me a copy, which apparently made it onto Google Reader.
It's about Suffolk, one of my favourite counties. I like to go there just to relax, but last week I was there for work and believe me it was a surprisingly different experience. (More of that soon.)
Meanwhile this is what I was thinking about Suffolk 10 days ago, or thinking about the village of Woolpit, to be precise. And how much you can find out if you follow up little clues.
Such as Woolpit's village sign (below). It is easy to whiz past it in the car ...
(Photo: http://myths.e2bn.org )
but I wonder how many visitors ask themselves what the green figures mean.
Well, here is their story...
Old histories of Suffolk record that long ago, in the reign of King Stephen (12th century), two strange green children were found cowering in a hole in the ground near Woolpit They spoke no English, and their clothing was made of unfamiliar material. They only ate green beans, refusing bread. They were confused and were in short, not like normal children at all.
One, the boy, quickly died, but the other, a girl, survived. She took the name of Agnes Barre, learned to speak like the locals, and settled down. She was always considered to be "wanton," whatever that means - promiscuous, perhaps - or just self willed. But she found a husband, and had children, and some local people are still said to be descended from her.
Agnes remembered that her original home was bathed in perpetual twilight, and that a luminous land shone some distance away from beyond a great river. But nobody ever identified this strange land.
The finding of the children is well documented, although it must have been embellished in the telling and re-telling over nine hundred years. (There's an interesting analysis of it here.) So who were the green-skinned children?
Some people believe they were little aliens. Others think they were refugees with a disease called "chlorosis" (although chlorosis itself is one of those weird old diseases that are no longer reported in humans.)
Perhaps they were connected with the folklore figure of the Green Man. And goodness knows what HE meant to these unlettered peasants, but there is a fifteenth-century carving of a green man in Woolpit church, sprouting leaves as whiskers.
Whether or not he's connected with the green children, he is another of the unusual things about Woolpit. When you walk into its church, the collection of large, remarkable pew ends really draws your attention.
They're all different. Some are called "poppyhead" because they are carved with foliage like that of poppies. Others depict all kinds of weird and uncanny things, often monsters or demons to warn congregations that evil is always among us. Some depict everyday life and local characters.
Woolpit's carvings include a lion with a human head. That head looks like a portrait of someone real, to me, the kind of face you might see in a country pub.
I know someone who looks just like the carving below, though he wouldn't thank me for saying so ... and he doesn't usually wear a medieval hood
Is this a little lap dog, alertly watching its master or mistress at prayer? (dogs often accompanied their owners into church)
But what's this? A sheep? Hardly, since it has paws, not hooves.
This one has hooves but it looks like a lion I doubt anyone in 15th century Woolpit had ever seen a real lion.
And the one below is definitely a fabulous and unreal beast. In fact, with its wings and devilish horns, I think this one could possibly be a baddie, a bit of evil to be on guard against.
Woolpit's church is mostly 14th and 15th century, though there was a church there long before that. On the roof, large wooden angels guard the congregation. Rather hard to see from my photo but perhaps you can spot some sticky-out wings high up there.
I don't think English people are specially religious, but even those who do not attend services feel a sense of ownership for their parish church.
I always try to support events in aid of village churches, like this street party in the Cotswold village of Cold Aston, with stalls, entertainments and food throughout the village.
Cold Aston is on the other side of the country to Woolpit, but is also a nice place. I hope it doesn't live up to its name this year. Its event is on 21 July, so there's still time for a respite from the almost ceaseless rain and temperatures so cold that we are lighting fires in the evening.
PS . I hope you feel the post was worth waiting for but should point out that the weather is, if anything, even WORSE than when I wrote it! :)