Below the Surface

A property in the country. What is the strange story attached to that place and the people who have successively called it their home? For that we have to go right back- to the distant past that connects it all.






                                 (Saint Aurelius Augustine of Hippo)




        I suppose you might say it is an ordinary place. It has a church and nearby, a crossroads. Not  so much roads but narrow lanes,hardly used by passing vehicle, lest their paintwork get scratched by the surrounding hedge and trees. A large solitary oak, ancient and decrepit  marks one corner of that crossroads and from it, rusting barbed wire has near disappeared within the overspilling hedge. The  green pasture within keeps grazing Jerseys and Frisians. As they casually chew,the only other sounds heard may be the odd bumble bee clambering about buttercup and thistle while above, the old oak occasionally sways its lofty head with the gentle rush and clatter of several thousand leaves. How quiet it is. How left alone this place has been, you might think.


      If you stood alone though,perhaps after a short while you could sense better, taste the air of its ancient atmosphere that lingers on here still. Look again on this place, through its own experience until the intermittent sound of the buzzing bee fades to a minuscule passing moment in the length of its age. A time when the old oak was displaying its first young oak leaves.


       Many feet treading the ground.Busy. Chattering voices, calls and bursts of laughter. Dogs barking. People arriving from far away while others  are setting off for a long journey by horse and wagon. We find ourselves at a marketplace with an atmosphere that was once friendly and alive. 


   In this place, noise and smell enticed all who approached while the sounds of hissing geese, squealing piglets, corse-haired yapping puppy dog, each hemmed in and segregated by wattle pens. All manner of farm animals though somewhat unfamiliar breeds, were all found here. Calls from makers and barterers near and far offering their wares  rung out in the aromatic air.Weavers too were here to show their beautifully finished pieces and to buy more dyed wool from the dyers. The dyers,who came from a distant community and whose particular community stink was as renowned as their skill. Less known were their laborious yet secretive processes taken to make such colours.


   That they possessed wonderful and admirable skills in their workmanship and manufacture was clear, yet understated in their rather simple lifestyle.The market then,was perhaps a time to dress well as much as for buying. Woven goods were many. Folded in piles or strung up on display to show colour and pattern,all woven cloth came infused within their making with the smell of woodsmoke and perhaps the stray woody husk in the fibre and weave.Strung up too were fowl and game. The bodies of hare,deer, and wild boar could  be seen hanging by their legs from hazel rods,blood dripping from their noses. Some birds were de-featherd and split open revealing a budding egg or two from within,all awaiting the store in someones household  pantry stock. Alongside the makers of cloth, were the makers of hides. The tanners whose hands spoke of sore labour. It was the excrement of fowl that worked well as an ammonia solution, stripping the flesh and fat from the hide. Cow, goat and sheep as well as furs of bear, wolf, martin, otter and hare could all be obtained. And with each hide was its unique odour of pungent acorn tannins,and raw animal fat about them.


   Then there was the smithy,the metalworker with his finished orders. Now taking new ones to be worked on back at the forge. From barrels to bridlery, new and repaired, blades for the field, for ploughing or scythe blades cutting the barley. Each item was made to serve its purpose through an in-depth understanding of that which they worked. Each was finished with an understated decorative flourish, signalling a masters hands at play.    His work was hung on makeshift beams forming a frame. Together they awaited their collector while displaying the smithy's skill. Newly completed works often  ended up being taken to Bridgeford by traders who then with other works from other parts of the country set sail with their cargo. The smithy as with others who crafted, produced and sold were pleased to sell their goods. But in the further reaches of commerce in which these trade buyers dealt, the makers had little idea how their deftly made works compared in other lands. What they did know is that the traders always came and they always bought and took away as much as they could.



   The smells and aromas greeted and enticed all those making their way to that marketplace at Lynly. Woodsmoke and cooking pork fat wafted freely as a boar turned on a great spit. Pieces carved off and sold to the hungry was managed by an old but energetic woman wrapped in a plaid of earth red and bright yellows. There,she smiled a toothy smile to each person she served. Horse dealers nearby, led huge and skittish cob horses to where deals were being made,their giant hooves grinding where they trod. Dung piles about the ground pervaded and lingered with all other aromas giving that place its existence.


An existence that was and then gradually was not. Like dark clouds gathering on the fringes of a soft summer,it  began to diminish as an era of brute change arrived in the land.


It was not the first time that locals had known brutal theft  by those who coveted what they had.But this time,the attackers were truly prepared. Disciplined and single minded, they aggressively annihilated their objectors. These were not raids. It was something far more shocking,more disturbing. No one could have perceived the darkness in those hearts. They had come for good.To take continually until it became a way of life.


And like a contusion,it spread until eventually even this  far away little valley of Lynley knew its dark assault too. Trampled away was one kind of daily life until eventually another would come fourth.











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