||It was the so-called
summer of 2003. Three weeks of cycling in France
had left me ill-prepared; I set off from
Haverhill under a clear blue sky wearing shorts
and a tee shirt. Within half an hour, ominous
clouds began to gather, and as I climbed the long
hill out of Barnadiston the sky had turned the
colour of lead. It broke as I reached Poslingford
churchyard. It was the first rain in weeks. I ran
with my bike up the gravel path, and abandoned it
against the spendid red brick 15th Century south
porch. At the very least I'd find shelter there,
even if the church itself was locked.
Not only was the church locked, the porch was
locked too. I banged at the outer doors in
frustration, and pressed myelf against them in
despair in a fruitless attempt to avoid getting
soaked to the skin. Honestly, this was so petty.
Porches were designed as places of hospitality
and refuge, somewhere strangers and pilgrims
could shelter on their journey through life. But
not at Poslingford, apparently.
The rain came in waves, and during a
lull I searched for a keyholder notice. Well,
there wasn't one. A faded, laminated A4 sheet
with a picture of the church at the top might
have had an address on once, I suppose. It might
have had anything on. Shivering, I walked quickly
back down the track to the road. A man was
working in an open garage at one of the houses
opposite. I called out to him, asking if he knew
where I could find a key to the church.
He looked at me over the top of his glasses.
"Why did you want to get in?" he asked.
"Because I'm soaked wet through and I'm
bloody freezing", I wanted to reply. But I
didn't. I just mumbled something about websites
and photographs. He didn't know where a key was.
Perhaps it was the wrong answer.
And what if I hadn't been soaked to the skin,
what if I'd actually wanted to see inside? What
might have seen? Mortlock says that within this
overwhelmingly restored exterior there are some
good medieval survivals, including the screen and
a 12th century font. He also observes that the
lion and the unicorn on the James I royal arms
are surprisingly well endowed. Kind of makes you
want to go and have a look, doesn't it.So I left
Poslingford, shaking the dust from my feet (it
was more like mud by now). Later that evening, I
took to my bed, still shivering. I told my wife
that if I died she should ask our solicitor to
sue the Poslingford PCC for dereliction of
Christian duty. Quite rightly, she told me not to
feel so sorry for myself.
When I recovered, I wrote
an e-mail to the Poslingford PCC. They replied
fairly swiftly, telling me they'd put a keyholder
notice up. I was welcome back any time.
|But it was twelve
years before I returned to this neat
little village in the hills to the north
of Clare. The church was still where I'd
left it, set back above the road. And it
was still locked.There was no keyholder
notice, so either this had not happened
or it has since been taken down again.
It's no use me complaining to the PCC,
because there is no PCC anymore. St Mary
is no longer a parish church, forming a
chapel of ease within Clare parish. The
otherwise reticent notice board down by
the road reveals that there is one
service a month, although it also gives a
number to ring just to check that this is
actually going to happen.
The church is in a poor state. Ivy climbs
the walls, there's a hole in one of the
windows, the roof tiles are broken.
Surely it can't be long before it is
declared redundant and turned into a