Monday, 4 August 2008

Life is a beach

I have long been an admirer of the Tudor historian Eamon Duffy and was delighted to acquire a copy of his excellent tome The Voices of Morebath. It will take pride of place in my saddle-bag as I traverse the lanes near Dulverton during the summer vacation. It is the story of how the tiny local parish of Morebath functioned in the 1520s, and how it survived the vicissitudes of the mid-Tudor period. In many ways this is the biography of one Christopher Trychay’s working life. He was the priest - a uniquely powerful figure. Indeed they called him "Sir" Christopher. What an excellent tradition to confer an honourary knighthood upon the leading figure in any community. How I wish it could be thus in this day and age. Sir Christopher was really Morebath's Chief Executive. He emerges as a strong, sometimes pedantic, occasionally difficult man, with a pithy and powerful turn of phrase. He had definite ideas about how his parishioners should behave, and he encouraged them to cooperate, not least by being as meticulous in his records of those who failed to contribute to parish expenses as he was in recording those who were more generous. It must remain questionable whether his parishioners followed his wishes out of devotion or constraint. But so what. To encourage allegiance it is sometimes necessary to cajole and threaten. I should know. I heartily recommend this book. Relish the detail as you read. It will massage the mind just as another element of Morebath life can also massage the soul. So if you spot my familiar handlebars leaning up against the railings at Whitehall Farmhouse don't be too surpised - a bit of therapy for the old energy field never comes amiss!

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