St Margaret’s, Linstead Parva
Indoor temperature: 5.6˚C, humidity: 75%
I was due at my friend Nick’s house in Sibton Green for lunch, so I looked up churches on near the route from Metfield. I was surprised to discover that Linstead Magna (‘greater’) church has as good as disappeared, but Linstead Parva (‘lesser’) is alive and well. Their names might have suggested the opposite outcome. But this suited me well: I am always more attracted to smaller places and churches.
Pulling up outside Linstead Parva brightened the dreary morning instantly. Only one phrase whirled around in my head as I parked my car and walked up to the churchyard: ‘what a dear little church!’ Simon Knott, I have discovered, also describes it as such, so a dear little church it must be. It reminded me of the diminutive Redisham. I imagine it must be slightly larger – given Redisham’s supposed (and disputed – by me) status as the smallest church in Suffolk – but it was impossible to tell without seeing them side by side, or at least one straight after the other.
Its patchy walls were a delight and I could have examined them all day. The exterior was more endearing than the interior, I thought, but this impression may have been exacerbated by the dark, requiring that I turn on the lights. I couldn’t find any lights for the chancel, but the nave was so short that playing in front of the altar seemed the best option nevertheless. The west window was perhaps my favourite aspect of the interior, enhanced by the font directly below it.
I fiddled about for so long with lights and cello that I hadn’t done more than tune up when I heard the door handle turn. I wondered for a moment if someone was coming to check what I was doing. But the smiling faces that entered the church holding up a glass jar were familiar ones: Nick and Karen from the B&B in Metfield. After a conversation that morning about the things people leave behind in their rooms, I had managed to forget a jar of tea. This is not something I would ordinarily carry about with me, but I knew (having stayed there before Christmas) that very little was on offer in the way of tea at my next destination in Westleton, so I went prepared this time, and had taken advantage of my herbal tea stash the previous evening.
I was impressed they had remembered which church I was visiting first, and concerned that they’d gone to the trouble of reuniting me with my tea jar; but they were going to Southwold to pick up their daughter, they said, so it was no trouble. We had a laugh at my absentmindedness, and I offered them a tune in payment, which they duly accepted.
After they left, I practised a Bach Viola da Gamba sonata which I was learning for a recital in April. My bow arm stamina – or rather, lack thereof – was baffling to me. It wasn’t as though I was out of practice, or not playing enough challenging pieces: I had recently given two recitals in a week that involved a huge amount of bowing strength. Perhaps it was simply a matter of every individual piece requiring a slightly different type of stamina, just as every type of exercise uses slightly different muscles. My job was simply to learn not to get frustrated, and trust that with enough warm up time and practice, it would get easier.
Despite my playing discomfort, I didn’t want to leave: the acoustic was glorious. But I wanted to fit in another church before going to Sibton Green, so I eventually succeeded in dragging myself away.
St Mary’s, Chediston
Outdoor temperature: 6.3˚C; indoor temperature 5.8˚C, humidity: 81%
It was drizzling again by the time I reached Chediston church, and it took me a while to find the entrance: I’d missed the sign on the road and ended up at the back of a large churchyard. Eventually I found the track leading through the front of the churchyard, and a car park at the end of it.
After Linstead Parva, the exterior of Chediston was a little disappointing: most of it was rendered, and in the drizzle everything looked greyer than grey. Getting out of the rain into a relatively bright interior helped, where I found a 17th century Decalogue board – probably the best in East Anglia, according to Suffolk Churches. The smaller artefact that interested me even more was a little 14th century oak chest, made from only one piece of wood (lid excluded, I assume).
I practised the other piece I needed to learn urgently: a suite for two cellos by Julius Klengel, a late 19th to early 20th century cellist, which I was due to perform with my sister in March. It was difficult, and we had never performed it in a concert before, though we had learnt it together as children. The difficulties were almost solely technical, however, which can often be more straightforward to master than musical difficulties: I just needed to put in the time, and my fingers would eventually find their way round the notes. There was nothing unplayable in the music, it was only awkward.
I managed to arrive at Sibton Green within a few minutes of the appointed hour – an achievement for me where post-church-appointments are concerned. The prospect of arriving at Nick and Mandy’s house for the first time since Mandy’s death had been causing me some concern, as had seeing Nick, not knowing how he would be, or what I should say.
I needn’t have worried. It was sad and emotional, but our first conversation before I entered the house was reassuringly typical: I noticed a beautiful little tree covered in frizzy yellow flowers outside their garden gate. Nick came out to greet me, and I remarked on its beauty. It was a witch hazel, Nick said, which he and Mandy had been given by his parents when they moved to West Cottage.
I thought I would like to plant one in my garden: it needed more winter blossom, and this tree would remind me of Mandy.
We hugged, and no more words were needed.
Header photo: Linstead Parva wall detail