I intended to get home by early afternoon on Wednesday as a compromise for taking two nights away. I went partly in order to concentrate on cello practice, but primarily to prevent myself wrecking my hands with DIY before my concert in Newmarket on Thursday: my new bedroom carpet was being fitted on Friday morning, and I desperately wanted to get the hand-punishing and messy task of window frame stripping finished before then. But I also knew that there was no way I could do that and still be able to give a concert. The only sure way to prevent myself committing such a foolishness was to physically remove myself from the temptation, with a little concession: I could at least spend a bit of time on the more harmless job of painting walls if I got home in good time on Wednesday afternoon.
But my other dilemma on Wednesday morning was between writing and cello practice. I was enjoying my morning writing session so much – not to mention sitting in the pretty courtyard garden of a Beccles café – that I set off for my first church nearly an hour later than planned.
St Peter’s, Spexhall
Indoor temperature 25.4˚C
I chose Spexhall as it was nearby but more or less in the direction of home. The church was lovely and practice was satisfying. I especially enjoyed the model of Spexhall church in the chancel and wondered how many hours must have gone into creating such a faithful reproduction, complete with a shingle-adorned exterior in place of stone and flint.
The most exciting aspect of my visit, however, was the graffiti I discovered in the porch. A certain John Browne in 1658 felt it necessary to engrave his name not once but twice (unless, I suppose, there were two John Brownes in the same family or parish) and the dates 1666, 1591 and 1570-something were also visible on the stone window frames, along with various sets of initials. As well as a sundial, I found numerous vertical lines with slanted tips which I had seen several times before but have never been able to identify.
St Andrew’s, Wissett
I was, of course, running even later when I left for Wissett, but I couldn’t resist visiting just one more church before going home. I sat down in the churchyard for a picnic, and immediately realised that I’d left my digital thermometer on a gravestone in Spexhall churchyard. I’d nearly forgotten it on several occasions recently, so I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. Spexhall wasn’t far away, but I couldn’t be bothered to go back and get it: I was short of time already, and it had started malfunctioning the previous day anyway, not to mention the external wire that broke off the previous week. Instead I amused myself with the thought of someone discovering a stray thermometer on a gravestone and wondering what it could be doing there…
Wissett was delightful. I entered through a Norman doorway decorated with animal faces (see header photo) and plenty of graffiti to a simple, light interior with a brick floor. It was the sort of church interior that makes me breathe a deep sigh of relief: it exuded calm, wellbeing and beauty. I looked inside the round tower and saw the most endearing of wonky wooden ceilings – or perhaps more accurately a floor – forming, I assume, the bell stage. The font was covered in creatures, and I found the date 1567 carved on one side of it; I think that may be the oldest graffiti date I have yet found in a church.
The acoustic was as wonderful as the rest of it, and I had to drag myself away after far too short a time. Before leaving, however, I was delayed by the discovery of further graffiti: initials in the chancel arch, and, amongst many other carvings, two churches in the outer porch doorway. The stone had worn away so unevenly that some of the graffiti was hard to make out, but the churches were unmistakable.
I left for home nearly two hours later than I intended, feeling that I’d had a good holiday, and was ready for both my concert and some painting that afternoon.
Header photo: Wissett church, Norman doorway detail