However, on arrival in Adstock, I a-spyed a notice in the local rag, asking for musicians to play for the church and, as they said they were DESPERATE, I put my hand up and now I am organist at St Cecilia's church! It is only once a month, but even so....
What this means, is that, when I feel brave enough, I get to rug up, tuck my hymn book under my arm and walk through the village, past crooked houses with moss-tiled roofs, past The Old Thatched Inn, the Old School House and up to the church, which sits, surrounded by a green blanketed grave yard, spined all over with crooked tombstones. This morning, the cold had come back with a vengeance, but the sun was sparkling from a clear sky, the birds twittering, the grave stones shining a gold in the morning light. Crunching over the gravel path, I felt just like Elizabeth Bennet and entering the church, is tantamount to walking into a slice of history. Like a miniature Cathedral, the floor is tiled with cracked, paving stone, worn by centuries of feet, the windows stream coloured light from the painted glass. The air is redolent with the fragrance of old wood, old stone, of centuries of flower arrangements and prayer and there are tiny bats hibernating in the curtains.
This is a place that was built in the 15th century - one of the bells dates to 1440. Now, just pause and think about that for a bit. 1440. This was the time of Henry the 6th – the Wars of the Roses – a time when Henry the eighth and his bloody reign were not even a twinkle in the eye of England.
And this is where I get to sit and play the organ, which only has one manual, a high, slidey seat ( so that whenever I try to play the pedals, I do a banana impression), not a vast array of stops, but why would you need more? I tried to play through the list of hymns that the vicar had given me – the favourite hymns of the congregation and was reminded of the real beauty of this old church music – music written to uplift the soul, to bring comfort, written so that you don't have to be a great singer to join in. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the fifth one my toes and fingers were hurting so much from the cold that I had to stop and go huddling home to the almost warmth.
I am no longer a believer, but I can't help feeling that it would be a great pity if no one was – because, what would happen to these old places? How long would it be before this church was gutted and divided up into apartments, or razed to the ground altogether? I wonder how many people realise how lucky they are to have places like this in their midst – places where you can just wander in, to admire the stone work, or the windows, or the embroidered cushions? Somewhere you can just sit and drink in the peace, pray, or think deep thoughts – or, in my case, let one's mind wander to who knows where...
|And back to our little sideways house!|
And if there are any engineers out there looking for a good cause – I am sure that anyone who designs an organ with heated keys and pedals will win the undying love of organists all the world round.