Follow the brown signs
So unsurprisingly then Wednesday wasn’t a brown sign day at all. Instead I dragged myself around our little apartment making lots of tea and trying not to be drunk. In the afternoon I tried to do some work on my website but my right eye was overcome by “vodka red bull blindness” which inevitably strikes on days like these, so obviously that put me off somewhat and was also nice and worrying. Not the greatest of days let’s face it. The need to enter another marathon and erase these terrible self inflicted woes fast approaches methinks…
But what a difference a day makes! Thursday saw me bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for some hardcore brown signing with my dad, and that man didn’t disappoint. He was up and ready, wrapped up to face the freezing weather with me, despite not getting what my book is about and urging me to get a proper job, he did like the thought of a visit to Christchurch Priory, so off we went.
There’s been church on the site where Christchurch priory stands since 700AD, but the present building was begun in 1094, just after the Norman invasion, when William the Conqueror was keen to stamp his mark all over England by building castles and monasteries everywhere. Since then the priory has been partly demolished and rebuilt in line with various religious upheavals, the most notable being the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII when all the monastic buildings on the site were pulled down. The priory is a joy to walk around and take in. It is not on a huge cathedral scale either which makes it more intimate and less daunting to visit, I thought. My best bits were the intricately carved misericords, theses are the wooden perches that the monks would sit on during their gruelling long worshipping sessions. The oldest dates back to 1250 and each one is unique tells it’s own little story. I also loved the unbelievably ornate 600 year old stone sculpted screen of the nativity scene (looking surprisingly modern and untarnished) and the huge stained glass window which I soaked in the light of for a long time. All in all it was an awe inspiring place to be.
A volunteer steward soon approached my dad and I. I’m assuming he could hear my dad telling me loudly about the Romanesque architecture and the little details that set all the different building styles of the priory apart. I have to admit though that I was way more interested in scaring myself stupid by going up the tower (176 steps on high), so I asked the steward if I could go. Clearly he doesn’t get asked this very often and told me he would need to come with me. Being a slightly portly chap in his 60s I politely declined the offer. However, this man cared very much that I should get to see the view from the tower, he just loved that I was interested. On such a cold but glorious day it will be wonderful, he said, so lovely he would be coming up there with me. Oh dear. It all got a little awful when, despite my hearty protesting to the contrary, he finally scuttled off to get the key. I was genuinely worried about causing this poor man’s death by a heart attack induced solely by my own selfish desire to climb the priory tower. Eeek. To my great relief though, when he returned he said the key could not be found. Thank God! This poor man’s life would not be taken on account of my wanton whim.
The thing with people who care is that they want so badly to inspire other people and show them why what they care about is so brilliant. He couldn’t be more enthused about my book (after I explained the concept in detail) and he took my mobile number to call me about the possibility of going back later this week and making an another attempt at ascending the tower together. He was excellent, the very best kind of person you meet along The Brown Sign Way. Sadly I have no pictures of him because someone stole my camera and I had to use my phone for the few I did take. Not being in the market for iPhones and other expensive yet massively life enhancing gadgets, I am yet to work out how to download what I did take, sorry, but I will work it out and post some soon, I promise.
After the priory my dad and I sought out a nice pub, ordered a few too many ales with whisky chasers and had a great big lunch. We then headed back and I went for a long walk on the (brown signed) beach as the sun was setting, God I love it down here. Another brown sign day satisfactorily completed.
Just as a quick aside before I go, I have noticed here, more than anywhere in Britain, the existence of fake brown signs. You can always tell, they’re usually more worn, they don’t have the right typeface or symbol and are usually the wrong shape. I took pictures of some to show you, I’ll have to upload them when I get back home. See, brown signs are so great people want to rip them off!
Better tootle off now folks, some more brown sign related beach walking is calling…