* Saint Andrews Church – Ashingdon * Full Bladders * Ghosts of Saxons * Old King Canute
*Sitting by the weathered, lichen covered gravestones that are slowly sinking into thegreedy Essex soil, I can see before me the flat marsh lands of this East AngliaCounty. It was down upon those neatly cropped fields, now the land of farmers, where Edmund Ironside fought against Canute. One a Saxon King theother a Dane. They fought, as Kings did in those days, for ownership of landwhich in itself is, if not a little bizarre then certainly a rather pointless exercise but perhaps that conclusion is just the perspective that history allows. Further out, beyond Canewdon, named after Canute, and a bit to the east is Pagleshamwhere you can see one of the tributaries of the Thames estuary that leads evenfurther east and into London. Across these level lands a mist sometimes rollsin off the water, covering the rough ploughed fields with a lace of grey. I stillsee those ancient Saxon armies with their men armed with swords in their scabbards and shields slung across their broad shoulders, while others carryaxe and spear, strung out like beads on an old ladies dress, marching with asoft sound of wet soil beneath their booted feet.Were you to dig down deep enough, I wonder what fossils of bones you might find?How many broken blades? How many helms cleaved in two? The fragmented bones of fragile infants; the teeth and jaw bone of family canines, all longdead and equally long forgotten. On the hill that overlooks the vale of whatwas once known as Assandun is a church: Saint Andrews. It was built four years after the battle of the place it now overlooks: The Battle of Assandun.Only a short four miles north is a place called Battlesbridge. It is aptly namedas that is where the first clang of swords would have been heard. The battlewas fought in ten sixteen and Saint Andrews was built in ten twenty. Thechurch is some eleven years shy of one thousand years old. Can you believethat? A building that has seen nigh on one thousand years of history; of the progress of European man; his comings and goings, his wars, his creativitycounter-balanced by his apparent disregard for all but himself. As I sitobserving I am forced to move occasionally to another bench. This is due tothe sun that hangs distant in the March sky, for although relatively warm itstill strikes cold as it moves in orbit and hides behind the church tower so Imove with it.Before I left home I prepared myself some tomatoes; tomatoes on toast sprinkledliberally with salt and pepper. This I washed down with a cup of tea (well, I amEnglish after all) and to ensure, because of the climb up the hill, that I have asufficient blood sugar level, I drank a half a bottle of Lucozade. Unfortunately, theconsequence of downing all this liquid is an overwhelming need to urinate. Normally,I would simply find a tree and do against it what comes naturally.