Posts Tagged ‘hamlet’

To Aslan’s Mountain with a wisdom stick

Everything was perfect. The weather was sunny. I had the afternoon off. I had a bag of snacks and water. And I was ready for an adventure.

Off we went, Danda and I, in search of the highest point in South East England. It was quite easy going at first so we were tricked into thinking it might just be a gentle stroll. We each found a stick to use, to make us look like seasoned ramblers. I felt mine made me look quite wise. So we started referring to them as Wisdom Sticks.


As we pottered along, admiring the views and how lovely the evening sun was, we came to an area where all the trees had been chopped down. It looked so out of place, in the middle of such dense forest, to have a field which had been cleared so abruptly. I remember thinking that I hope there was a valid reason for chopping down all those trees. On the other hand, some of the moss covered stumps made for beautiful photographs.


We had barely left this empty field when we found ourselves in a tiny little hamlet called Friday Street. I’m not sure why it is named that but I bet there’s some interesting history behind so I’ll Google it later and let you know the story. Anyway, aside from its unusual name, this hamlet is significant for another reason. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1200s, a major influence in the drafting of the Magna Carta, was born here. His name was Stephan Langton and the first thing we came upon in Friday Street was a pub named after him.

Legend has it that he was involved with King John in various ways. Good old King John of the Silent Pool from last week’s post, Searching for Agatha. And he’s not any more likeable in the legends that connect him to Stephan Langton and Friday Street.

Stephan was living in Albury when he was 18 and had fallen in love with a girl called Alice, later to become the Abbess of St Catherine’s in Guildford. Stephan and Alice were walking along in the woods one day when they were attacked by King John and his followers. I think King John needs to have a long hard look at his behaviour and make up his mind to act like a king, rather than a career criminal. (Actually, this story is quite hard to marry with historical fact as King John was around 1 year old when this was said to have happened!) Anyway, the king kidnapped Alice – more kidnapping – and took her to his hunting lodge nearby. If Stephan had had a Wisdom Stick, he could have fought the king off. Just saying. Wisdom Sticks are useful.

Stephan followed, then set fire to the house. I’m told it was in an attempt to rescue Alice but he apparently buggered off without her when she fainted from the smoke.

The logical outcome from this series of events? Well, of course he ran off, became a monk and was chosen by the Pope to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course. King John refused to accept him as Archbishop, Rome got grumpy, France threatened to invade… It was all going downhill. Until Stephan stepped in and the Magna Carta made its appearance in 1215.

In the meantime, Alice became an Abbess (I can’t stop saying ‘absess’ in my head when I write that word). They were both at Mass in a church years later and were reunited. But she was apparently so overcome with emotion that she died in his arms. I’m sorry? She was so emotional when she saw him that she DIED!? She died of ’emotion’. I bet Stephan realised how rubbish she was then. I bet that’s why he left her in the house after he set fire to it.

Anyway, back to Friday Street. It was gorgeous. I could have been anywhere, the French Alps, an Italian lake, the Swiss Mountains. It was just so pretty and picturesque.



We came across this little sign as we were leaving the village and I obviously got two jars.


We also came across a sign for duck eggs and chicken eggs, £1.50 a box, which I would have loved, but there were none left. All in all, Friday Street was one of the highlights of the walk, so small and peaceful, the houses just like a bit of the countryside. They had a way of seeming like they belonged there just as much as the trees did. I did wonder where people get stuff from though, there were no shops at all.

After leaving Friday Street, the going got tougher. Steep inclines and sharp drops saw me making lots of ‘oo’ noises as I almost fell yet again. My Wisdom Stick was invaluable for this section of the walk. I started to get a bit breathless and requested a Chocolate Stop. To be honest, I’d been asking for a Chocolate Stop since we started and Danda hadn’t allowed me one, said I was being a greedy guts. I didn’t dispute this fact, but I still wanted a Chocolate Stop. This was our view during our stop. Beautiful.


Next we started the climb to our main destination, Leith Tower. The hill is at 965 feet above sea level so the tower was apparently built because someone (I forget who) wanted to be 1000 feet above sea level. I couldn’t wait to get up there, climb the tower, look out, get some great pictures to show you all.

On our way we came unexpectedly across this beautiful waterfall….


.. and stood marvelling at it for a while. As we turned to leave, there was a surreal from-a-film moment, when a load of flying ladybirds attacked us. I say ‘attacked’, they didn’t really. They were were just flying and they were near us. But it was bizarre, some did fly into us. I spent forever trying to get shots of bugs on flowers and finally got an ok one.


Anyway, we kept on our way and got to the tower finally. Remember how excited I was to go up it? To see the view?….


It seems the English countryside closes when Laura goes for a walk…. This happened last time in Shere, everything closed. Anyway, never mind. The views were still stunning.


You can see sheets of rain coming down from the clouds on the left and a patch of sun breaking through to the right. It was amazing how far I could see. I felt a bit like Simba and Mufasa, you know the scene where Mufasa is like, “Everything you can see belongs to us. Everywhere the light touches.”

Talking of lions, the walk back to our start point was equally as beautiful. The hilltop feels so high up, I imagine this is what Aslan’s Mountain is like. If any of you have read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll know what I mean. The last book, The Last Battle, finishes on Aslan’s Mountain, and Prince Caspian, the fourth book, starts on Aslan’s Mountain. In my mind, it’s like this.



After standing around, imagining I was in Narnia for a while, we wandered back to the start point to finish the walk, where I gave my Wisdom Stick back to nature…


…and said an emotional goodbye to it. Not emotional enough to die, mind you.


Books that remind me of stuff

One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Reminds me of being in Laos, in a town called Vang Vieng, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I hired a bike for the day and rode out into the fields by myself and found this abandoned bamboo hut up on stilts. I climbed into it and sat down and read the last few chapters of One Hundred Years Of Solitude while listening to a cricket on the roof and the sounds of nature. It was lovely.

Lord Of The Rings
The first one. I don’t remember what it’s called. I started reading it right before I flew back to Namibia. I’d lived there for a year on my gap year and was going back 10 months later to work for some friends. I was reading it on the flight and did quite a few changes so I read that book in Scotland, England, Holland, South Africa and Namibia. I loved that it had taken such a journey with me.

Paulo Coelho, I’ve forgotten what it was called
I read this in an airport somewhere. I think on the way to Morocco. My friend and I did a lot of travelling together over the space of two years and on this flight we had a stopover in Spain, I think. I had bought this book in the airport in London. In the airport in Spain, my friend slept and I was knackered but trying to stay awake and I just tore through this book. I had finished reading it in a few hours.

Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami
I read this while travelling through the Philippines with the same friend. We stayed in this little B&B on an island called Bohol. We’d found it because a lady on the boat there had started chatting to us when we were singing Whitney to pass the time. She told us to stay there and it was such a good find. No-one else was staying there so we pretended it was our own house! We stayed up late playing card games and reading. I loved this book! I finished it and left it there for the next guests.

I had been reading Shakespeare in school and not really liking or disliking it. I just didn’t understand it mostly. Something clicked at some point and I wanted to read more of it. I went to the English cupboard at school and borrowed a copy of Hamlet and loved it. I just got it. I remember feeling really excited because I knew there was a whole stack of Shakespeare out there for me to discover.

Leon: Ingredients and Recipes
I was a few months post-op last year and had finally got over my fear of eating (I was terrified in case eating caused the same problem and I had to go back to hospital and by this point I was pretty scared of hospital). I was eating more and was strong enough to stand up for the time it took to cook dinner. I found this book and loved the first section, about ingredients. If any of you are into food, this book is amazingly fascinating. I went on holiday to Portugal and was still quite delicate, so instead of jumping in and out of the water and running about, I sat reading this book in the sun. It was lovely.

Famous Five
Reminds me of my childhood in general and how much I wanted to be George.

The Janice Project
This was the first romance novel I read that formulated my idea of what my potential life partner should be like!

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeta Naslund
I read this book in Namibia while I was training for a trek across the Great Wall of China. I used to go on the stair machine for an hour every morning to prepare. My body was fine with it but my mind was bored. A friend lent me this book to keep me entertained and it worked. A few years later I kept thinking about it but couldn’t remember the name. I was in an out of the way town in Texas, waiting for a bus, when I saw a little book shop in the distance. I thought I’d kill some time there and found a few books I wanted. I went to the till to pay and right there, next to the till was this same book! Same cover. I recognised it immediately and got it. It was just as good, if not better, the second time around. I’ve been daydreaming about visiting Nantucket since I read it.

The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd
I might have got his name wrong. Found this in Laos, in Luang Prabang. Opposite our hotel there was a little cafe/bookshop. It was the first I’d seen in Asia so I was pretty excited. We sat drinking exotic teas and absorbing the book joy. I found this tucked away on a shelf and loved the cover. It’s a woman’s diary of moving to Japan just after the war. I can’t emphasise how good this book is. If I could only read a few more books ever again, this would be one I’d choose. Read it.