Where I live, every Tuesday is market day. For years, in my role as a volunteer, I would pass the traders as I drove our members to the town’s Day Centre, a much valued local charity. ‘It’s a lovely day for the market’, my passengers would say. Or, equally often: ‘What an awful day for the market.’
If you stop to visit the market in the High Street, which widens at this point for the specific purpose of allowing markets to be held – this happened some time in the middle ages – you will, see, especially, the town’s older residents, stopping for a chat and greeting each other, as they visit the stalls. It’s a place full of humanity ,where people connect. And (I’ve just looked it up on Wikipedia) it’s been going since 1240….
I drove by there today on the way to visit the river, passing old buildings, some of them with modern frontages – but if you enter them you will see age-old wooden beams and find deep cellars which recall earlier centuries.
I’d been wanting to go down to the river for some time. We have been drenched in rain for the past two months and I wanted to see the water meadows and how full they are. Once I would have gone by bike or walked but the legs won’t obey. I parked as near as I could to the stream, beneath the walls of the churchyard, which like many similar places , is higher than the road. It gave me the chance to observe the patina of the ancient Cotswold stones, their moss and tiny wall plants and weeds, and the knotted ivy which spread about them.
And so to the bridge. If you stand in the middle you can have one foot in Oxfordshire and one foot in Buckinghamshire. Friends and their children who visit us always enjoy that.
Modernity impinges. An annual race of plastic ducks begins from this bridge, organised by the local Round Table, in aid of local charities – including my Day Centre friends. Not this year, so far. The water meadows are so flooded there were fears that the sponsors of the ducks would drown as they followed their passage along the river to the finishing point.
Another limitation I have experienced this year is that I have been unable to search for elder blossom. How much of all our summers is evoked in its scent! As readers will know, for many years I made wine from it.
With the handle of my stick I reached down a blossom from the nettle-lush roadside. The bloom’s scent brought back all those memories and all the longings which it suggests.
I looked from the bridge down to the swollen river and let the bloom fall into it. It floated westwards, at walking pace. Then I picked another one to take home to Mrs Llew.