Reflections in a Sad Eye

NightPub

The last bus stopped running an hour ago.  The publican has rung the bell in the nearby pub, calling out “Time gentlemen, please.” The night‘s action is most definitely over out here in the ‘burbs of London. The streets may be quiet and the locals are at home…but it’s still light out!

It’s only a bit after 10:00 pm.  In truth, the nearest pub will be remain open until midnight so it’s not entirely an empty neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the late flights from Capetown, Rio, New York and Paris are approaching touchdown…their wheels are lowered and they are slowly approaching the runway about 255 feet above my head.

Yes, my head that has been hit with a massive case of hay fever or some sort of allergy since I walked through customs a few hours.  I can’t use my handkerchief any more; it needs to hang out to dry.  I’m down to using a roll of toilet paper to stifle my sneezes.  Even the woman tending bar at the pub noticed my agony and offered her own personal pills she claimed worked for her hay fever.

I tend not to take pills from people I never me before.

The flight from Shannon was only about an hour.  The “food” was a box of crackers, some cheese, a small chocolate bar, some vegetable pate, small can of tonic, and a glass of water.  All for €7.50.  Aer Lingus must be in financial trouble.

We’re in the very B&B we used in 2012. It was cheap, near the airport and provided a free shuttle to the terminals.

I doubt we’ll travel this cheap again.

The room’s light was dingy, quite brothel-like.  There was no shower curtain and only one towel each.

I’m writing this with my iMac Air and using it like it’s supposed to be used…on my lap.  But I have a bad back and I’m leaning against a pillow that is, if I’m lucky, two inches thick.

I’m a hugger.  I don’t know, maybe my mother took my teddy away too soon, but I need something to wrap my arms around.  I’m going to be forced to use my neck cushion.  The kind of thing that looks good in the W.H. Smith store but is difficult to pack…like a football.  People  sleep with them on planes and trains.  Mine’s blue in case you’re interested.

I’m not very happy right now.

This was meant to be a reflection of a wonderful trip.  But, as usual with me, it’s bittersweet.

We said good-bye to Brian on Sunday.  Ireland seemed to be a little emptier without his companionship, wit, charm and sense of amazement at what he saw and what we shared.  I’m quite proud of myself for planning a trip that included a medieval banquet, being on his own in a few pubs in Cashel, and climbing to the battlements of our ancestral castle in County Tipperary.

Thinking back on the entire trip, I can recall some awesome sights and some frustrating moments.  I’ve looked down haunted wells where a violated youth was thrown.  I’ve seen the withered hand of a saint who founded the Abbey that later became Ely Cathedral.  We’ve rubbed fingers with mummies in a crypt in Dublin, threw a pence into the Liffey from Ha’Penny Bridge.

Up in County Sligo, at a cemetery in Enniscrone, I stood at the grave of Tom and Kate Egan who once served me tea from water that had been boiling all day over a peat fire.

That was over thirty years ago.

I’ve looked out over the fields my people plowed and had their cattle graze for decades.

Stone walls don’t change much in human life times. The hedges grow for centuries. The rains fall and the people keep smiling.

In England, our friends edge toward retirement and think thoughts about where it would be a nice place to live.

To me, I couldn’t think of any place more in tune with the beats of my heart and yearnings of my soul than England or the west of Ireland.

Being of Irish background, I thought of what it would be like to live there.  My body is pulled two ways.  My blood says to go back to the soil that first made you who you are…melancholy and love of the written word are my genetic markers.

But, I’m happiest when I’m walking.  And, there is no place with footpaths that lead to all my dreamscapes than England.

If you drive six miles through Wiltshire, Somerset or Dorset and not pass a dozen “public footpath” signs, then you have a bad case of tunnel vision.

My adventure is over and I’m a sadder man because of it.  In the coming weeks, I will sit and tell funny stories of our trip, but deep within me, I’ll long for the footpath.  I’ll long for the place when the biggest decision I need to make is which direction to walk.

Yes, the Adirondacks have hundreds of miles of trails and I live in the center of it all, but somehow it lacks the ancient history and mythic lore that stirs my soul as I stand inside a stone circle that was constructed before the Great Pyramids.

I am cursed with restlessness.

But the posts will go on. I’ve not shown you things or told you stories of many things.  Some will keep you awake at night. Some will make you smile and some will make you cry.

If I can do all these things…I’ve succeeded in what a writer most wants.  Getting people to read.

Right now? I’m going to shut the dingy overhead light off and switch on my Barnes & Nobel reading lamp.  I’m working my way through Dickens at the moment.

Its title is very appropriate:

“Great Expectations”.

GardenHeathrow

 

[This post is written in England but it will be posted from Penn Station when we get back. This hotel wants £4.00 for Wi-Fi. I have never paid for that service before and I’m not going to start now.]

 

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The Haunted Well Of Avebury

 BlackWhiteAveburyStones

I heard about the haunted pub and the cursed well of Avebury while touring a church in Gloucestershire.

I was purchasing a CD of Traditional Country Songs (sung by a small chorus) at the gift shop of St. John the Baptist in Cirencester.  I recognized many of the titles from my collection of Irish songs and I was curious as to how it would sound by a choral group.  I paid my £12.00.  I noticed from a lapel tag that the man behind the gift table was a chap named Jonathan.

“Don’t you think this is a beautiful space?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “its beautiful enough and large enough to be an Abbey.”

“Have you seen the Green Man?  We have a Green Man here…if you know where to look.”

Being a fan of Green Man legends and mythologies and I was surprised that I had missed the carving of a face with branches growing out of eye sockets, the nose and the eyes.  Unless this figure was quite hidden or very tiny, I had overlooked a most fascinating detail.

Jonathan locked his cash box and literally leapt from his chair.

“Follow me,” he said.  “I think you’ll find this interesting.  I worked here a year before anyone mentioned the Green Man and pointed him out to me.  Here.  Just stand here and look up…straight up.”

I leaned back and picked out the figure on the ceiling in less than a minute.  I told him that I found symbols of all kinds of great interest.  I look for them on tombstones, along the walls of old churches and in the amazing scenes depicted in stained glass windows.

“Thank you so much,” I said.  “I’d love to talk but my wife and I are one our way to visit the stone circles of Avebury so I’ll have to say thanks and good-bye to you, Jonathan.  I appreciate you’re taking a few minutes to point the Green Man out to a couple of Yanks.”

“Avebury?  You’re going to Avebury?  That’s one of my favorite places.  So much better than Stonehenge,” said Jonathan, “and you can walk among the stones.  Can’t do that at Stonehenge…unless, of course you’re a Druid.”

“Well, they probably would make it difficult to allow me, as a foreign person, to be a Druid,” I said.  “Again, I’d love to chat but we need to get on the road.  Thanks so much…again.”

I walked toward the large dark wood doors.  I was preparing to put on my sunglasses in the bright light when I heard Jonathan say something.

“There’s a haunted well in Avebury, did you know that?”

I stopped in mid step and spun around.

“A haunted well?” I said.

“Yes, and it’s inside a pub.  Want to hear the story?”

There is no way that I could say “no” to this fellow.  The promise of such a story had great potential.

“Yes, I would like to hear it, Jonathan.  I most certainly would like to hear it.”

“Well, it has nothing to do with the stones of the neolithic circles,” he said.  “this is how the story goes, at least as I’ve heard it.”

“During the Middle Ages, actually about the year 1500, the village of Avebury was ruled by a Lord of the Manor.  Typical in those days.  Apparently he had his rheumy old eyes on one of his prettiest milkmaids who worked at one of his farms.  She was barely out of puberty.  Some have written that she was about fourteen years old.  Well, you don’t need a vivid or particularly dirty imagination to figure out what this Manor Lord did with this poor girl.  She became pregnant.  In those days, women who found themselves in such a situation were almost always blamed for their condition, and her “behavior” was frowned upon by the townspeople.

“The Lord of the Manor?  He was untouchable, wasn’t he?  No court of law would rule against him…he likely was the law.  So, justice was carried out by the mob.  They came one night to the girl’s farm and dragged her to the market square.  In that square was a deep well.  Her fate was sealed.  They led her screaming to the edge of the hole and threw the poor soul in.  The well has been measured at 87 feet to the water.  Can you imagine the terror and the screams from the child as she fell those 87 feet, clutching vainly at the sharp rocks, trying to stop her fall with her bare feet and bleeding knees?  After she hit the water, a silence descended on the crowd.  The screams stopped.  The silence from the bottom of the well was absolute.  The torches couldn’t penetrate that deep so the men who looked down could only see inky blackness.  And hear the total quiet.  It chills my skin to tell you this.  But, the well is still there.  It’s now been covered by plastic and it is part of a table in the dining area of the pub…how’s that for a story?”

I was transfixed.

“Oh my God, how sad,” was all I could say.

Several hours later we were in the Car Park of Avebury.  We walked around the stones.  I watched a Druid-like ceremony at one of the standing stones.  I kept looking across the field at the pub.  It was white, and I think it had a thatched roof.

I simply had to look down the well.

“Let’s have a quick drink and a light sandwich here,” I said to Mariam.  She had heard the story as I did and she was as anxious to see the well as I was.

It was crowded with tourists.  I went from sitting room to dining room and looked for the well.  Finally, I found it in the third dining area I entered.  There was a woman sitting at the table sipping a white wine.  I apologized and asked if she’d mind if I took a few photos.  She said it was no problem.

I told her it was the price she paid to sit at a table built over a haunted well.

I approached the plexiglass cover.  I leaned over and looked down.  There were lights along the round wall that made small green-leaved and moss seemed to glow.  I looked deeper and say the surface of water, 87 feet down.  The light in the room lit the bottom of the well and I could see my own reflection in the still water.

HauntedWellAvebury1

I stared, waiting for a small pretty face to look up at me, but none appeared.  But, I must admit that I felt a particular unease as I looked down.  It was though I was expecting something or someone to speak to me.  I could almost hear the girl’s voice.  I could almost hear her screams.

But, what I seemed to sense, overwhelmingly, was sadness.  Someone was crying inside my head.  Someone, through no fault of her own, was violated and murdered.  I almost began to cry but my wife pulled me away.

I assume her spirit wanders the village square, the dining room or the stone circles…looking for someone to protect her.  I wondered.  If I stayed overnight at the pub or a nearby B & B, and I happened to come face to face with a girl dead over six hundred years…what would I say?  How could I find a way to break the chain that keeps her spirit linked to the well?

I know I couldn’t.  If there is a just God, than He or She must have pity on her lost soul.

I walked back to the car park with a leaden heart.

I also wondered which local churchyard held the grave of our Lord of the Manor who damaged this young girl’s soul for over half a millennia.  Is his soul resting in eternal peace?  Or does he too wander the lanes and fields trying to find forgiveness?

He does, if there is true justice.

MariamsAvebury

[The haunted pub is the small white building in the right portion of the photo just above the largest upright stone on the right]