Archive | November, 2018

Remembrance or remembrance?

29 Nov

Memory is a strange and elusive thing. Two people who have shared exactly the same experiences in the past can have completely different memories of them.  Memory is not only selective but can also be subjective. It is difficult to pin down the exact, objective truth. The memory of an event can be viewed through from so many perspectives. Prejudices and subsequent experiences can colour an event so much.

That is why I suppose, Governments try to impose an “official” collective memory of an important National event. It’s much easier and more convenient if everyone is reading from the same hymn sheet. Sometimes, in totalitarian states, the past has been radically re-written with massive ommissions and massive distortions, to suit the needs of the present. The Nazi and Stalinist regimes were past masters at this.  In the UK we have not gone to such extremes, but censorship and propaganda have still been employed at critical times, in order to get the population to interpret an event in an approved way. The First World War or the Great War is a case in point. That devastating conflict finished just over 100 years ago and my country, the United Kingdom, has recently been consumed by its collective, officially- approved acts of Remembrance. Nobody who fought in that war is alive anymore, so individual acts of genuine remembering are no longer possible. We are left with: memorials, prose, poetry, sculpture and paintings. We are also left with the “official” rituals and public ceremonies. Now that we can no longer talk to a survivor, we have to make the best we can of all these second-hand forms of remembering.

Some sources are informative and some are very moving, but they are second hand nevertheless. In fact some of the works of art or literature about the war  are possibly based on third or even fourth hand sources.  Sebastian Faulkes was only able to write his famous First World War novel “Birdsong” after many hours in the library (or possibly, on the Internet.) There is a danger to this. It’s like a game of Chinese whispers. By the time the message has travelled right round the circle, it could be completely different from the one that started off. With regards to the 1914 to 18 war, we can no longer check facts with the participants, and even if we could, they would all have their different points of view. There are many factors masking the “truth.” All this has made it easier for the establishment to step in and impose its officially approved narrative. The generally accepted view of the First World War now is that it was a time of heroic, stoical SACRIFICE. That is the accepted British way — to suffer quietly and make the ultimate sacrifice of dying for one’s country. A conflicting narrative of : the waste, the pointlessness and the pity of war came with the rise in popularity of the First World War poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. But this idea did not take hold until the 1960’s. By then the official interpretation of the Great War’s meaning had taken a firm hold and much of it still holds strong today. It is still not acceptable to remember our war dead as soldiers who needlessly died for a pointless cause. Much more palatable then to swallow the more accepted line that they bravely sacrificed their lives to protect and preserve the freedoms of their countrymen, from the threat of German tyranny.

Alternative versions of the war’s meaning could emerge from  memoirs of course or from other primary sources such as soldiers’ letters,  diaries, photographs and films. But all of these sources can be challenged as not revealing the whole, objective reality. The Allied Commander-in-Chief, Earl Haig, almost certainly retrospectively doctored his diaries and memoirs to give his decisions the most positive spin, in the light of what subsequently happened. Soldiers writing home might well have concealed horrible truths because they did not want to upset their loved ones. The letters were probably censored anyway. After the first few months of the war, soldiers were discouraged from taking photographs of the war happening around them.  They were also discouraged from writing diaries. Press photographers were mostly kept away from the battle areas. Films served propaganda purposes. For instance, the famous footage of the British Tommies going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in June, 1916, was actually film of an earlier training exercise. We never get to see thousands of men being mown down by machine gun fire ( thank goodness!) So many of our “memories” of this crucial event are officially sanctioned, controlled and sanitised and do not necessarily reveal the whole “truth.” In this way, officially approved Remembrance has largely replaced the more confusing, mixed messages provided by personal remembrances. It is more comfortable and convenient to have one agreed version of the war and agreed methods of commemorating it. Thus we now have our Day of Remembrance every November.

So what exactly were people doing on this last, high profile Remembrance Day in November, 2018? What were they doing at the Cenotaph and other war memorials throughout the land? It’s easier to state what they were not doing. What is certain is that the participants were not really remembering the details of what happened a century ago. The vast majority of Britain’s population were not alive when the war was raging or when the guns finally fell silent a hundred years ago. Many, including myself, cannot even remember the Second World War which followed 20 years after the “War to end all wars.”  Therefore, if it is impossible to genuinely remember the Great War, why are we being constantly urged not to forget?  On war memorials and social media posts up and down the country we have been bombarded with the phrase from Kipling’s early poem: “Lest we forget.” This almost sounds like a threat. In the dictionary “Lest” is defined as a conjunction meaning “in order that not” or “for fear that.” Thus it seems as if forgetting is a fearful prospect. We’d better not forget, or else. Or else what? What are we frightened of forgetting? What will happen if we do forget? These questions are difficult to answer because they are like thinking about the unthinkable. Of course we will not forget what those soldiers did for us. How could we? Yet the reality is that in everyday life, departed people are only remembered for about two or possibly three generations, and after that they pass into the dreaded oblivion. I can remember my grandparents but can recall nothing of my great grandparents. They are just images on a few faded photographs or words chiselled on to an old grave stone. So without the official props of Remembrance, those thousands of perished soldiers would have been forgotten already. They can only now be remembered in a vague, general sense, in ceremonies that serve to bind us together as a nation. How long can this go on for? We no longer “remember” the British dead in the Boer War, the Zulu war, the Crimean War or the Napoleonic wars. They have passed into the mists of time.

Even though they could not be genuinely remembering, people have certainly enjoyed the whole experience of Remembrance Sunday. A nurse taking my blood, commentated that this year’s ceremonies were ” lovely.” Two friends at a recent dinner party agreed that 2018’s Remembrance Day was particularly enjoyable in their respective towns. They loved the marching soldiers, the military bands, the displays of poppies, the laying of wreaths, the 2 minutes silence and the playing of the Last Post. A very good day out then. Throughout the last 4 years, people have flocked to  gaze at and photograph striking pieces of conceptual art such as images of British Tommies on a beach or huge shoals of bright red poppies flowing into the moat of the Tower of London. Massed poppies have featured in many striking pieces of art. “Nit and natter” groups have had a great time knitting  thousands of woollen red poppies to represent the British dead from that terrible, distant war. The poppy has come to symbolise the sacrifice of the soldiers who perished. The idea came from a poem, “In Flanders Fields” written in 1915 by a Canadian field surgeon, John McCrae, who was serving in that worn-torn area of Belgium. He noticed that poppies were the first flowers to grow in the churned up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders. Once the war was over, the poppy was one of the only flowers to grow on the otherwise barren battle fields.  This is why the British Legion, which helps injured soldiers, adopted the red poppy as its emblem. The powerful symbolism of the poppy is enhanced by the fact that it is red, the colour of blood. Even today, most of the public wear red poppies out of respect for those who sacrificed their lives in that far off war. Later, white poppies were produced to symbolise Peace but many refuse to wear these because they believe it is dishonouring our war dead.

The only trouble with using a poppy to remember those who  died in the wars, ( the Second World War has now been added to the commemorations), is that it is very pretty. It’s very beauty prevents real remembering, in my opinion. I wonder how many would have flocked to the Tower of London art installation if it had featured a mock-up of rats, lice and putrifying corpses?  Or perhaps an artist could have made piles of skulls with clouds of blue-bottles buzzing around them?  I believe these would  have been a more realistic representation of conditions in the Western Front trenches. Siegfried Sassoon, a war veteran and poet made the same point in his 1919 poem “Aftermath.” Thinking of the noble appeal of war- memorials to “remember”, he wrote:

“Do you remember the rats; and the stench

Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench-

And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a

hopeless rain?”

The point is simple — war is not pretty, like displays of poppies, and not dignified, like ritualised ceremonies. It is ghastly, ugly and cruel. I find it hard to understand why some people “enjoy” Remembrance Sunday and describe it as “lovely.” In my view, remembering such a tragedy should be an unpleasant, painful and uncomfortable experience.

Another obstacle to a realistic understanding of what the Great War was about is the overuse of certain words to describe it. Phrases such as the “horror of war” or ” ultimate sacrifice” have been used so often that they have lost their meaning. They have become cliches. They convey none of the horror or tragedy of war that they are meant to express. People are well meaning but phrases that trip off the tongue in an automatic response, fail to deliver any meaningful message. Let’s face it, if you weren’t there it is impossible to use realistic words to describe the conflict. But such empty cliches make it even more difficult to gain any real insight into soldiers’ experiences in the war. It is much easier to use off-the-peg formulae when writing or talking about the war, because they free us from thinking too deeply about such a disturbing subject. However, they are another barrier standing between us and the real thing.  Few people willingly seek out pain and distress. Most of us are not masochists.

Thus we are left with commemorations of wars that are ritualistic and prescribed from above.  People love rituals it seems. Look at all the stuff that is going on in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples around the world. Ritualistic worship is a world away from figuring out one’s personal spiritual path. It is easier to follow other people’s rules and seek safety in numbers. My parents were lifelong Methodists. If they followed the “method” ( prescribed by John Wesley) they believed it would gain them entrance to  heaven. I would argue that the act of Remembrance has mostly been reduced to the same thing. Rememberers now follow a ready-made “method.” The individual does not have to deeply engage with the subjects of war, death, horror, atrocity, sacrifice or tragedy. Neither does he or she have to ask the awkward question: “why?” He or she has simply got to follow the rules laid down by established  society. There is a lot of social pressure to conform to these rules. We are all expected to buy and wear poppies. For instance, all TV presenters are expected to religiously wear them every November. People choosing to wear white peace poppies can expect to be challenged, as diverting from the accepted norm is frowned upon. Like Christmas, Remembrance Day has been turned into a festival of conformity.

Yet another problem, in my view, is that Remembrance has got inter-twined with the idea of patriotism. You don’t love your country if you don’t wear the poppy. You are not respecting the soldiers who died if you choose to wear a white poppy. I love my country, warts and all, and would never emigrate. It is the country that I belong to, where my roots are. However, love for one’s country can sometimes turn into distrust and even dislike of foreigners. In other words, patriotism can spill-over into chauvinism, and even racism. This is why I have always been uneasy about it. Far-right, white supremecist groups such as The National Front and the English Defence League wrap themselves up in the flag of St George ( ironically the flag of Genoa in Italy) and preach hatred of immigrants, asylum seekers and foreigners in general. This is why I am always uncomfortable about overt patriotism and I believe that our Remembrance ceremonies have unfortunately become coloured by this. The days have become excuses for flag waving and military marching when it is exactly that sort of stuff that got us into the Great War in the first place. A major reason why the UK entered the war was to defend its Empire and its naval hegemony against German enchroachment. For many, it was a highly patriotic exercise. We would show Germany who was boss. The same chauvenistic attitudes were prevalent in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Serbia, Turkey and the rest — leading to a four year conflict and mass slaughter. It is ironic, in my opinion, that the patriotism which partly led to the disastrous war is now being employed to remember it. It makes me feel uneasy and makes me suspect that we have not learnt the lessons of history.

I think, if we really want to commemorate the dead of last century’s murderous wars, the best way is to campaign for peace. One should try to ensure that there is not a repeat of such disastrous wars and the terrible waste of life. I have been a peace campaigner for much of my life. I was particularly active in the 1980’s and 90’s when American Cruise Missiles were being stationed in our country, making the UK a prime target in any future nuclear war with the Soviet Union. I was frightened for myself and for my young children. I did everything I could, as an ordinary citizen, to raise awareness of the dangers of war for our country and  for the World. You would think that campaigning for peace in the world would be a popular, non-controversial cause. However, during my time as an active peace campaigner I was verbally abused and called a “coward”, a “communist” and even a “traitor.” It was that patriotism thing again. I loved my country but if I spoke out against its militeristic ventures ( Falklands War, Iraq wars, parts 1 and 2, Afghanistan war, bombing  of Syria etc) I was castigated as an unpatriotic traitor. This is still the case today. I am sure some people reading this blog will think of me in such terms.

So I believe that true remembrance and true commemoration of our war dead is to campaign for world peace, not turn out to see marching soldiers, listen to military bands,  look at pretty displays of poppies and wave the Union Jack. War memorials often speak of our “Glorious Dead.” This makes me suspect that instead of reminding us of the  tragedy of warfare, they are in danger of glorifying it. Our attractively packaged “cult of Remembrance” serves as a barrier, separating people from the horrors of the real thing. I’m all in favour of remembering and not forgetting the disastrous follies of the past. But surely, remembering such shocking and abominable events should be an uncomfortable endurance test rather than an enjoyable, officially sanctioned day out.

 

 

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A Walk in the Country.

12 Nov

What do retired gentlemen of a certain age do when they get together? Some may go to the pub to sort out the world’s problems over a  couple of pints. Some may gather on the park green for a sedate game of bowls. Others might gravitate to a local football match to moan and groan at their team and curse the referee. What I particularly like though, is to go for a walk in the country. Luckily I have a few friends who share this preference. Think– ” The Last of the Summer Wine.” I am fortunate enough to live near hills, woods, moors and coast, so there’s always somewhere attractive and interesting to explore. Last Friday was a case in point. My friend, Ian, and I decided to go for a 6 mile hike on the edge of the Cleveland Hills in North Yorkshire. We meet about once every month to stretch our legs, get some fresh air and catch up on mutual news. Some may find it surprising that men can actually talk about things other than football. Ian and I can manage this quite easily, with only passing references to Middlesbrough and Chesterfield FCs. So this was to be just another pleasant walk ( and talk) in the country — or so we thought.

No matter how tightly planned walks are though, they invariably throw up something unexpected. I like this. It’s a mini adventure! For instance, a few weeks ago, out with another friend, I saw a bob-tailed roe deer bounding gracefully along the border of a field and a local wood. Sometimes the surprise is unwelcome however, like when one comes across a huge bull, nervous cows with their calves or a herd of frisky bullocks in a field that one has to cross. Time to be a coward and creep stealthily round the far edge of the field, heart pounding and hoping not to be spotted. Once I made the mistake of running away from a group of bullocks. They thought I was playing and chased after me! As I heard the thundering hooves closing in, I hurled myself over a barbed wire fence, ripping open my padded coat- sleeve in the process. Only 2 weeks ago, the start of  a walk in the North York Moors with the local U3A ( University of the Third Age) was ruined for me by encountering a posse of pheasant shooters with their beaters and retriever dogs. This has happened more than once. As an animal lover I abhor hunting and shooting( not to mention fishing.) I fail to understood how fellow humans get pleasure from slaughtering innocent creatures whose only “crime” is to share the world with them. The hunters are always full of bonhomie, greeting us with loud, jolly “good mornings” and “lovely days”. Perhaps they are embarrassed about being “caught in the act” or couldn’t care less and are simply looking forward to the killing spree ahead. They don’t seem to realize that other people find their activities obnoxious.  Sorry — time to get off my high horse!

Usually though,  a walk throws up pleasant experiences and discoveries. One might catch a glimpse of a rare bird or wild animal,  discover a beautiful wild flower, witness a picturesque landscape or  gaze at a dramatically changing sky. On this occasion Ian and I had the multi-coloured autumn trees to look forward to. You don’t have to trek to New England to experience the glory of the “Fall”. We set off from the lovely village of Swainby, south east of Stokesley. Swainby, to quote my guide book, is a “charming and peaceful village, divided by its tree-lined stream” and gives “few hints of its dramatic past.” How about that for whetting the appetite? It actually owes its existance to a tragedy. Just up the hill above it, is the deserted village of Whorlton. In the 14th century, the inhabitants of Whorlton were devastated by the coming of the plague. The Black Death as it was then known, struck England between 1348 and 1350 wiping out a third of the population. The shocked survivors of Whorlton left their plague infected homes, full of  heart-rending memories and moved down into the valley. Thus Swainby, which up to then had only been a sleepy hamlet, was suddenly expanded into a full-blown village. All that is left at Whorlton today is a ruined church, an eerie graveyard and the shell of a medieval castle.

Much later, in the 19th century, Swainby was once again shocked out of its peaceful, rural slumbers by the opening of ironstone and jet mines in nearby Scugdale. We were to see the spoil heaps from these mines later on in our walk. Apparently, Swainby became a lively, rough and ready, “Wild West” type town, crammed with miners and their equipment, full of smoke, dust and clatter. It must have been something to behold. However by the 1920s the mines had been exhausted, the miners and their followers had moved on and Swainby returned to its previous, peaceful tranquillity.

It was peaceful and tranquil as we set off, passing the old church, crossing a quaint little bridge and walking along the banks of the gurgling stream. Local residents gave us friendly “hellos” as they went about their business. A man on his cycle gave us a wave. The trees as expected were beautiful. Leaves of yellow, orange, copper and red shimmered in the sunshine. We were lucky with the weather considering it was well into November. Storm Deirdrie was smashing into the western coast of Britain, but in Swainby, in the north east of England, we were enjoying a fine morning with the bonus of sunny periods. It wasn’t totally peaceful though. The local refuse collectors were proceding down the High Street with their noisy, rubbish- crushing lorry and a team of tree surgeons were just getting started with their saws and axes. We also had to leap on to the grass verge rather sharply when a young woman in a hurry swept past us in her car, making no allowances for pedestrians who didn’t have the sanctuary of a pavement. We headed up a steady hill that climbed  out of the village and soon entered a wood, joining a path that is part of the Cleveland Way. It was mixed, decidious woodland and the brightly coloured autumn leaves were particularly lovely.

After a while,we left the woods and descended through a field with views of tree covered hills opening up on either side. We were now largely looking at pine forests sweeping across the hillsides. To our surprise, some of the pines seemed to be retaining their deep green colour while others had needles fading into pale orange. It was quite a dramatic sight. A broad swathe of orange sat beneath a broad swathe of green and both were topped by a dark band of moorland. We crossed a stream and climbed up through more woods until we reached those high moors. We had now left the balmy calm of the valley and were suddenly being buffeted by cold, blustery winds. We put on our thick jackets and kept on climbing. The views were extensive. We looked over the Cleveland Hills including the dramatic collapsed cone of Rosebury Topping ( undermined by metal miners), across a wide, flat valley towards the distant chemical works of Teesside. Beyond that, faintly visible, was the sea, merging with the increasingly grey sky. The wet weather soaking the west was due to arrive in the later afternoon. We hoped to have finished our walk by then!

Now we spotted a couple of fellow ramblers, descending quickly down the path towards us. Naturally, they stopped to chat. This nearly always happens in the countryside. People are friendly and  say at least  “hello”. It is very different from the grey, anonymity of the town. These were a young couple, on holiday from London. By a complete fluke they had exactly the same walks- book as us and were trying to follow exactly the same route. Unfortunately, they had got lost, failing to find a crucial turn off, and had reluctantly decided to retrace their footsteps, until they met these two old geezers plodding up the hill towards them. After a brief conflab and a quick game of guidebook snap we hit upon a plan. During the conversation I rather recklessly admitted that I had done this walk before, a couple of times. I offered to guide the others back on to the designated route. What I didn’t admit though, is that I had got lost on this walk before and the last time I did it, I was just following someone and not paying much attention. However, Ian still retained his faith in my navigational skills and the others were quite happy to tag along. So now we were a group of four and I was the “leader.” It must have been the teacher in me rising up again even after many years of retirement. I admit that I enjoy being in charge. That way, if all goes well, I get all the credit. Unfortunately, the flip-side is that if it goes wrong, then I get the blame! So we set off, like a little army patrol, with me in the lead and Ian bringing up the rear. The wind was still blasting us and the thought  crossed my mind that this would be an excellent place to read “Wuthering Heights.” Emily Bronte and her famous sisters would have walked cold and windy moors like these almost every day.

We passed 2 stone cairns and eventually found a mysterious concrete post. The book’s instructions were a bit vague at this point. However, the obscure path through the bracken to the left was thankfully found and I basked in my moment of glory. I accepted the grateful thanks of the Londoners and gave them the instructions for the next section of the walk. Then we let them go, as they were quite a bit younger than us and we were feeling a bit tired. Ian’s dodgy left knee was now playing up a little, but he bravely ignored this and we returned to out Last of the Summer Wine chatting, putting the world to rights yet again. If only May and Trump would listen! We now passed over the knobbly, grassed-over spoil heaps, eventually entering a steeply sloping pine wood. The carpet of fallen needles was slippery and we had to be very careful as we gingerly descended. After negotiating a couple of styles and another field we emerged on to a hedge-lined lane leading to the pretty village of Faceby. I have it on good authority that Faceby has some of the most desirable and expensive properties in the whole region. I didn’t bother to consult my bank balance! Above Faceby stands Whorl Hill ( old Norse:” hverfill” –“high hill with a rounded top.”)

The hill is covered with an attractive wood of  larch, scots pine and beech trees.  Again the multi-colored leaves were lovely. In spring this woodland floor is carpeted with a mass of bluebells. We walked and chatted, trying to ignore the steepness of the initial hillside that had us puffing and panting a little. I confidently stated that we were now nearly home and dry. All the difficult navigation and confusing directions were now behind us. However, I spoke too soon. As we came out of the woods I suddenly realized that I hadn’t a clue where we were. I didn’t recognise the place at all and had a gut feeling that the waymarked footpath was going in the wrong direction. By now it was 2-30pm and our coffee shop visit was well overdue. Ian was yearning for his cappuccino. Also the grey clouds were darkening and thickening on the horizon. There’s only one thing worse than getting lost and that’s getting lost in the rain. A consultation of the large scale OS map revealed no clear answers. I had got my knickers well and truly in a twist and wasn’t thinking straight. A feeling of panic started churning up in my stomach. I could also feel Ian’s trust in me rapidly draining away! What to do?

You see, we didn’t have modern technology to magically dig us out of the hole. Our smart-phones probably had google maps and sat-navs but we didn’t know how to use them. At our age, one becomes technologically challenged. In the end, at Ian’s wise suggestion, we resorted to an old fashioned,  but tried and trusted method of finding our way. We asked a human being. Opposite the exit from Whorl Hill woods was a modern farmhouse. We opened the gate that had “No Right of Way” signs all over it and knocked on the door. I admit to feeling very nervous at that point. A man eventually came, accompanied by two border collies. One of the dogs was barking loudly and baring its teeth, but its bark thankfully proved to be bigger than its bite. Having been bitten by a dog when I was a teenage paper boy, I have always been a little nervous around them. The secret I’ve been told is not to show your fear, but that’s easier said than done. The dogs’ owner proved to be very nice, assuring us that they were OK. He was surprisingly kind and patient considering we had so rudely interrupted his afternoon peace. He seemed to have suffered some sort of stroke because he had difficulty in walking and his speech was slurred. However, he still insisted on coming out and showing us the way. It was very nice of him. The path we were on had been right. It was just my instincts that were wrong.

We resumed our walk, the rain still luckily holding off. Surely now we were on the last lap? We could almost smell the coffee and taste the toasties we were so looking forward to. We crossed a style and started walking down a sloping grassy field. Up ahead I at last spotted the deserted village of Whorlton. We were back on track. We had to make a detour around a large fallen tree and continued strolling downhill. I heard a distant shout and looked round in alarm but nobody was there. We carried on, pleased we were nearing the end, but then the shouting resumed, much louder, and obviously full of  anger. A man, presumably the farmer whose field we were in, was approaching rapidly with 2 dogs. The dogs were fortunately quiet but the farmer was full of hell, Apparantly, we had failed to spot a style and were now trespassing on his land. When Ian calmly explained that we had got lost and were merely trying to find our way to Swainby , the farmer angrily replied “I don’t believe you!”  Did he really think that we had deliberately ignored the style and walked on his field just to wind him up? The field didn’t have any crops or livestock in it. I looked into his eyes at this point and they were blazing with rage. “If anyone else walks down my field and bends my gate by climbing over it, I’ll snap their f-cking heads back!” he threatened. Obviously if lots of other walkers had made the same mistake as us, it was his signage that was at fault. Ramblers were clearly not his cup of tea! In the end he took great satisfaction in ordering us to walk all the way back up to the top of the field to find the style rather than letting us through the gate he had just come through. We didn’t enjoy being verbally abused. It was upsetting and unnecessary. In the end though, I ended up worrying about his blood pressure and wondering whether there were any good anger-management courses in the Swainby area. He probably went home and kicked the cat before swearing at his wife.

Well reader, we found the controversial style and walked down the same field, but this time on the right side of the fence. At last we reached a lane and walked into Whorlton. Nothing survives there except the ruined church and crumbling castle. Only the gatehouse of the latter remains. It last saw action in the English Civil War when the Parliamentarians shelled it and captured it from the Royalists. The Holy Cross Church has an arched nave open to the sky, approached by an avenue of yew trees. Some find it a disturbing place but I prefer to use the word “atmospheric.” The tiny chancel is roofed  and locked, but through a flap in the door one can glimpse a 14th Century, wooden effigy of a knight. We strolled straight past both church and castle, too tired to take any proper interest. Luckily, I’d seen them before. At the bottom of the hill we returned to Swainby, guided by its tall church spire. It was now just a case of dragging off our boots and collapsing into the Rusty Bike Cafe, very much looking forward to our well earned repast.

Unfortunately the day had one last unwelcome surprise for us. We got into the cafe so late ( nearly 3pm) that they had virtually run out of food. It is very popular with cyclists and motor-bikers and they had obviously descended like a swarm of locusts and devoured most of the goodies while we were getting lost and being verbally abused. So no toasties, no sandwiches, no sausage or bacon roll for Ian. It was a disappointing anti-climax at the end of our walk in the country. I managed to order a salad and a small delicious quiche and Ian put a brave face on things and even managed the odd smile as he sipped his cappuccino. But even with this damp squib of an ending and even after being attacked by Mr Angry, it had still been a great day out. A lot had happened, enough even to write a blog! Hopefully you have enjoyed it.