Thursday, 18 June 2015

Ragged Robin, Selfheal, White Campion


In a small village near where I live, there's what the English refer to as 'a green', the meaning of which differs according to the location. I have seen a muddy foreshore along the Essex coast, complete with an old fishing smack rotting down into the silt, with a sign stating that it is a designated village green. In other villages, the greens are well-kept, manicured by volunteer groundsmen (and women) for cricket matches on Sunday and other local activities. If a little peculiar by definition at times, all are orderly in their way.

The village is small, its few houses scattered about a handful of small lanes. It has two pubs, one, along the main road, caters to its clientele with a traditional 'country' style menu, while the other, across the green, is of an older time, but in some ways fulfills the definition of a 'local' better than the larger pub. Access to the smaller pub is via a narrow lane near the church, and a few benches outside its entrance offer patrons a pleasant view across the green.

The green itself is as individual as its brethren elsewhere. At first glance, its appearance is that of a meadow full of wild flowers, mostly yellow and white, with blue flags of cornflower waving through at intervals, and a shout of red here and there where the poppies have made a stand. It's likely that the green has looked the same for eight hundred years. Indeed, today it retains its prettily unkempt appearance until well into summer, when a local farmer drives over and mows it, grass and flower, all.

The cut usually precedes a local summer fayre, and occasionally it's used as a set piece by  traveling circuses, which still make their way round the villages of Norfolk, with jugglers, acrobats, and games for locals on summer evenings. It's these events, and the order of their unfolding, that reinforce and make recognisable the bond to the past. In terms of temperament and preference, a family from 1315 would find the experience little changed from their own time.

In the pub, there are photographs of American bomber crews, standing next to B-24s. Some of the images, in colour, reveal the garish nose art applied to many American bombers in World War Two. They were based about two miles down a lane outside the village, and no doubt this was one of the few places available for local leave. The film actor, James Stewart, was stationed there for a time.

The crews, like the villagers now, like their medieval counterparts, sat and looked across the meadow green, its wild flowers waving in the summer breeze. They left the photographs for the landlord to hang in the pub, as a way of saying thanks for the hospitality, and too, perhaps more urgently, saying, Remember us.

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