July 22nd, 2008

A Hurried Visit To Warwick

The wedding was in Southampton, which if you travel in a straight line from here, heading South, is as far as you can go without hiring a boat. We stopped off in Warwick- for no better reason than we'd never been there before- to eat a hurried picnic lunch and (of course) visit the church. Ailz didn't like the church because there was no provision for wheelchair users and there were people on the door intimidating you into making a donation. It's very handsome.  It was partly burned out in the 18th century and- though Christopher Wren submitted a plan- the commission to rebuild went to a man called Wilson who pulled off an eccentric but impressive design that dresses up a wild gothic idea with respectable Graeco-Roman detail. The Eastern part of the church survived the fire and is full of wonderful things- mainly tombs. Fulke Greville- the gay Elizabethan poet who was murdered by his boyfriend/manservant and whose playful spirit haunts the "Ghost Tower" at Warwick Castle- has a great, slabby thing that takes up most of the floor space in the little medieval chapter house and the remarkable Beauchamp Chapel is full of dukes and earls. 

Most notably- or famously- there's Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester- who lies here with Lettice, the wife of his old age, who outlived him by 46 years. 

Netley Abbey And Southampton Water

In 1969, when I was 18, I made a sort of a pilgrimage to Glastonbury. Starting from my home in Tonbridge, I walked all the way through Sussex, Hampshire and Wiltshire, then up into Somerset.  I was on my own, slept in the open and refused all lifts.  About halfway through I hit Southampton Water and, having spent a rainy night with my feet in a puddle, took a day out to rest, visited the ruins of Netley Abbey and spent the morning or afternoon (I forget which) dossing on a piece of open ground, looking out to sea. 

I knew the wedding photographs were going to be taken at the Abbey and I sort of hoped I'd be able to recognise the recreation ground where I'd done my chilling- and I did; it 's right next to the church hall where we had the reception.

I was expected  to wear a suit to the wedding. Suits are not me. As soon as we got to Netley I took my jacket off, opened my top button and wrapped the tie round my head like a bandana.