We are standing in the middle of Odiham High Street looking for the Church.
“There has to be a Church,” I tell
the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and she agrees. Jack and Hazel actually attend their school’s Founder’s Day service in the Parish Church in Odiham, she recalls. It has to be here somewhere.
“Churches are usually very prominent,” I ponder, slightly pedantically. What is it with Odiham’s Parish Church that it is hiding away where we can’t see it? While keeping this under active consideration,
we take a break in one of Odiham’s tea shops. We each order a decaffeinated skinny latte and decide to share a toasted tea cake. This makes us both feel rather virtuous. Though to be really virtuous, we would have had to forgo the half-a-toasted-tea-cake
and ordered still mineral water. But, hey, we are on our Two Centre Holiday, aren’t we, and food and drink are the Stuff of Which Holidays Are Made.
a long time over our coffee and half-a-tea-cake, giving credibility to Mr B’s assertion that, when I get together with any of the Darling Daughters, there is no danger of our jaws rusting. We need a rest, anyway, because we were out bright and early
this morning and have already visited Odiham Castle, the ford where children play and paddle on warm summer days and the river where a pair of swans and their four teenage Ugly Ducklings were lording it like they owned the place. Standing on the bridge
over the river and watching the Ugly Ducklings swimming towards it, the Y of the DDs suggests that we play a version of Pooh Sticks. Only with the cygnets. We each have to choose a cygnet and whoever’s cygnet reaches the other side of the bridge
first will be the winner. It is not her best idea, but I don’t like to spoil our rather wonderful Mother-And-Daughter relationship by mentioning it. Unfortunately (though not entirely unexpectedly) the Ugly Ducklings won’t play the
game and, as on, turn back, retracing their passage and so failing to emerge from under the bridge. Presumably they have never read Winnie the Pooh. Even if they had played the game, I’m not sure how we would have identified the winner as all four
Ugly Ducklings looked identical to me.
Anyway, back to our Search for the Church (I am a poet, and don’t I know it?!) The Youngest of the Darling Daughters
checks the GPS on her mobile phone and assures me that the Church is a mere 0.2 miles away. We set off, nattering as we go. We have covered about three quarters of a mile before we come to the conclusion that we are heading in completely the wrong direction.
I am not dismayed as, if we hadn’t made this mistake then I wouldn’t have seen (i) the strange stone Chinese dogs guarding the portals of one of the larger houses along the way; (ii) the delicately carved sign for Wren Cottage; and (iii) the
trough crammed full of beautiful late summer flowers. There is no such thing as taking the wrong direction in my book.
We retrace our steps and the Youngest of
the Darling Daughters consults her mobile phone again. I, on the other hand, do what comes naturally and ask a charming woman if she can tell us where the Church is. Not only does she give us exact directions but she also tells us to be sure to take note of
the set of stocks at the front of the Church and the ancient Pest House in the grounds beyond, where poor villagers struck down by the plague were isolated. Even the Y of the DDs has to admit that our charming informant beats GPS hands down.
We find the stocks in front of the Church, then once inside the Youngest of the Darling Daughters finds three helpful leaflets for me – one on the main features to be seen within
the Church, one explaining the story behind the beautiful stained glass windows and one on the special window commemorating the squadrons and activities of RAF Odiham. I am particularly interested in the latter as my brother-in-law was based at RAF Odiham
some years ago.
Next we head off to find the Pest House, which is quite a sight to see. Unfortunately it is locked and a notice in the window informs us that the
key is lodged with the Card Shop in the village centre. We decide we have walked far enough and content ourselves with peering in through the window. One day we will bring the kids back here. We will spin a spooky story about the Pest House. And we will remember
to collect the key from the Card Shop.
When we reach home, and while the Youngest of the Darling Daughters puts the kettle on, I read through the three leaflets
she found for me. It’s only when I turn to the back pages that the shocking truth hits me. We are thieves! On the back of each leaflet is printed the price. We have diddled the Church out of £1.30. I shall have to send someone a cheque and confess
May we be forgiven...