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Anglian connections

Last week’s East Anglian trip involved 3 sites for the book, 3 castles and 7 churches that I need to see for pre-tour research, and 2 can’t-resist-it drop-ins en route. All that was very managed — until the end, when serendipity threw up a sequential cross-section at once very English, very universal and very special that was quite unplanned.

It began at the Holme Post, erected in the Fens in the mid-C19 to mark the level of the shrinking peat: it has has since dropped by 4m, making this the lowest point in Britain, significantly below sea level. The surrounding landscape must look very like what the Fens were like before human beings found them.

15 minutes to the west, at the very lip of England’s first harder rocks, I stumbled for the second time in my life on ‘the route you would be likely to take/From the place you would be likely to come from’ and found myself at Little Gidding: the chapel which inspired one of the greatest works of English poetry, a work by T S Eliot that has been a lifeline these past two years.

This time I didn’t *quite* come ‘at night, like a broken king’ but I’m not ashamed to say I know what he meant, and there were tears.

And just 10 minutes after that, the ruins of the chapel built by peace campaigners at RAF Molesworth in the mid-1980s, a building that lay behind the perimeter fence when in those days of post-punk protest I used to go there to try and stop the world from ending (in the end we just got a temporary reprieve).

Geological fragility, English spirituality, protest, and the bookends of my adult life, all somehow connected and colocated.

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