Monday, 2 August 2021


I hadn’t realised how shredded I was until my second day’s break in Canterbury. Canterbury? Hardly the Cote d’Azur or Paxos. But it did the trick. Most surprising of all wasn’t just the Cathedral – the choirs there are astounding, the architecture stunning and, as we discovered just after returning home, the stained glass is the oldest in Britain and maybe in the world dating back to the 12th century. Years older than previously thought.

No it was the Great Stour which together with its many tributaries flows through the city. This is a city of water, locks, sluices and punts not just “the” Roman Road – Watling Street -  or the stage  on which the extraordinarily gruesome and historically significant and symbolic murder of Thomas Becket took place. Canterbury feels old, Elizabethan architecture, pedestrianised and very quiet – like Oxford’s Turl street but on a smaller scale. 

I bought T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral in the Cathedral bookshop. Reading it I discovered how stunningly theatrical it is. Read the self- justifications of the four knights – the murderers -  who walking to front of the stage in blokey language explain they were alternatively, tipsy; that there was no benefit to them for doing it; that Becket could have escaped but effectively, because he stood up to them, was (or so a jury would surely conclude) committing suicide whilst of unsound mind. Black humour.

The final thing about this small,  43,000 population city (city status because of the Cathedral) is it’s crammed with glorious gardens. Real gardens created and tended by real gardeners not Council workers. Gardens that merge into water meadows. At Abbott’s Mill in the city they’re creating a city woodland with the Stour rushing through it only being interrupted by an electricity generating wooden water wheel. 

Canterbury opened my eyes, my mind and mended my grumpiness. The word I’m looking for about it is civilised. 

Shortly after we got home Storm Evert struck. 

“Blow winds crack your cheeks” said King Lear – and so they did last Friday in Brighton. But then again I love weather – WEATHER (it needs capitals) when people say “it just doesn’t know what to do”. Because WEATHER combines exciting cloud formations, gales, sunshine, torrential rain. I remember Greece where it was identically beautiful every day. No excitement. No unpredictability.

And that of course is what we’ve been missing over the past year or so because  Covid’s been so oppressively a one-paced presence.  Life has been a bit dull with one day following the next. Until Canterbury. And until the Olympics of which I’m not generally a fan. 

But that was before Beth Schriever and BMX. Beth couldn’t get financial support from Team GB who meanwhile, like a mad gambler were ploughing nearly £25 million into rowing. Instead she managed to crowd-fund £50k getting her through the trials to Tokyo where she won a gold medal. She’s 22 and amazing. I watched her race with joy. Her spirit wonderfully was not broken. She got a break on her own terms. Golden girl.

Routine is the killer for most people. If all our lives comprise the “the same as” we get bored then depressed then diminished. We stop learning. That’s why I love Canterbury – I learnt some new stuff. That’s why Beth is so interesting. I didn’t know BMX was an Olympic sport. And I’d never heard of her.

Everyone needs to multiply the number of new things they do. To many the pandemic has been characterised by watching repeats on TV. We can do better. We need to find our Canterbury because……

1 comment:

John Eustace said...

I hate admitting you are a ....... genius, but I enjoy the read and feel remiss to have missed a few Mondays of late. Note to self WAKE UP!

Home House soon?

All good thoughts