A country cottage in Cheshire was home for the Simmonds family this Christmas time. Snowy mornings, country walks, board games and prosecco……We even had two new family members to welcome to the party….
We ignored the television and turned off the news. Instead we went for walks through the Cheshire countryside, we played Scrabble and Chess. We had fun and stories around the fire pit. Several mornings we even had snow and Little Miss Cutie-Pie made a snow man with William. Surrounded by fields and hedgerows and with oak trees dotting the horizon time ceased to have any real meaning. Instead the alluvial plains of Cheshire with their rich fertile soils offered shelter to the cows and sheep and goats that meandered in their folds. Round the corner a local farmer had set up a milk vending machine – we could buy fresh, delicious whole milk direct from the farm. The taste of the milk, completely organic, was sublime. We settled into our rural retreat with surprising speed and enthusiasm.
The sandstone of Cheshire was laid down hundreds of thousands of years ago, it peeps up above the fields in the rocky outcrops of Helsby, Beeston and Peckforton. The views from these hills are breath-taking. The surrounding plains lie beneath our feet like a model village, a miniature world of lanes and train tracks, woodlands and villages. On a clear day to the west we can see the Welsh Hills. Just north of here is the village where Lewis Carroll grew up. Years later he wrote ‘Alice in Wonderland’, there’s a wonderful stained glass window in the local church commemorating his years in Cheshire and the extraordinary range of original characters that he created; Alice, The Mad Hatter, Dormouse and of course the Cheshire Cat.
As we take our daily strolls I look up at the trees and wonder if I’ll get a glimpse of the Cheshire Cat. His immortal words strike me as being particularly relevant in these strange turbulent times.
“Most everyone’s mad here.”
“You may have noticed that I’m not all there myself.”
The Cheshire Cat’s words are particularly witty. He is known for gradually disappearing, so that his body fades and only a huge cheesy grin remains! Given that Cheshire is also famous for cheese this makes me smile. The Cheshire Cat, Cheshire Cheese of which Mrs Bourne’s Cheshire is the best in my opinion made in Malpas at a family-run farm since 1750! It’s soft and white and crumbly with a delicate flavour, ideal for a sandwich or with biscuits and celery……………
I start thinking about the sandstone beneath our feet and it’s enduring qualities – the historical events that these layers of rock have witnessed over the centuries and millenia. The ancient Iron Age Hill Fort at Beeston where local tribes built a castle to protect themselves from Welsh invaders. A rocky outcrop, windy even on the calmest day. The dangers and endurance that our ancestors had to overcome just to make it through the day. I think of the clock analogy comparing our idea of time with the scale of geological time. If you look at a clock face and the twelve hours of our day as the period of Earth’s existence, then we human beings only appear on planet Earth when the minute hand is seconds away from striking midnight. Our time scales and life spans are a blip, a mere flicker of inconsequence in the Earth’s geological history. We humans, here today and gone tomorrow leaving behind just a set of teeth and a few gold rings. Just like the cat who vanishes leaving only a smile behind…………….
My motto for 2021 comes from another of Lewis Carroll’s characters, this time it is the Mad Hatter:
- I recently wrote about Lewis Carroll and his masterpiece Alice in Wonderland
- Beeston Castle is well worth a visit, a rocky outcrop dominated by the ruins of a 13th century castle. Evidence of an Iron Age Fort can also be seen. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/beeston-castle-and-woodland-park/history/
- In linguistics, the term ‘cheshirisation’ is used to describe a sound that changes and diminishes over time, possibly an echo. This might be of interest to you Lulu Simmonds! Fascinating little bit of trivia. Inspired by the Cheshire Cat’s disappearing tricks perhaps. ‘Cheshirisation’ is also called ‘transphonologisation’ and apparently a common example of this would be the Germanic umlaut.
- With thanks to Lucy, Will and Andrew and the Plymouth Brethren for creating such a warm and positive environment over the Festive Season. You were all truly appreciated.