I went back to Thaxted yesterday to drop off the car I'd borrowed - essentially, as it turns out - to ferry people to and from Thaxted!
We ate a bake which I improvised from the left over food from the party the night before. It's amazing how a bowl of old pasta can be made to look and taste amazing with the aid of a roux, some breadcrumbs and a bit of cheese. I zipped through my mother's kitchen like a Texan tornado, grating cheese and melting work surfaces. At one point my Mum sighed and somewhat ruefully said, "you're not the tidiest of cooks are you?"
We discussed strangely-named people as we ate. There seems to be some doubt now about the fact that there was a Chinese girl, who lived in Rushden when I was a child, called Hoo Flung Dung. I appreciate that this sounds a little far fetched, but assure you that she was the talk of the town back then. My father claims no such person ever existed, however, which makes me wonder whether, as a child, I was perhaps a little gullible. I was certainly rather innocent back then. I used to think a blow job was a hair style! There was definitely a girl at my junior school called Sue Purb, however. We always called her Susan. It never occurred to us that her name was comedy gold!
At one point my mother got her memory box out and handed me two little autograph books that she'd filled with signatures, little ditties and drawings as a child in the 1950s. Brother Edward had got hold of one of them as a three-year old and signed his handiwork "Rodert", which isn't so peculiar when you consider that he uses his middle name these days, and was born Robert. What was a little more amusing was his decision to write "here is dick" before signing his name. Prescient.
I went for an early evening walk across the fields with my Mum. The sun was setting and everything was glowing magically. It felt like one of those late summer evenings that we all remember from our childhoods when they're burning the fields and everything takes on an air of Impressionism. We walked down to the magic place. The tall grasses have grown again and you could see a flattened-down patch where a group of deer had plainly recently rested.
As we walked, we could hear the sounds of folk music. An accordion. A fiddle. It was drifting across the hills and fields from the direction of a little hamlet called Cutler's End. It accompanied our entire walk. Perhaps they were Morris dancing. Thaxted is famous for its Morris dancers. I doubt anything has changed in those fields for hundreds of years. I realised I was experiencing something quintessentially English, and felt incredibly grateful.