Why Battledene? Why there?
Well, it’s like this, you see. ... They don’t want me to tell you about them.
They’re secret and must not be revealed. Should I? Should I not?
Are they just there for me? For you?
Okay, let’s skirt around this one ... To go to Battledene is not easy. Not easy in the spirit.
It’s not far from major connurbation. But, it’s far from ease and plenty. It’s a place
of life and thought and real, real power.
What’s there? Not much. Just a house and a manor of sorts a little bit away, and a single church, like beached schooner in fields of sea with splash of copse and a road to it that goes no further.
Why Battledene? Why me? Why us?
You see, the thing about around here, round there is that it was hit by the plague, the plagues. The major Roman roads passed through here, and the drovers led their sheep this way to find and seek their money in the capital and then came back sheepless and moved on up t' their farms in the north. And all these travellers brought disease. The thing that made the little towns here destroyed them. Each time, the plague came, the towns declined and died, the villages. No one was left. They lay in their beds under their eves and died but, somehow, the life didn’t leave them.
And so, each time, you walk the fields, you come across a single church. The houses of those that once had life and hope were all dismantled, all gone. And like the runs and the rivulets of the strip-farmed fields that still show, the churches are left. Nobody could take away the stone, the pane or tile even of those places.
It’s like the spirits that once lived around them thought, well, there’s nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be. We loved it here.
Because, as you take the road off the main road off the main road that only leads to Battledene, as you take the path that leads only to the church door, as you open the door and look in to the empty space, no ornaments, no easy things to settle on with eye, there’s a simple sign that says ‘Can you feel them too?’ more or less. And you think, aww, yeah, they’re here. It’s like they chatter and they moan, they cajole and they barge into you, and you love them and fear them. But, Jesus, are they there.
Will they forgive me for speaking of them?
Sometimes, I sometimes feel and I rarely go, for fear – you need to be brave to go to Battledene – sometimes, I think they want me there to see them – the women – lying in their one-time beds, clutching their babies to them and knowing that soon and soon they will want to stay forever in that little church in Battledene. (Battledene, Bedfordshire)