by Harry Buschman
It was bitter cold in Wye. A raw wet wind blew in from the coast. The tour bus pulled into the empty car park with a hiss of brakes and the doors rattled open.
The old folks peered out through the misty windows of the bus, but could see little more than the pigeon shit covered wreck of an old church. They were puzzled, the activities lady back at the ‘Falling Leaves’ home told them they should see the abbey before the bad weather set in.
Because of the advanced age and partial deafness of all the passengers, the tour guide raised a small bull horn to his lips, “Here it is folks,” he declared. “Tintern Abbey! A lot of people come all the way up here from London specially just to see this bloody relic. Oh yes folks ... it’s a relic all right. King Henry the Eighth saw to that. Henry fired all the priests and kicked the clergy out. Then he made a list of all their worldly possessions and had ‘em transfered to his own treasury. That was back in 1536 or thereabouts – I’m a little soft on my dates, so if I’m off by a century or so please forgive me.”
There was no response from the tourists.
“Why’d he do it, y’say? Well, we was all Catholics back then and the Holy Father back in Rome told Henry he had to keep the wife he had and not cast her off for another. Henry was ticked off somethin’ fierce believe me, and he said, ‘I’m the bloody King around these parts, and what I says goes!! No eyetalian Pope in Rome walkin’ around in a nightgown is gonna tell this Englishman what he can or can’t do’.” It started the Reformation goin’ it did, and we ain’t been the same ever since.”
An old lady in a quavery voice piped up from a seat in the rear of the bus. “Miss Dinglestone back at the home said this was where William Wordsmith wrote down a poem.”
“That was ‘Wordsworth’, Ma’am. Yes, he sat writin’ down in his book on that very wall over there where the pigeons are sittin’.”
“My,” the old lady said. “It’s a wonder he didn’t catch his death a’cold.”
“Five years have passed;
with the length of five long winters!”
That’s what he wrote down in his book, ma’am.”
A man up front piped up, “That don’t make no sense to me.”
“Ain’t supposed to make no sense,” the old lady shouted back. “It’s poetry.” She turned her attention back to the tour guide ... “I hope they keep the ladies’ room warm. The place looks so cold – I do hate cold toilet seats. They ain’t kind to my lumbago. y’know.”
Another woman asked if there was a gift shop with discounts for the elderly and two or three of the men in the back of the bus decided to pass it up and wait in the bus until they stopped in Chepstow for lunch. Each of them smacked his lips in anticipation as they thought of the strong dark ale and the savory hunter’s stew.
Meanwhile, the tour guide cursed his personal misfortune for being assigned this particular sightseeing trip to Tintern Abbey with the inmates of the “Falling Leaves Home“ for the elderley.