Friday Flash Fiction 1000 – A Wife For Life

sunshine-blogger

A Wife For Life

The mist still hung over the bracken, the Thames meandered peacefully by. A pair of antlers rose above the bracken, tilting back as a black nose sniffed the air. The morning stillness was broken by the thunder of hooves and the cries of young men. Harry led the way on his strong grey stallion, his powerful thighs gripping the saddle. The horse was as strong willed as his master and eager to gallop, his master was the only rider who could keep him in check. The young man knew his hunting grounds well, but the long grass and ferns could easily conceal a fatal rabbit hole.

The alert hart was swift to round up his hinds and flee into the copse, but it was another man on horseback that saved his herd. The messenger galloped frantically after the hunting party sounding his horn. Harry turned his steed sharply, knowing what the news must be.

‘Word from My Lady, Sire’ said the messenger breathlessly, as his panting horse drew level with the stallion.

‘Has her time come?’

The message was a few days earlier than expected, but not a surprise. Harry motioned the other men to continue the hunt.

‘Bring back the finest haunch of venison, God willing we will have a feast tonight.’

Harry galloped alone back to the palace, the messenger on his chestnut mare had no chance of keeping up, but his mission was accomplished.

DSCN6000

 

Several grooms stood ready as their master leapt from his sweating horse. Harry was soon striding down the long corridors. Lady Maria Santos curtseyed at the door of his wife’s chamber.

‘How is My Lady?’

‘She is in good spirits as usual, her waters broke but an hour ago, the maids are fetching more hot water.’

Ministers and courtiers were gathering in the corridor.

‘Go, go, I want no one here except the Queen’s physician and the lady of the birthing stool.’

6

Catherine looked up as her tall handsome husband entered the bedchamber. His red hair was tousled, he smelt of leather and bracken.

She laughed. ‘Your ruddy cheeks tell me you were out hunting.’

‘Not ten minutes ride from home and five minutes gallop back’ he laughed, as he knelt by the imported porcelain hip bath and stroked her swollen belly. She tensed as another wave of pain swept over her; but Maria the physician directed her skilled assistant to bring the bowl of steaming infusion from the fireplace. Catherine breathed in deeply and allowed the steam and hot water to soothe her.

41341811_2273310256032085_1206749487914024960_o

An hour later Maria declared it was time and Harry helped his wife step out of the bath, supporting her as she squatted and clung to the stout oak bed post.

‘Good, good, I can see the head’ said Maria.

Gravity, skill and the efforts of the mother did their work and the lady of the birthing stool removed the blade from the fire and swiftly cut the chord as Maria held the crying baby.

But Maria frowned, handed the baby to her assistant, then palpated Catherine’s belly. For the first time the king felt fear as his wife’s face contorted in pain.

‘It is as I suspected, another baby, pray it is in a good position, I fear the cord is wrapped around its neck.’

41341811_2273310256032085_1206749487914024960_o

It was yet another hour before Catherine lay back on the bolster, Harry perched on the high bed beside her.

‘Well done my beautiful Queen, two boys, a sign from God.’

She smiled. ‘Well done my King, did not Maria tell us it is the man’s seed that decrees boy or girl?’

‘…and was it not you My Lady, with your insistence on a Spanish court, who brought your wonderful lady physician with you? And now I shall fetch Edward and Alfred to meet their new brothers.’

41341811_2273310256032085_1206749487914024960_o

 

Two little boys with red hair and rosy cheeks burst into the chamber.

‘Permission to retire, Your Majesty’ said Maria. ‘I shall return in one hour. Now I leave you to enjoy your family.’

‘I once nearly had you charged with treason, wanting me to dismiss the royal physicians, barring my ministers from the birth of Edward. But you were right, a King should be witness to the arrival of his heirs.’

The little princes ran around the chamber, swinging on the curtains of their parents’ four poster bed, stopping to peer at the strange creatures attached to their mother’s breasts.

‘Shall you not wish for a wet nurse this time, now you have two hungry babes my love?’

‘No, no, royal Spanish milk is what they need to grow strong like Edward and Alfred, but what shall we call them? I wanted Phillip if it was a boy…

‘A king’s prerogative to choose, and I have chosen. Andrew and Martin.’

‘Martin?’ Catherine formed the unfamiliar name on her lips. ‘What name is that?’

‘Martin Luther, a great man, I have been reading his writings, he wants to reform the church and he is right, I shall reform our church of England.’

‘Husband you are very clever, you know several languages and write me songs, but you are not the Pope, why does the Holy Roman church need reforming?’

‘We must have The Bible written in English so the people can read it.’

‘But most of your people can’t read.’

‘So they must learn and they will learn the Gospel when they hear it read out in English in churches up and down our blessed country. In our great monasteries the monks must set to work translating. King Henry’s Bible, a work my sons will be proud of.

 

DSCN0403DSCN0403

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – The Stones

 So Lar looked over the plains; how many had passed this way over the years? Weary bodies, bent limbs and always murmurings of revolt, lives lost as well and for what? Tomorrow would demonstrate what this had all been for and So Lar would be proved right. A new age of enlightenment would begin on the longest day as the Sun bestowed His blessing. Of course it was hard for the workers to see what they and their fathers and forebears had been labouring towards, what So Lar’s father and grandfather had dreamed of, knowing they would never see the day when it was complete.

The old pagan beliefs would be buried for good and they would look towards the one true God, the Sun God. But as the long warm evening began to fade into twilight So Lar had the first misgivings, dark clouds rolled over the indigo sky. When night had fully set over the plains the moon could not be seen, not one single star could be seen. Without clouds there would be no rain, man and beast needed rain, but not tomorrow…

There was no sleep for him that short night; most souls in the camp were sound asleep, trusting the night watch to wake them in good time for the revelation So Lar had promised at dawn. If the blanket of cloud was not drawn back then they would not see the first rays shine through the entrance of the temple of knowledge.

Blackness turned to grey, dawn had arrived, but not a glimmer of gold could penetrate the dark clouds. They surrounded So Lar now, angry and afraid. Rab the trouble maker spoke.

‘So much for your Sun God, we have angered our gods, desecrated their sacred plains, your stone temple is a terrible scar on the landscape that should be torn down. The gods will not let your weak sun god shine until they are appeased.’

41489466_2277742345588876_4579338519482204160_o

 

So Lar lay bound inside his precious circle. These people would never be enlightened, would never understand how the heavens and earth worked without the need for human intervention. They still thought blood needed to be spilled, that he must be sacrificed if the sun was to shine again.

 

 

Secret Salisbury – September Staycation – Part One

Salisbury is a small city where we used to think not much happened. It lies in the county of Wiltshire, where you might think not much has happened since Stonehenge was built. Salisbury is a city because it has a cathedral. It is not large, but it is busy with a hospital, university and many places of interest to historians and tourists.

Since March this year it has been in the international news with the poisoning by novichok nerve agent of two Russians and a local policeman. Just when Salisbury was getting back to some normality there was the bizarre tragedy when two locals were taken ill and one became the first fatality. Two Russian suspects have been named and even appeared on Russian television to explain they visited Salisbury merely as tourists to see the cathedral with its famous spire and the oldest clock in the world.

DSCN0516

You couldn’t make this story up; if these two men were ‘secret agents’ they certainly bungled the whole mission, their target was not killed, though he and his daughter only survived thanks to the National Health Service and skilled care. Before leaving Salisbury they dumped the novichok in a rubbish skip.  Through all these months, parts of Salisbury have been closed off and scoured for any trace of the nerve agent, a nightmare for businesses expecting a busy tourist summer.

We quite often go to Salisbury and went there last week after our morning at Stonehenge. Everywhere seemed busy, but perhaps they were locals.

DSCN0506

I can believe the two suspects didn’t find the cathedral; though the famous spire can be seen for miles around, the first time we visited we stood in the main square and could not see it, we had no idea which way to go.

Through an arch you will find yourself looking at the cathedral green; fine weather shows the scene at its best. This area is full of interesting houses and museums and the expanse of grass is ideal for children to run and play and school parties to let off steam. There is too much for one visit, but whatever your plans just stand by yourself and look up at the spire.

The refectory, cloisters and smart toilets are free to wander in. Do you pay to go in the cathedral? There is a suggested donation. On our visit, late in the afternoon, I was just trying to read what we might ‘kindly be asked’ to pay when I realised Cyberspouse was already inside. We may have accidentally followed a coach party in. The house of God should be free to enter, but cathedrals need constant loving and expensive care. We always buy our refreshments at the refectory and there is a nice shop for tourists.

DSCN0535

Cathedrals can be overwhelming, I guarantee most of us do not remember all the saintly and royal details in the leaflets. Take in the ambience and spend time with what takes your eye. Highlights include the clock, perhaps the Russians wanted to steal our cutting edge technology! Look carefully down the nave and see if you can spot the columns bowed at the centre of the cathedral under the weight of the spire. A model of the spire shows the original wooden scaffold still there. Another  model shows the cathedral being built; I had a nice chat with an American lady as we admired the model and the original builders. The biggest miracle of ancient buildings is the fact they are still standing and I love to wonder if those who built it could have imagined how far into the future their creation would be admired.

DSCN0530

Cathedrals are living places and new art is added. I love the font, sculptor William Pye, consecrated in 2008.

DSCN0537

On our brief stroll around the cathedral Cyberspouse met a woman from Iceland, tourists are still coming to Salisbury.

https://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/salisbury/things-to-do

My Brief Encounters trilogy is partly set in rural Wiltshire and Salisbury also features, especially in Lives of Anna Alsop.