Happiness is…

Does any couple manage to live with each other for years without occasionally wanting to slap each other with a wet fish? I have to say that I was surprised today, to say the least, when my husband of more than three decades didn’t turn the air blue and banish me to the stocks.

We’d decided to drive across to Minsterworth in Gloucestershire to see the Severn Bore. It was something we’d talked about over the years and now that we’re people of leisure it was on the list. Not a bucket list, that always strikes me as faintly depressing, rushing to pour stuff into your life as time is running out at the other end. No, this is much more of a casual thing. Not so much a list, even, more of a mind map. Now there’s a phrase that turned me cold when I was working and training students. So much scope for forgetting crucial details, leaving stones unturned…a list is always the way to go! Logical and organised, you can even have sub-lists! I know lots of you will disagree with me, but you can go write your own blog. This one is mine.

However, I should get back to the point. I’d looked up the relevant website to check the tides. The site is very helpful: it categorizes the strength of the Bore, lists the best viewing points and gives the expected time of arrival at those locations. Today’s was a category 4 (out of 5) and would be passing the imaginatively named Severn Bore Inn at Minsterworth at 10:04. We set the alarm for 7:30, something we rarely do, had an early breakfast and left the house at 8:30. With my friend Googlemaps predicting a journey time of one hour and twelve minutes, we were happy indeed that we’d soon be witnessing one of the minor wonders of the natural world.

Minsterworth is not a big place but it’s long and straggly, straddling both sides of the road for some distance. At some points it’s extremely close to the river Severn, and as we cruised past I could see that the water level was high, and moving determinedly upstream. I could see people standing on the banks, chatting. And I could see groups of surfers at various cars, stripping off their wetsuits and packing away their boards. This was puzzling. Why were they taking off their wetsuits? Don’t say we’d missed it?

And yes, we had. We were disappointed; it was a fine, sunny day, we’d driven for over an hour, and the Bore had clearly lived up to expectations judging by the speed of the upstream current. The website does state that the Bore can arrive as much as twenty minutes early but it looked as though today’s time was way off. This was when I felt the first doubts niggling at me. As Mr B swung the car back onto the road, muttering something about wastes of time and fuel and how could predictions be that inaccurate, I checked the website again. Friday, 11th March – 09:24. Saturday, 12th March – 10:04. Today was Friday.

I did consider keeping quiet but by the time we’d moved on to the next item on the day’s agenda and arrived in Cheltenham I started to steel myself for a confession. The right time presented itself once Mr B had bought a snazzy new pair of walking boots and a sizeable wedge of soft cheese from a farmers’ market stall. His mood had definitely improved. Also we were in a public place and I figured that any lingering annoyance would be tempered by the need to avoid an embarrassing row in public. And I was right! He actually laughed! I couldn’t believe I’d got off so lightly, but it just goes to show that even after thirty-six years we still can’t predict everything about each other. Thank God.

As a reward for playing nicely, I directed my chauffeur to the tiny hamlet of Deerhurst, some miles northwest of Cheltenham and just a few hundred yards from the Severn. The land was very flat and some of it, unsurprisingly, was flooded. Thankfully the buildings we’d come to see had escaped this fate. I didn’t know about either of these treasures before I saw them marked on the map, but if you are ever in the area I recommend you visit Odda’s Chapel and St Mary’s Church in Deerhurst. When Alex heard where we’d been she sent a text asking why we always seemed to be in churches. One of the reasons is that churches, cathedrals and castles are the oldest buildings we have and many of them are in astonishingly good nick. Odda’s Chapel and St Mary’s take the prize for age and condition as they are actually Anglo-Saxon. I get excited about Norman architecture (for its antiquity if not its style) but wow…Anglo-Saxon!!!!!

So here, at long last in this post, are some pictures. First the enchanting Odda’s chapel.odda 1 2016

The church was built by Earl Odda in memory of his brother Aelfric and dedicated in 1056. Odda was a kinsman of King Edward the Confessor. Odda’s chapel lay undiscovered for centuries because it had been incorporated into the 17th c farmhouse next door. The nave was being used as a kitchen, the chancel a bedroom. You can just see the farmhouse at the back in the picture above and more clearly below.odda 8 2016A side view showing the way the chapel was joined to the farmhouse

Inside the chapel – not surprisingly the interior is pretty sparse – note the essential fire extinguisher, courtesy of English Heritage.odda 3 2016

odda 9 2016

Outside the chapel, Disappointed of Cardiff makes his way back to the car. You can just see the River Severn in the distance; the gate next to the car announced that this was a site for private elver fishing!

We left the chapel and went to have a look at St Mary’s church, just a few dozen yards away, which apparently was the site of a treaty agreement between Cnut the Dane and Edmund Ironside in 1016. The church was once a Benedictine Priory and the heart of the building dates back to the 7th century, and was raised and added to in the 8th and 10th centuries. Further extensions were carried out in the 14th century to leave the church we see today.odda 10 2016The path through the churchyard

odda 15 2016The font dates back to the 9th century

odda 20 2016The triangular window is formed from Roman pillar stones

odda 25 2016The view from the churchyard

It’s amazing that such a tiny place has these two gems. There’s hardly anything else there, just a handful of houses surrounded by flat green fields. We were really pleased we’d found it – and I’m pretty sure that if we’d reached Minsterworth by 09:24 this morning then we wouldn’t have been looking for something else to treat ourselves with. It all comes out in the wash, in the end.

So we were happy with our day, which is the third time this week I’ve been officially happy. Twice over the last few days I’ve contacted the blogsite provider WordPress via their live chat facility because I’ve been fighting a losing battle against technology. The first time I did this I was dismayed to see that the ‘happiness engineer had stepped away from his desk momentarily’. He soon came back though, and sorted me out. My thanks to Drew. A couple of evenings later I was being dumb again and felt the need to speak to my happiness engineer. This time he was there, waiting for me – though his name had changed to Christopher. He was just as capable and as delightfully mannered as Drew. I can see a habit forming here if I’m not careful. If I’m unhappy in any way then all I need to do is chat to one of the happiness engineers at WordPress. So the next time I mess up, no matter what it is, I’ll be safe.

Meanwhile the times of the Severn Bore at the Severn Bore Inn, Minsterworth next month are as follows:

Friday 8th April: 09:22

Saturday 9th April: 10:05

Sunday 10th April: 10:45

2 responses to “Happiness is…

    • Thanks for that! I’ve had a lot of practice, having messed up any number of things over the years!
      And if you have time then I highly recommend a visit to Deerhurst

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