Start, stutter, stall?
No, this time, and not unusually so, it’s quite a definite STOP.
Again, my Dacia Sandero takes the lead.
Seems we are not destined to arrive at Chirk after all – not yet awhile at least!
Caught up in the thrill of the chase, in the excitement of unexpected turns and twists en route to Chirk, my trusty companion has once again gone AWOL!
Granted, it was a lot of fun to visit Whittington Castle, and pay my respects to my 22nd, 23rd and 24th Great Grandfathers, the Fulk Fitz Warines – but I really do have the intention of educating myself about the beauty and magnificence of Chirk’s aqueduct. So, I give my Dacia a spot of encouragement to chivvy it on its way. A friendly pat on its bonnet?
The ‘pat’ doesn’t work. We have stopped off in Oswestry. And the birds here are none too considerate with the size of the pats they choose to deposit on foreign cars. The Dacia’s stubborn. Out of spite, I suspect, we stay put.
‘Out Sprogs! It’s time to explore!’
‘No, Mum! No, we are not starting out in a graveyard! Where is the town centre? Where are the shops?’
‘But look, look at the surnames on these gravestones! Surely, they must be …’
‘No. No, we are not interested. If they are our ancestors, they are dead. Dead and gone! Come on, Mum! Move on!’
An attentive mother, teaches her little one the ways of pond life, and puts me to shame.
Taking heed of the hint, for once, I listen to the Sprogs (I know I’ll be able to sneak back later!), and we peruse our wider surroundings.
It’s hard to decide which way to go when there are so many options, and the Sprogs only want shops, so, being in a decisive and entirely unselfish kind of a mood, I take the lead.
I put my head down and my hood up (the April weather is still in a spitting mood), and fix all of my senses upon my intended destination. The Sprogs keep running up behind me and tugging on my sleeve. I think they are trying to tell me something, trying to put me into reverse mode. So I tune them out and I plough on, imagining myself to be a Shropshire farmer – needing to finish the job, before the drizzle turns into a downpour.
‘Excuse me! Excuse me, Lady!’
I keep on ploughing.
‘Excuse me! Please, Lady, please!’
My Shire horse stalls and refuses to budge (very much like the issues I have with my Dacia Sandero), so I am forced to recognise myself as the ‘Lady’ in question, and pay heed to my assailant.
The assailant is not a Sprog. The assailant is none other than the wonderful waiter from the Asian Spice Restaurant we visited some days ago in Ellesmere!
‘Excuse me, but have you lost a pair of very-expensive-looking binoculars?’
Have I? I do my best vacant expression …
‘Binoculars? Have you lost your binoculars? You left them in the restaurant last Saturday, and they looked very high quality! I’ve put them aside for you.’
Really? A very small number of very miniscule brain cells, in my medium-term memory, start to kick into action. Did I leave a pair of binoculars in the Asian Spice? Are my binoculars even missing?
‘Yes, yes. I just saw you and I recognised you. They’re in the restaurant. Come on by and pick them up one evening!’
This man is an absolute gem. A gem on a genius. How did he know something I didn’t even know myself. I hadn’t even realised my binoculars were missing! (Correction – that Sprog 3’s binoculars were missing!) This man, this gem, this genius – this highest of quality of waiters – has just saved my skin! Father Spike Cool purchased the binoculars in question, purchased a pair for each one of my Sprogs, so they could all join in with Sprog 3 on his bird-watching adventures. Father Spike’s face has been known to go very red and to explode like an over-ripe tomato, when it is cross. I love this waiter! He is my hero! I thank him profusely, and feel really embarrassed, and really guilty for not paying heed to his interjections, when engrossed in my ploughing.
I now realise that the Cools will have to, once again, partake of the Asian Spice’s best dishes. It just wouldn’t be respectful to roll up, collect the errant binoculars, and leave without even ordering a single poppadum. What a fortunate, if somewhat, ‘Strange Meeting’ (1). I love this man. I need this man. I need his memory – his short-term, medium-term, and long-term memory boxes (as, if truth be known, all of mine are frighteningly faulty). But, as it would not be at all appropriate to appropriate someone else’s brain, I will settle for another meal cooked up at this lovely man’s restaurant. Who knows, perhaps it’s possible to capture the essence of a person’s memories through the food that they contribute to the preparation of (2)? But, in the meantime …
It occurs to me that I’m not yet back in Ellesemere, but still in Oswestry! Now, where was I heading to? I refocus, and put my feet back into action. Now, what happened to the Shire horse?
You have arrived at your destination! (And, since when did Shire horses come complete with built-in Sat Navs?)
It turns out that Oswestry’s tourist information centre has a fantastic selection of books about the history of Shropshire and, even better, a display dedicated to the life and works of the great war poet, Wilfred Owen. Recalling that there a lot of ancestors by the name of Owen on my family tree, I start to bubble. Could this be the source of my writing talent (self-agrandiosiment doesn’t seem to done Trump’s career much harm!)? Could Wilfred Owen be a Great-Something-Grandfather of mine? My brain drifts off into it’s other life. Click, search, check, merge, edit. Click, search …
‘Mum! Mum! How much longer do we have to be in here for? It’s just books and stuff!’
‘Yes, books. Books being sold! A shop! You wanted a shop, didn’t you?’
Too late, I realise that I have broken one of the holiest rules of parenting. Never ask. Just assume. Don’t let the Sprogs think that they have the option of making choices.
‘Yes, it’s a shop. You wanted a shop. And, even better, there’s a school room. Come on!’
Sprog 3’s lips do a face fall. Sprog 3 follows up the face fall with a whimper.
‘It’s creepy! You know I don’t like old things! That man is horrible!’
Sprog 3 takes a runner back down the stairs and seeks out the security of her dad. Her dad, my hubby, her safety net.
Personally, I consider my new man friend to be rather dashingly handsome, and I take the time to get to know him better:
Those who’ve ever gotten up close enough to me to find out, will know that I’m not too fond of a man with a beard but, in this case, I can make an exception. This man has a ‘ginger’ beard. And ginger beards rule! Anything ginger rules! Anything with the hint of a throwback to our Neanderthal roots, to a bit of ancestral soul searching is fine by me. After all, wasn’t my Great-Something-or-Other Great Grandfather, William the Conqueror, a ginger? Wasn’t my Great-Something-Uncle, Henry VIII a ginger? And wasn’t Bobby, my deceased bob-tailed cat, a ginger? Ginger is Cool. This man, this stern-looking schoolmaster is Cool. Cool and handsome …
‘Jay? Wifey? Have you finished yet? Sprog 3 wants to go. And Sprog 2 wants a bag of crisps!’
I take one last glance back at my new-found-and-immediately-lost love, and pretend to shuffle back towards the descending stairway.
|The Oswestry Visitor Centre (once a Free School, founded in 1407 by David Holbache)
But just imagine … Just imagine sitting here, at one of those desks, being taught all about great literature by such a handsome ….
It’s Sprog 2 and he’s tugging at my sleeve. Tugging at my sleeve, whilst complaining about his empty belly.
‘Mum, there’s a café downstairs and I’m starving!’
A café? Great! An opportunity. An extension of time.
‘Sounds like a good idea! I tell you what – you go ahead with your dad, and order the drinks. And I’ll be down in a jiffy!’
In the few seconds that remain, I learn that Wilfred Owen’s Grandfather, Edward Shaw, was Mayor of Oswestry. I’m pretty sure that I have lots of Shaws in my family tree – and even some Salters (Ed married Mary Salter). Another of my Lots-of-Great Grandfathers? I can see myself as the Mayoress of my own home town of Sudbury. Does one have to be born in a town to have status? I determine to look this up. And, I might even challenge myself to read a few more of Owen’s poems (1), rather than just settle for my scanty knowledge of Dulce de decorum est:
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
And then? Then I make my descent. A pot of tea awaits me. And it’s complete with tea cosy. This meets with my approval. Nanna Joan Cool knitted a good cosy, and it’s a darn shame that the fashion for covering up died a death, along with loose tea leaves. But, approval or not, the tea can wait. The information desk is surrounded by a plethora of books. Unable to resist the pull, I wander over. The Sprogs have crisps and lemonade to mind them for a while.
Seconds later, I am being subjected to a DFS Saleswoman-style sales pitch. The extremely perceptive sales assistant has ascertained that I’m on a hunt for Oswestrian ancestors and shows me a delightful book, detailing all of the inhabitants of Oswestry, back in the day. She’s found the index, and wants a surname.
‘Cool!’ I say (giving away nothing!)
‘Cool? No, there are no Cools here! Do you have another name?’
But I’ve seen the price tag – thirty pounds! I thank the helpful lady profusely and walk backwards into the Sprogs, only just avoiding an incident with my awaiting teapot. I uncover my eyes. Is the good lady still on my trail? Fortunately, she’s very well aware that today’s Oswestrians are far from honest, and has stayed to man (woman?) her sales desk.
I make a mental note to do a search on ‘Oswestry’ and ‘Wilfred Owen’. I must be able to secure my copies of such great writings for a couple of pence. It must be possible.
I down my stewed tea, grab the Hubby and Sprogs, and make a quick exit.
But might-be-an ancestor, Wilfred, isn’t going to let me go in such a hurry. I’m stopped in my tracks by a roll of honour, and feel it only right, to check on the names.
Then Wilfred himself pops up in the form of a memorial plaque.
It’s a sign. And I know what I must do. It’s time. Time to put pen to paper and churn out a few more poems by Jay Cool. Wilfred always wanted to be a poet, and his efforts went largely unrecognised until his untimely death on 4th November 1918. So here it is – a poem by Jay Cool. It is here to be recognised, and I have plenty more where that one came from, so please, if you like it (and doesn’t everyone want to read about my ‘sagging rear’?), click on the links at the bottom of this page and read the rest. All you need to do then is comment and follow:
Rear hanging in the balance, sagging through the split
panels of a garden perch
wedged in and
an in-law’s trunk.
A family tree conjoined –
Copyright of text & photography owned by Jay Cool,
Sadly, the money hasn’t started rolling in yet! And, with poverty at my heels, I feel right at home when I discover a convenient perch at the foot of a working-man’s stone feet. Is this my true ancestor?
I consider the average salary of a professional writer, £10,700 ish, if you believe The Independent! Best not give up the day job – quite yet.
J K Rowling? Could she be a distant cousin of mine?
I plan an evening of research, back at the Red Lion’s lodge, tucked up in bed with Ancestry.com.
Chirk? What happened to Chirk?
Oh, yes, we are still en route to Chirk! But it’s past tea-time! Past 5.30pm. Even the shops are closed now! And the Sprogs are kicking a***e! Can’t imagine why!
Our chauffeur invites us into the lowly carriage of a Dacia Sandero. To Chirk?
Back to our lodge. Back to the Red Lion.
Chirk can wait for another day, and another time.
Back to Myddle, please!
Copyright of text and photographs owned by Jay Cool, July 2018
(1) Look out for Jay Cool’s forthcoming literary appreciation blogs about the lives and works of Salopian authors, to include an analysis of the merits of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘A Strange Meeting’ (wasn’t that also the name of novel written by Susan Hill?)!
(2) Please try out the excellent cuisine at Ellesmere’s ‘Asian Spice’ restaurant for yourself. I highly recommend it; in fact, in ballet exam terms, I would grade it with ‘Honours’! See link for further information: http://ellesmereshropshire.com/asian-spices-restaurant/
Jay Cool’s poetry blogs:
P.S. As we speak, Jay Cool is working on establishing her ancestral link to the great poet, Wilfred Owen, himself. This she owes him, for being such a fine host on her visit to Oswestry.