22. A Delightful Morning in Huntingfield

Peach blossoms near Halesworth

It was such a great time of year to be travelling in England – blossoms everywhere. I was sorry to leave the guest house but at 10am Sue and Jason arrived in the campervan and we headed into the centre of Halesworth to fill up with petrol and then take a walk through the delightful village.

Jason and Sue’s campervan in Halesworth

I wanted to buy some postcards, which was easy enough, but in England, finding the Post Office can prove a little tricky. It takes a bit of getting used to and was something I’d forgotten about since leaving 21 years ago.

The Post Office will be situated at the very back of a newsagent or hardware store or any other store that takes its fancy. The locals think you’re quite mad when you express surprise at this arrangement – they’ve lived with it all their lives so what’s the problem? It just takes a little getting used to, that’s all.

Having bought my stamps at the back of the hardware store I found somewhere to sit and write on my postcards. After that, while Jason and Sue were about their business I used the new phone I’d bought to call my son in Australia. How lovely to chat with him while sitting in such a wonderful village. There was a bit of an uproar as I sat and chatted to him as a CAR (the cheek of it !) appeared on the scene and laboriously nosed its way through the affronted pedestrians. The occupants must have felt their ears burning as the mutterings of the locals followed them down the street.

I then made a quick call to my sister back home to prove to her that it hadn’t been a waste of money (which she believed it was – a whole £15 worth) but, rather, had been a jolly good idea to buy a new phone. The phone was invaluable during the entire trip as the places I stayed in were without phones for overseas use.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Huntingfield, Suffolk

We had a delightful drive through the countryside, inspecting the local church at Huntingfield and snapping photos of blossoms as we went.

Rapeseed in bloom, Suffolk

The local church is St Mary’s – its full title is the Church of St Mary the Virgin – and it is a truly wonderful building. Its grade one listed, no less, and was built in the 11th century. I managed to capture the details of the beautiful stained-glass window and the floor – someone was looking over me that day!

St Mary’s, Huntingfield

St Mary’s, Huntingfield

Beautiful floor, St Mary’s

Its listing is due mainly to the astonishing ceiling, the painting of which was done by Mrs Mildred Holland, wife of a former rector. The story is a most unusual one and some people have seen fit to belittle her efforts. Granted she’s no Botticelli or Michelangelo but I take my hat off to her (or would do if I wore one).

Good on her, I say. I thought she did a grand job!

Ceiling, St Mary’s, Huntingfield

Not for Mildred the endless rounds of tea, scones and idle chatter; no easy way out for her. In 1859 she began designing and planning the ceiling decoration and then proceeded to paint it herself, finally finishing it in 1866 (although some sources say it took her 23 years to complete). I’m sure her work would be treated with more respect if (a) she had a foreign name, or (b) she’d been a man

Mildred’s handiwork, St Mary’s

To those who criticize her I make this suggestion. You get up there with 19th century equipment, with paint dripping on your face in an airless environment not to mention annoying parishioners noisily praying down below and see how you fare.

‘Nough said.

These two links provide differing opinions on Mildred’s work and some fascinating background information. ( the second link is in 2 parts – too wide for page. Clicking on either section will work)

http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=4929

http://www.bbc.co.uk/suffolk/content/articles/2007/01/15/divine_art_

huntingfield_church_feature.shtml

This final link is to a wonderful photo of the entire interior of St Mary’s taken by AlanandJill who obviously have far more skill and a much better camera than I do . Enjoy!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/35027610@N05/4481094437/in/photostream/

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