Friday, November 12, 2010

Fairford, Gloucestershire


‘Get a cat’

Time for a break from the parade of shops currently occupying my mind. So, a little feline diversion...

In his book Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, Patrick Leigh Fermor tells an old story about a Greek sea captain. Troubled by the number of rats on his boat, the seaman calls in a priest to perform the ceremony for casting our vermin. Chants, censing and aspersing ensue, and the priest takes his fee, ensuring the man he’ll have no more trouble now, the rites have never failed. ‘”But there’s just one point,” he said. “What’s that, Father?” The priest stooped his bearded head to the seaman’s ear and whispered: “Get a cat.” Since then the phrase “getting a cat” means, in maritime circles, making surety doubly sure.’

Often, of course, the process of ‘getting’ a cat is rather passive. A cat arrives, and if the humans are welcoming enough, the cat stays. Something like this probably happened in 1963, when a tabby adopted the verger of Fairford church and his wife. Tiddles stayed, became the church cat, and attracted the affection of visitors, who come to Fairford to admire the stunning late-medieval stained glass, and of parishioners, on whose laps she sat during services. No doubt her mousing skills were not much used. But the parishioners of Fairford were doubly sure. And when Tiddles died in 1980, this stone, carved by Peter Juggins, was erected near the south porch. Requiescat.

9 comments:

Pigtown-Design said...

Ohhhh... I never saw this! We stayed in Tewkesbury and visited St. Mary's (?) at Fairford. Loved the story of the windows in the church.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ah, my job is to point out what others miss!

The windows are sublime, and I plan to post about them one day.

bazza said...

Funnily enough Philip, I think this post is no less English in spirit than the previous one!
Tiddles is like a Greyfriars Bobby/Tabby, waiting in perpetuity for his master to return.

worm said...

Im amazed at how weathered the cat looks! If it wasn't for the overall modernist styling and lettering, you could think it had been there for considerably longer. Would it be fair to surmise that such a prevalence of lichen might probably be a good indication that Fairford has good clean air? (and that the tombstone is north facing)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Worm: Yes, you're right on both counts. The stone is more or less north-facing, and sheltered. And Fairford has good air - the church is away from the main traffic artery through the town and I doubt that the place has ever had many factory chimneys belching smoke, this being the eastern edge of the Cotswolds. People say that lichen grows slowly, but here at the other end of the Cotswolds I've observed that some sorts can grow quite a lot in a few years in the right conditions.

Richard Williams said...

Any small warm mammal would have been welcome in St Mary's Church, Bibury, on Sunday. It was perishing! Great blog - very interesting posts about shops, thank you.

Pete said...

Thanks for this, and do please blog about the windows at Fairford. The glass is quite different to the later, especially Victorian, versions. To me it's like the difference between water-colours and oils, the Fairford glass being quite translucent.

Some lights, I think, are not original and one I remember depicts an old crone in a wheelbarrow, being pushed hell-wards by a couple of imps. For some reason I always think of this as the "Melanie Phillips" window.

Regards,

Pete

Ron Combo said...

Requiescat. Very good!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Ron. I'm glad someone thinks that puns shouldn't be, er, punished.