No don’t run away yet Turold Ditchlouse is about to talk on the subject of love. Ditchlouse will tell you how love is rather like a fungal foot infection, caused by excess dampness and thereafter it will spread bringing a mild but unrelenting discomfort which nonetheless becomes part of your life even it seems to be making your feet bad. Damp has never failed to be at the heart of love especially Ditchlouses kind of love. Like moisture creeping into every crack of your home slowly rotting its walls and roof, love turns your world into something that is soft, mouldy and makes you sneeze a lot. Ditchlouse knows love ends in completely turning all that you once thought was free of fungus and damp rot into something riddled with fungus and rot. As it takes over you are gripped by powerful and wild urges that make no sense to anybody else, like somebody with a very bad fungal foot infection that has turned into a full blown mould encrusted lump. In his life Ditchlouse has found love in a Mrs Ditchlouse, which has been fruitful much in the way a woodland toadstool is fruitful on a decaying tree stump. Mrs Ditchlouse though is no decaying tree stump. She is alive at the least and is the unconditional marital crock receiving like a rotten tree stump all of Turolds grey rainy showers of love that squelch into her heart. Turold though knows though you cannot make the purchase of love with any fistful of pennies, a bowl of pease pottage can win any number of hearts over. As he remembers when he was in his courting days, he used to place a bowl of specially made pease pottage under Agnes’s window to woo her to his affections. What is love without the seductive and alluring aroma of a solid bowl of grandmothers best pottage? Cabbage and turnips always bring hearts together in the Coddswaldes only to find that cabbage and turnips are surprisingly more fun than it will be uttered here in the presence of innocent minds.
Recently Turold Ditchlouse was swallowed by a hole while digging out a dung heap up on the Coddswaldes. This hole it appears transported him to the far future where the Coddswaldes has become a bitter and mutilated conflict zone between the two factional political confederations of the Gloucestershire Biscuit Avengers and the Oxfordshire Teacake Liberation Front. Turold staggering into the acrid smoke and the rat-a-tat-tat of desultory gunfire bumps into a Gloucestershire Biscuit Avenger infantry man who has been huddling in a filthy ditch for several hours fingers wrapped about his rusty gun. To begin with Turold is anxious to know where he can find any pease pottage for he feels disorientated and out-of-sorts. The GBA infantry man only stares in blank confusion and then eventually offers him a biscuit from the biscuit bag all GBA infantry men carry as a symbol of their loyalty and unwavering allegiance to biscuits (in complete contrast to the Oxfordshire Teacake Liberation Front who are utterly committed to teacakes). Turold takes the biscuit as being not a man to flinch at being offered anything to eat that does not immediately run away or squeak. Pease pottage will have to wait for now. While munching in the comfortable squalor of the ditch feeling rather at home and wondering why the GBA infantry man was still staring at him with bloodshot eyes as if he were a black hound of evil omen, Turold realises he might have fallen into a wormhole into the distant future. It happens to even the most clod loving pease chomping Coddswaldish peasant.
‘We’ve been fighting for years to avenge the biscuits against those bastard Oxfordshire Teacake Liberationists, I was brought up singing the Biscuit Avenging march songs and knew all the names of the biscuits we have to avenge by the time I was six’
Turold listened to the bedraggled and manic eyed infantry man as he explained in quivering tones his fervent passion for the Biscuit Avengers.
‘One day one day we’re going to beat those Bastard Oxfordshire Teacakers and send them all to lunch!’
Turold asked why they were avenging the biscuits.
‘Ever since the biscuits needed avenging! Those Oxfordshire Teacakers do you know what they did??’ his manic eyes grew big and white ‘They rounded up all the biscuits in their territory and had them put in a huge pile as if they were just nothing, and then after days of piling up all the biscuits hundreds of the Teacaker bastards all began to crush them into pieces! Everything changed after that our lives were never the same and we’ve been fighting for those massacred biscuits ever since, one day the biscuits will be avenged! Death to Oxfordshire Teacake Liberation Front!’
And Turold watched as the wretchedly clad infantry man scuttled out of the mud gunning at the blind distance where in the swirling fumes and dust there was somewhere an Oxfordshire Teacaker liberationist fighting to the teeth for the liberation of teacakes. A nightmare beyond hell fire. Turold finished his biscuit and stumbled back down the hole in time for pease pottage. Make that pease pottage with an extra pinch of salt! Woohoo!
You thought you knew the Coddswaldes but you don’t at all. As I am Turold Ditchlouse I can tell you you’ve been batwhippered by the present scene the Coddswaldes appears to be. Firstly I’ve a bone to pick with that Fosse Way. In the old old days there was a different Turold Ditchlouse, an Iron Age Turold Ditchlouse who marked himself with warriors tattoos made with the juices of sloe berries and elder. There existed no Fosse Way because no Latin gibbering Romans had set foot here yet. There was a a kind of ancient track crossing the high ground and fording the streams which ran on beyond the Coddswaldes used by farmers and itinerant craftsmen. It was like a unstraightened and rationalised Fosse Way. When the Latin mouthed Romans came they imposed an alien system of colonists towns and military highways. Now the old tribal rhythms of Iron Age Coddswaldes became submerged under the taxations and exhortations of the hungry empire. The empire existed to make the Roman elite richer beyond anyones head scratching thinkment, but really not even the Romans had any plan or idea what they were doing when they started out with this conquering business. Wealth and power certainly. But there was always something darker feeding into it people are reluctant to point out. The recipe for my grandmothers pease pottage tormented the living days of many of Romes most powerful men who despite their lauded triumphs were shadowed by the reality that out there on the edges of the empire my grandmothers pease pottage recipe lurked. Until they could lay their hands on it and lock it away in the imperial capital away from the world the fortunes of their empire would never be certain. Indeed disaster was hovering over their proud heads while my grandmothers pease pottage recipe was still out there unshackled as a wild warrior queen with blood smeared on her face. This was my Iron Age grandmother you have to bear in mind and her pease pottage was sturdy enough to stand on its own legs and swing a sword. I’ve been told she was like Boudicca but even more full of ruddy-haired ruddiness and to see her angry was to smell the very bristles on your pigs back singe. Did the Romans ever get her pease pottage recipe? No the empire was wheeled off into a mental asylum called After the Roman Empire gibbering and murdering its brothers because the pease pottage was the only thing the Caesars could not ever have. The Coddswaldes lay at the centre of this looking like it was not guilty for the crippling of the Benefits of Civillization. My Iron Age grandmothers pease pottage is more powerful than the Roman Empire I still boast today to anyone passing by my cabbage plot. You see I think history finds it too embarrassing to admit it. But they wouldn’t like to meet my grandmother, dead though she is I still go to sleep pleasantly terrified that her fiercesome ghost roams the Coddswaldes entirely smeared in woad and gnashing her teeth making grown men wet their briefs.
Turold Ditchlouse is to be at the old Fosse Crosse Bridge where for four days and nights he will be there eating the biggest bowl of pease pottage to have ever been seen and smelt in the Coddswaldes! Come along to cheer, laugh and drink much ale while Turold eats his way through the peasey pot! Bring you best turnips for the best turnip prize! Have more laughs! Throw sticks at the three-headed oaf! Lots of free diseases from our most diseased person of the year Ralph Wretcher!
On another note
The village of Hawling has disappeared. It is hoping it’s absence will be noticed until then Hawling will remain disappeared. Rumour goes that it has just hidden itself behind the more popular village of Stow-on-the-Walding or Stiff-Up-Walding as the peasantry call it. Hawling hopes by doing this it will get the attention it seeks. Meanwhile the Devil is shovelling some oolites about up on the hills to keep himself amused and a priest is attempting to teach a pig that behaving lewdly is not going to go down well with God. God does not like lewdness it makes him very cross.
On another another note
A freak cart wheel has escaped and is running wild up and down the lanes of the Coddswaldes causing alarum, startlement and mazement as the wheel goes about happily free of cart. There are mutters that this is another sign of God and this is the End of Days: All Ye Tremor in Fear For the Wheels of Carts Freeth from their Cartages And Gods Face Smoulders With the Coming Doom!
Last bit of news
Turold Ditchlouse will be farting after the pease and all are welcome to try and light a taper to see who can get the biggest blaze from his arse. Fun and laughs for every age! Heritage!
The Coddswaldes is as you know an area of Unfortunate Natural Beauty. For uncounted generations poor families were trapped there by sheep and oolites. Did you know the abbeys of Evesham, Worcester, Winchcombe and Gloucester all owned estates in the Coddswaldes? Not one but several villages and who was the main beneficiary of this? The land owners naturally and medieval churchdom. While men and women laboured on the Coddswaldes for whichever abbey it was owning their land, they had a charming narrative going through their heads from the Holy Book. Mankind, it said, was sent to live on Earth as a punishment for an incident involving an apple (or fruit of your choice) and a wiggly snake in paradise. God who seemed suspiciously prepared for this incident thundered about how men and women now shall live as exiles from Eden in a world of suffering, backache and inevitably thorns. That the earth was a world of the fallen and the sinful was sort of implied by Gods generally stuffy grumbling. So while our Coddswaldes serfs bent their backs in grinding labour on a stony field under a sky with a grimace, say at the village of Northleach, they were thinking ‘well this is my lot can’t expect anything better than a turnip for midday God doesn’t like the world he created so we all have to put up with his perverse sense of entitlement to our souls and I mustn’t think lewd thoughts about naked body parts else I’ll have to do a years self flagellation again‘ yes I know exactly what that peasant felt as that was me Turold Ditchlouse! Bloody hell! I might add as I was going there by the look on the priests face after I’d breathed my confession into his ear, or perhaps it was my strong turnips with added turnip?
This is all our heritage you ungrateful earwig I can hear my grandfather shouting from the grave. Yes serfdom! England divided like a pie between a clan of greasy chinned landowners! and yes backbreaking toil for the rest of your life with the pleasure of getting down on your knees to pray to God to forgive you for enjoying not being too diseased! I heard of some playwright jobbins calling this England a ‘Sceptred Isle’ well I think the blatant monarchy grovelling reference is evident. I say this that it should be ‘this warty lump of suet, this scrofulous peasant, this shit brooked Isle of the oppressed and vulgar mob‘. Now back to my pease pottage I’m nearly through the top layer and I haven’t found salvation yet.
In my day when the Codd was still in Coddswaldes and oolites were really wanton if you wanted water you got the bucket from by the door and went down to the spring. You waited until the water had filled the bucket then carried it back home. If you wanted more then you went back to repeat the process. Mostly though you only took the water that was needed which would be for cooking in the pot hanging over the fire. To get hot water the fire had to be kindled gradually until it was giving enough heat to boil the water. You only had enough kindling to get the water boiling once a day, but if for some reason you needed hot water twice then you had to go out and gather more sticks in the woods. Sometimes in summer the spring might run less but it was a dependable spring most of the year, and when I say ‘dependable’ I emphasis that we were entirely dependent on it for water. But the Codd has gone out of the Coddswaldes, and what can I say about the oolites? These days you just turn the tap on and out gushes your strange tasting pipe water, and if you want it hot you turn the other tap. Now you have so much water and can get it instantly from a tap nobody seems to care about the water. You use water to carry away your privy muck in a far more complicated system of shitting in the brook, you pump it ceaselessly into your cities and pump it out again. Thousands of bottles are filled with water on shelves of supermarkets for you to consume in a minute. Water is chucked about this way and that without anyone lifting a hand. Water is mixed up with strange chemicals and plastic. Nobody thinks about how much water they use or whether one day the spring might dry up. Nobody thinks the water might exist not for the sole consumption of the humans but for itself and animals. Nobody is aware that water is alive and that by treating it as if it is dead, then we are building up a catastrophe. Look at those sunken cities folk talk about, perhaps that’s us swallowed up by the waters we did not respect.
In the Coddswaldes several rivers burble along carving little valleys that slide down the Coddswaldes eastern hinderparts. There’s the Churn, the Coln, the Windrush and the Evenlode. There’s melody in speaking their names because when those folk of old gave them names they were listening to the waters sound and that’s what came to their ear. How we speak these river names has changed because like the waters themselves endlessly shaping their land and carrying away its old grain, the names have been always reshaped every generation. The Churn seems to have kept its original sound for a long time, with the strong ‘Ch’ at the beginning that once was used for Cirencester and Cerney (all derived from the river Churn). What the Churn means is forgotten though we might think its a churn and it’s something with charm to picture the churn churning gently along. But the Coln has changed its sound from what it was once. Digging through old Saxon charters you see the Coln is called Cunuglae. Coln is what is left after centuries of us speaking it down to the one syllable ‘Coln. Ah the Windrush is the most poetic of the river names! But it has nothing to do with wind in the rushes though it could do. Windrush like all the latter mentioned river names has its roots in the Celtic tongue once spoken in the Coddswaldes. ‘White, blessed, holy rushes or reeds’ is what it means. Now the Evenlode had another name now fallen from use, the Bladon was that name. Another river name is fossilised in the village of Turkdean: the Turce. Then there’s the others the Leach and the Gyting brook. Leach is the boggy stream and Gyting the gushing water. What is that some oolites pestering the crinolites again? I’ll see to it that the local geology keeps itself in order!
The day keeps well away from this corner of the Coddswaldes in Ampney Crucis. Night rules here without a break in its darkness. That at least is what you will deduce if you come here under a wheel barrow without realising it is the wheelbarrow that is the darkness not the village. If you come here without a wheel barrow on you as many people have done despite feeling this might not be right then you will have a different experience. What is this experience?
When I was still a little Turold Ditchlouse learning to make proper clods of mud and stone to hurl at our enemies in the next village that we were sworn by unspoken mutual tribal hatred to never share our favourite bramble bush with, we didn’t have experiences just things happening at us. Ampney Crucis lies at the lower eastern end of the Coddswaldes near the young curls of the river Thames. The Fosse Way cutting diagonally down from Cirencester to Bath bounds it one side and Akeman Street bounds it above on the North. Two venerable roads of Roman making. Ampney Crucis, Ampney Saint Peter and Down Ampney all straggle along the Ampney Brook. The village has spawned itself three times mainly because of the building of later Norman churches to Saint Peter and Saint Mary that were likely on old Saxon church foundations. Ampney Crucis is Ampney of the ‘Cross’. Ampney Crucis was gifted to the Abbey of Tewkesbury around 1100 and Ampney Saint Mary went to Cirencester Abbey. Thereafter the Ampneys were tied up to the aggrandised Anglo-Norman abbeys providing them with a large slice of its income off the backs of the peasant labourers sweating in its fields and pastures. Before all of this Ampney was simply ‘Ammas ea’ or river, or Ammas Ey which would mean an island or hemmed in land, presumably by marsh in this instance.
Ampney is at the beginning of that river Thames and it was here I stood one April thinking as I chewed on a butt end of bread thinking how it’s been such a busy place where that Thames flows for a very long time. Now it seems a quiet and sleepy waterway but mark my word that was once very different. The river Thames became a fuse of trade and culture in the Iron Age and continued to increase in its voltage as time went on and branched into the many thickening channels of contact between this land and our ancient neighbours. I thought how that channel is now so thick and tangled if you were a bird flying high above it all it would be impossible to see stretching back over the centuries how England is at all separate from its neighbours in France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. What you would behold is that from the source of the Thames there is a umbilical cord wrapping around and around lashing us to the mouths of Europes rivers: the Rhine, the Somme, the Loire and on its goes. We would be fools to think us as an island apart! But as my grandfather Old Turold Ditchlouse said, there’s always fools shouting on their own little rock. Better to not be them.
Have you ever been woken by badgers digging under the foundations of your cottage? Badger housing developments were rife in my boyhood and blighting the Coddswaldes with their sprawling tunnels and holes with no thought for the historical integrity of this Area of Unfortunate Natural Beauty. You’d hear of another village being completely dug up and all its folk forced by burly badger officials to vacate the land for yet another badger estate. It gave us ample matter to moan about. ‘Those badgers are destroying our country with their greedy tunnelling and hole making!’ ‘Soon they’ll be nothing left of England but miles and miles of ugly badger real estate under ground!’ and ‘There’s hardly any room these days for a simple human to hunker down in his cottage and be left in peace by badgers to eat his turnips!’
I know you are loathe to hear this but I am Turold Ditchlouse. This is the Coddswaldes sadly enough. There are oolites that you must regrettably become intimate with. What this village I’ve brought you to? Would you be any happier knowing it is Northleaches? For all of its existence as a humble thread of cottages in this little scooped out valley that is just a devils napping spot the folk of Northleaches have bred giant leeches. In the not as worse as rotten worse old days the best medicine was to be sucked by a leech. The best leeches were found here in this unassuming Coddswaldes village that nonetheless assumed it had the best leeches. Everyone knows you get ill when your body fills up with too much bad blood that then requires a suitable leech to suck it all out leaving your body clean of blood. Blood is a nasty thing. Running about inside always trying to find some way to escape! My grandfather had all his blood out when he was a young man and stored in a jar if he ever needed it. Let me describe the giant leeches: sleek black-blue, glossy with moisture and with long orange stripes along their rippling flanks that palpitate when feeding on your blood. It was often you’d see all kinds of folk from other places coming to Northleaches for a good healthy leech spa. They’d be laid down on a bed and a leech doctor would call the giant leech in from the pond. Folk knew what was good for them. Sucked by a huge fat leech and emptied of all that bad blood. That’s how it should be and if you don’t think so you’ve been poorly brought up! Likely you think your blood should not be in a leech! Well you won’t last in the Coddswaldes.
As you have followed me this far I assume you must be uniquely foolhardy or in need of a bottle of my grandmothers strong medicine. If ,Gods help you, this is the first time you have joined my name is Turold Ditchlouse. Unfortunately you will not forget it and in time we can only hope some of your sanity may be able to salvage itself. We have come to the shudderingly unspoilt village of Cheddesworthes. Behold the Monster of the End Times! The Serpent of the Pit! As my grandfather used to say as he raved in his old chair. It was the plum jerkum that had dissolved a large part of his brain and left what remained substantially marinated. Every Coddswaldes village used to have its plum jerkum and Cheddesworthes was infamous for its own particularly corrosive backyard brew. The men were mad and at summer were often found standing in a road or a field raging at the sky or weeping into the earth. We’d say ‘Here’s another from Cheddesworthes lets tie him to a sheep and see how long it takes for him to realise he’s tied to a sheep’. Good days! By which I mean not as worse as last year, and since I think it should have a punctuation mark: Worse days not as worse as last year!.
But you would like to hear more about Cheddesworthes? My grandfather was right. Here evil does dwell. You see from here where we can look down into its seemingly benign green valley that is passed by the Fosse way on one side all the manifest signs of evil. Nobody realises that the cottages were all built on foundation sacrifices. One plump baby would do to keep the devil at bay. That’s heritage in action. The longer you stare into Cheddesworthes valley the more you think: is there any purpose to life? Perhaps they ritually killed a philosopher and buried them under the pub so that their questions will eternally goad our minds. Evil, darkness, maleficient powers, yes Cheddesworthes has it all and it makes you glad, very glad, nobody has found out yet. my grandfather may have raved in his latter years but he was right. When the End Times come it will be Cheddesworthes where the writhing hell-maggots will erupt out of the ground screeching for our souls and blood shall ooze out of the sky. There will be lots of plum jerkum to go around to help us descend into the infernal fires with a smile over our faces.
The Cheddesworthes Roman Villa is worth avoiding. What? Yes I did mention the ghostly orgies that issue forth from its vicinity. It is all that remains of a much bigger ghostly orgy which joined up all the roman villas in the Coddswaldes. the Romans established a strong network of orgastic villas where people were obliged to go along and have lots of wine and kissing in worship of Bacchus. Sometimes their clothes dropped off because of Bacchus. You can read all this on the visitor information sign by the Roman Villa.
Now we must leave Cheddesworthes, I hear the village people coming up the lane invoking a rural spirit: ‘Oh Great Mighty Lord of the Pit! Ye of the blazing eyes and forked tongue! Ye of the Worlds Darkness and Shrieker of Death! Ye who are Cheddesworthes beloved!’.
We will discover the giant Coddswaldes leaches at Northleaches next time. We might see one as well and learn the gift of running away.
As you persist in this foolishness I will sadly be forced to take you on a visit to some of the Coddswaldes most dreadful and cursed villages. Yes we met earlier. I am Turold Ditchlouse and so was my father, my grandfather and also my grandmother whose own parents confused Tabitha with Turold believing it to be the same name, as I said they were confused and the oolites had probably done their worst on them.
Alas here are we at the village of Calmesdennes. Awful already I know and you haven’t even gone through it. When we have gone down this slope and gone up out of the little valley you will have gone through it. There we’ve gone through Calmesdennes. What happened? Nothing. Why is it so awful? Look at that row of stone cottages. An idiot with a silly pair of shoes might call them unspoilt and charming. We know what happened to him. Those cottages are empty. Can you hear the eerie silence? Not a sound of life. These cottages are deceptively cottage-like but they are predatory and full of carnivorous bloodlust. Reluctantly I will mention the old spring that bubbles away by the road under the stone cross. For many miles around youths would make the journey to wash their faces in this spring. They hoped it would cleanse them of the first signs of heritage that sometimes deformed men and women alike so that they began to appear ‘rustic’ ‘bucolic’ and ‘representative of a vanished world of traditions unique to the Coddswaldes and untouched by the modern world’ yes a hideous scourge this heritage the things it can do to a good body and mind!
As we leave Calmesdennes with a prickling feeling on the neck you will probably hear a pheasant. Don’t look. They will have their guns trained on us. Next time if you aren’t already screaming for me to stop we’ll be at Chedesworthes, where you will discover there is nothing nice about it. A Roman villa was uncovered here and since then you hear a lot more about ghostly bacchic orgies.
A Note: you will have noticed how I spell the names with plenty of ‘es’ I cannot do anything about it you will just have to bear the ancestral burden of excess consonants with me.