When I went out into my back garden, or yard as I probably should call it, to do my Da Mo moving meditation exercises, my mind, instead of going to nowhere in particular on its way to enlightenment, concentrated on the Mound that lies behind my house.
Known as Brack Mound, it was a part of the Norman Castle’s fortifications but, long before that, maybe before the Normans finished heightening it, it may have been one of the several Bronze Age burial mounds that were situated around this town.
I remembered that last Summer, I had climbed up to the top with my camera to see just what a good vantage point it would have been for those soldiers on watch for the enemy.
Well, if we do get any advancing enemy, I would rush up there, of course, with my mobile phone and binoculars to warn someone. Not the keeper of the castle, sadly that is now just a dignified ruin. I suppose I would have to ring the police.
“Good afternoon, sir. Advancing enemy, you say. Now what makes you think these particular gentlemen are the enemy? and could I take your phone number,please sir?”
After a bit of a wait, the desk sergeant would ring back and thank me for my public spiritedness in that tone of voice that immediately lets you know that he thinks you are a fruit cake, and say that he would register my call.
Sadly these days our enemies are not so obvious. They sneak around with their bombs in bags and, instead of taking their positions for an army-to-army skirmish, they creep into shops and bars to take out unsuspecting people having fun.
In 1264, it would have been very different, the King’s men on one particular morning would have had just such a sight of an advancing enemy.
The King was Henry the Second, the one who ordered the killing of Thomas Becket, soon to be (Saint) Thomas Becket, and who later said that he was only joking when his loyal knights burst into Canterbury Cathedral and did the job only too well.
The enemy were “the Barons” – the aristocracy and their men. In those days, of course, the aristocracy was different to today’s British aristocrats.
Now it would be (Sir) Fred Goodwin, the dodgy failed chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland, various other stinkingly rich bankers and industrialists who sit in our House of Lords, (Sir) Cliff Richard, (Sir) Elton John and (Sir) Mick Jagger, well-known minstrels and that nice man who was very good at rowing in the Olympic Games.
Her Majesty,of course, would have to look to her immediate family for support. Charles, William and Harry can wield a wicked polo stick, Philip can drive a chariot and Anne and her highly photogenic daughter Zara are very good on horseback. Edward and Andrew, the other royal sons, might miss most of the fun as they are usually abroad these days promoting Britain’s interests – What’ll you have your Royal Highnesses? Make mine a large Scotch whiskey, Edward is on London gin.
In 1264, the aristocracy were all pure-blooded descendants of (King) William the First,or The Conqueror, a bit of a rampaging baron himself.He invaded England in 1066 with a load of thugs. He made all his main supporters Lords and gave them lands and riches – a bit like today’s House of Lords, I suppose, but in those days Lords could pass on their titles to their children and their children’s children. It is great to know that we still have some of them today, they are Dukes and Earls and people like that.
Anyway, for once, they seem to have been on our side. Well, their interests served our’s anyway. They wanted the king to have less power so that they could have more power themselves.
Amazingly, after advancing through the view in the fourth picture down, now a railway line, which would have been handy then too, and when they got here, they not only took on all the King’s men but they actually won the battle.
Henry the Second had to make a number of humiliating climb downs including agreeing to set up a debating chamber which we now call Parliament.
The monarch also had to agree, I think I am right here, not to keep several large houses all over the country, wear silly clothes with lots of diamonds sewn into them, make extremely dull television broadcasts at Christmas or keep more than two corgi dogs.
It was a grizzly battle which ended up spreading into the town’s streets as well and, even today, people are finding the bones of soldiers who died fighting for King or Parliament.
Living so near a military encampment, inspired me to persevere with my own martial arts down in the park. So later on, I picked up my weapons, my seven and a half foot staff, my standard Shaolin staff and my Chinese Straight Sword – well, a wooden copy actually, as I am not allowed to take the real one to the park. It was an exhilarating experience but there were no enemy in sight.