I went to Winchester over the weekend and it was great not just to get away after being stuck indoors for so long with an annoying illness but it was also the chance to revisit one of my favourite places.
I sang in Winchester Cathedral as a visiting choirboy on a number of occasions when my school choir acted as holiday relief for when the real choir was away on holiday. Those not always well behaved school trips started a long association for me with this loveliest of English cities.
It was wonderful seeing the cathedral again and the visit was made all the more dramatic because there was a full rehearsal underway for that evening’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s magnificent War Requiem. The whole building reverberated as the music animated Europe’s longest cathedral nave.
I was able to sit in the choir stalls and listen for a while.
Here’s a snatch of the opening if you’d like to get into my zone for that moment:
You don’t have to have great music to feel the beauty of this sensational building but, on Saturday, it certainly helped to stir thoughts about English history, public and personal, here in the centre of what was England’s original capital city.
After an excellent French lunch in a good French restaurant, I walked round the city noticing that those English floods are still only just subsiding here in the West. Everywhere I walked there was the roar of underground water streams and some parts of the River Itchen’s banks were still impassable.
I was here after the worst of the flooding but that river still looks intent on going wherever it fancies.
I was able to go on one of my favourite walks though – past the cathedral, past Winchester College, to the dizzily beautiful Winchester Water Meadows that were still flooding as water meadows are supposed to flood.
There is an underground stream too under the hotel where I was staying, the Winchester Royal. The friendly staff even go down to get you a glass of its natural water – straight from the source.
The spring water was the perfect accompaniment to a glass or two of brandy before bed.
Now be careful before you listen to the next piece of music. As far from Britten’s War Requiem as it’s possible to go, the 1966 recording of Winchester Cathedral by the oh so very English, The New Vaudeville Band. I’m warning you, once heard, you’ll be whistling it, if you can whistle, for the rest of the day. Enjoy.
My novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
It is now available as a paperback or on Kindle (go to your region’s Amazon site for Kindle orders)
…or from Amazon: