The church of St Peter and St Paul

Walking in North Norfolk one overcast afternoon, I tramp down a lane with my kids. Varying levels of complaint arise from the children who cannot see the point of walks that do not end in seaside or swings. It was our first visit to Norfolk after the divorce. Using my half of the week and one of my every other weekends we carve out a little half term holiday. Slowly we are becoming a unit of three instead of four. Visiting the same spots begins strangely but we seem to be reclaiming them for our new existence, doing things differently, in different orders, with different sandwich fillings. We come across a new stone wall. The pointing is sharp and the bricks and flint more perfect than the usual line of Norfolk walls. This wall defends what we quickly call the secret graveyard. It is attached to a tower which has lost its church. The graveyard is dense, overgrown, reclaimed by weeds over many decades. Popping out from between the grasses I can see names carved into the stones. I wonder if there is someone somewhere that remembers the names on these stones. Perhaps they were once well kept, when there was a village here; now this church tower is all alone, the homes long gone, dissolved into the landscape’s memory. It is a Saxon round tower, with boarded windows, broken bricks and echoes of old conflicts in smoother surfaces around the windows that the iconoclasts left behind. Years of battle were resolved and witnessed by the stones that are now ruled over by weeds. When the village died I wonder who gave up first: the priest or the publican? The memory of the buried strikes me now like a love lost by slow years of indifference. These unkempt memorials reproach me because I did not try harder to save my marriage. Who gave up first, you or I? A tug on my jacket’s sleeve: “Come on Dad, can we go to the marshes?”. I promise the tower to come back when the kids have grown up and will forgotten our first trip to Norfolk after the divorce.