Well, Day-Out-Thursday came and went. Himself was chopping wood, the morning moved into the lunchtime slot and so I ended up accompanying the dawter for coffee and cake in The Pantiles.
Up with the lark and we decided to do our Thursday outing on Friday. We bundled into the car and headed down Bunny Lane and before Norman had time to direct us right the old git swung a left, then right, then another left and down the A21 the other way from Hastings. Took the Tonbridge sign and before you could say ‘où sommes-nous borde’ we had landed in a carpark next to a church in Tudely. That is where the fuck we were.
All Saints church, a little old church that ‘has existed in Tudeley since the seventh century, then one of only four in the Weald. The sandstone footings of the nave and tower may date from before the Norman conquest, and the church is listed in the Domesday Book under the village’s alternative name of Tivedale.’
This well-old church was brought to our attention by the dawter’s Godmama. Only 28mins from our house, All Saints is a treasure trove of glassy delight. The day was nippy, I was nippy and the inside of the church was stone cold nippy. Walking through the door the room was flushed with blue. Ten beautifully designed stained glass windows flooded the tiny body of the church with their blue rays; two windows were a muted yellow.
In 1963, Sir Henry and Lady d’Avigdor-Goldsmid commissioned Marc Chagall to design the magnificent east window in memory of their daughter Sarah, who aged 21 had died in a sailing accident. Sarah, the daughter of a Jewish father and Anglican mother, had seen Chagall’s designs for the synagogue of the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, depicting the Twelve Tribes of Israel – the Reuben window prefiguring the east window at Tudeley – and fell in love with them at an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris in 1961.
Marc Chagall, a Russian Jew, often included Christ in his work and spoke of him as “the radiant young man in whom young people delight”. Monsieur Chagall resisted taking on the job at first, having come to staining glass late in his life, but when he turned up in 1967 for the installation of the east window and saw the church, he said,
‘It’s magnificent. I will do them all’
Although he said it in Francais.
‘C’est manifique. Je les ferai tous’.
This tiny wee church, whose door is always open, is the only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by the great Belarusian.
Now I said the church was nippy and I was nippy, so nippy we had to leave as I started trembling like a leaf, which meant we didn’t stay long enough to look at Chagall’s hand imprinted in the glass, we didn’t spend enough time perusing those brilliant windows. But the images linger.
We got home and so feeble was this wilting body of mine that I took to me bed, hot water bottles and a full 10.5 tog duvet could not stop my achy shaky heart and body from trembling. I lay prone for a full day and night. On Saturday I remained until the afternoon when I tentatively took my ailing body down the stairs. The Northern Rock looked after me with chicken soup and toast.
‘Strictly’ came and went and after an evening of nothing I finally went to sleep.
Today, after stripping the beds and putting in the first load from what looks like Widow Twankey’s laundry room, I’ve finally arrived at my computer.
It’s one day before the winter solstice and five days before Christmas. Looks like the weather’s turning colder and we shall have snow. So may you all have a deliciously indulgent festive time; may you all have your health and may you all have the opportunity to visit All Saints in Tudeley. I leave you in the good hands of Marc Chagall
“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world.”
God Bless us all.