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🚲 The Three Living, the Three Dead, and the Hercules Bike
Come for the black plague-era wall paintings, stay for the inspirational 1960s school transportation policies.
Heydon, Norfolk looks like the set of All Creatures Great and Small. Or Brideshead Revisited. It’s used as a location for that kind of historical drama.
It features a grand hall, a working farm, a towering church of England, a village green, a quaint pub, a quainter tearoom. That kind of thing.
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I don’t need much of an excuse to take a trip to Heydon.
When the Dereham Times proclaims the opening of a new bakery, I stuff the family into a car and set off.
I pay homage to The Three Living and the Three Dead
Or the two former and one latter that remain.
In the 1970s, a pretty remarkable wall painting was recovered from the whitewashing of the protestant iconoclasts.
Medieval churches used to be a riot of colour and imagery. We think we’re a visual culture now, but we’re simply emerging from a visual dark age kicked off by a collaboration between the printing press and the dour reformation. Not much left now, but this is the gist…
The Three Living and the Three Dead.
Three knights out hunting meet three corpses in increasing states of decay. Two of the three Princes survive at Heydon, and one of the corpses pokes his skull eerily above an 18th Century memorial. As you are so once were we, the three hunting princes are told, as we are so you shall be, a meditation on the fleeting nature of mortality.
I ponder my mortality. Then my loneliness.
No one else in my family cares for this kind of thing, so this pilgrimage involves me and a child so young -e can’t refuse. Everyone else is checking out the bakery (sold out and closed early - such is the power of the Dereham Times).
I return across the village green to find my father-in-law chatting amiably to a fellow who looks about 80.
I join the conversation in time to hear him say he’s 81.
He’s lived in this village his whole life, he says. In the same house? I ask. No, he’s moved around (there are about 20 houses). He worked on the farm, but it’s his recollections of childhood that prick up my ears.
In the 50s he attends the village primary school. When that comes to an end, he’s in a pickle.
The closest secondary school is several miles away. Heydon is remote now. We’re talking 65+ years ago. There’s no school bus and no one has a car.
So the government man comes and issues him a Hercules bike, a cape and leggings. He’s obliged to cycle to school, in all weather, 3 miles up the road to Reepham. And back. Every day.
It must have done him a power of good. He would have been fit as a fiddle. He still is, at 81 years old.
When he leaves school, the government man comes back to repossess his bike.
He wouldn’t have got much use out of it, says my new hero, not after the thrashing I gave it.
I float this as an ideal solution to climate change and chronic diseases engendered by youf-full idleness. Two 🐦⬛. One 🥌.
No one thinks it will fly.
Not with the roads as they are today.
Too many cars, going too fast.
❤️ and 👇 and 💬