White Wedding

12th December 2018

The history of Dode is not the history of Kings & Queens, of great people- it is the story, individually and collectively of ordinary everyday people, people like myself, and if you will excuse me, Karen, people like you, who recently posted a picture of your unforgettable Christmas wedding in the snow back in 2009 with the warning ‘be careful what you wish for’.

I have often wished that more people had recorded their own experiences and over the years I have written, for my own amusement but also to keep the stories alive a series of very short  ‘ramblings’ all based on true facts that we know about Dode commencing in Prehistory, through Roman, Medieval and Victorian times to the present day. 

This was my part of Karen’s story, written nine years ago.

It was three days before the winter solstice and heavy snow had been forecast as Dode’s keeper snuffed out the last of the candles following the evenings Carol Service; as the light was gradually extinguished and the guests wished each other a Happy Christmas the threatened snow became suddenly heavy.

By the time that the last guests had left it was already almost four inches deep and beginning to drift in the strengthening wind, they could not know it but it would take many hours for them to drive the few miles home. 

The keeper locked the gate and glancing at the Church and leaning into the wind made his way to the nearby retreat building where he was to spend the night, he had decided to stay at Dode as the weather forecast indicated that travelling conditions in such a remote area could well be impossible by the morning and he was determined that whatever else befell, the Church would be open as there was a wedding planned for the next day. By now it was nearly midnight and the conditions outside had worsened considerably, he fell instantly and peacefully asleep. Twice during that night he was awoken by the voice of a woman calling from just below the Church. Almost 20 years as it’s  guardian meant that he reacted in a rather strange way, he did not investigate but simply went back to sleep, somehow comforted  and knowing, in a way that he had experienced many times before, a ‘completeness’ existed in this remote mystical place

He awoke soon after first light, drew back the curtains and took in the sacred silence of the snowy wonderland that now existed beyond the windows the flint walls standing out starkly against the pure white of the snow which covered the valley and accentuated the mound upon which the ancient building stood. 

Dode has always been a silent place but the silence was accentuated by the deep snowfall, as silence can also be magnified by heavy fog, he liked to think of it as natures quiet time.

His mind wandered back to the events of the night before, to hear sounds on the wind was by no means unusual, indeed he had experienced many things that he knew he could never hope to understand, but each in its own way had conveyed to him a strange sense of peace and completeness, it was the only way that he could describe it.

As if waking from a dream he returned to the real world, some time had passed and out of habit he turned on the television for the one o’clock news. The events of the day were all too familiar, the war in Afghanistan, a strike by B.A. staff planned for the Christmas Holidays, but the lead story was the weather which had paralysed large parts of South East England. As the last roundup of the news was broadcast Sophie Rayworth’s reassuring tones informed the Nation that despite the heavy snowfall a wedding which had been planned at a remote former Norman Church in the North Downs of Kent would take place after all as a convoy of four by four vehicles had been assembled by local people anxious to help the bride on her big day.

He turned and made his way through the deep snow to the old church, it was time to light the candles.