Sold to The Monks in Black

Tai–Kadai Assembly Instructions for Counterfeit Abbey © Malmesbury Memories

Tai–Kadai Assembly Instructions for Counterfeit Abbey © Malmesbury Memories

A Pilgrims Sale

Mike ‘Two Bridges’ Langtree and Andrew ‘The B of The Bang’ Beebee, were on a mission. They had been despatched to a green hill far away, without a city wall, known for its trade with merchants from overseas. Their task was to buy a new church to replace the smouldering pile of ash that now filled the town centre after last weeks Light Festival got slightly out of hand.

They had walked through mud and bog, over rocks and sand, up steep hills and down dale, all with just one pair of trainers between them, they had swapped the left for the right every five miles and were now stepping carefully as if on a path of glass shards. There before them was a stream and they each took off half a pair of trainers and placed them together on the bank whilst they soaked their tired feet in the brook.

By-and-by there came the sound of cart wheels over a rough stony track, and sure enough around the corner approaching the ford came a donkey led by its master, one Sadril Amin. Mike and Andrew bid the gentleman good day and asked where he was heading. Sadril replied he was a transporter of goods by trade and was off to the market to see if anyone required his services.

Sadril looked down at the two monks sat on the river bank with just one shoe each beside them, and enquired politely, where they might be heading On discovering they were all on route to the city, Sadril offered the monks a ride on his cart. This was wonderful, Mike and Andrew leapt up and began to dance around in a circle holding hands and singing a little song, it went like this: Round and Round the Malmesbury Bush like a Ruddy Pear.

A few hours later they had arrived at the city market and bid Sadril a grateful farewell wishing him luck. Mike and Andrew now began their search for the church traders stalls. They passed the hurdle maker, a candle stick maker, and three men selling rope. Then at the far end of the square they came upon the very stall they were looking for, Churches R Us.

Mike said to Andrew, you do the talking, I’ll inspect the wares. The first table had a pile of straw on it, Andrew asked of its quality when wattled and daubed with hawthorn, Mike thought of the pile of hot ash they had left behind, and shook his head. On they moved to the next table, and piles of freshly chopped willow, Mike and Andrew took a long piece and holding one end each, bent it in half, Mike shook his head as if a fly was trying to land on his nose.

Next up a pile of dried clay bricks, Mike took hold of one and Andrew did the same, and they hit them together, the crumbling mess fell to their feet. On to the last stall, and here was a large piece of yellow stone, Mike and Andrew each leant over and grabbed a corner and began to try and turn it over. After much effort with such a heavy item, it turned over to reveal a strange mason’s mark on its base. Andrew gave the vendor a great big smile and asked where the product was from.

A very hard bargain was haggled, an Andrew was informed the legend chiselled in the base of the rock indicated it to be a genuine product of Tye-one, a country near the end of the B406 Yellow Brick Road, just off the A19 Old Silk Road. Mike and Andrew sat down and took off their trainer, and placed them on a table while they signed a contract. Just then some small boys came running past and swiped the left and right shoes and ran off into the crowd.

Mike and Andrew now popped into the Indian for a Reservation but were immediate ejected at 45 r.p.m. for not having a Ticket to Ride, and so went across the road to the Old Pig and Whistle where they were adequately refreshed with Hogs Broth all washed down with Ferment of Thistle, served up with lashings of Buttercup Strudel, by a most wholesome pock faced wench, accompanied with many rude tales, to which all around, roared with laughter, whilst rolling on the ground amongst the tables clutching their ribs.

Just out side the city, walking back to happiness, along side them, came Sadril and his donkey hauling a cart laden with offal. Mike and Andrew looked down at their feet, shrugged their shoulders and answered Sadril’s beckoning look, by climbing on top of the offal. On the journey home Mike and Andrew struck a deal with Sadril to transport all the stone for their new church from the city docks, back to Malmesbury over the following months, and years, and decades.

After about a year or twenty, all 50 of Malmesbury’s monks in black, and their hundreds of helpers had managed to re-assemble the entire shipment of stone from the far east. Each piece had been carefully marked with a number by the seller, and was now in its place of design. One problem, a few pieces were apparently missing. They had been sold, a ‘Second Hand Abbey,’ and not a very well made one either, for it had many faults with its carvings, and on completion – just a Nave – its tower, spire, transept, chancel, lady chapel, and other bits and bobs: no where to be found.

Mike and Andrew, now both wearing brand new leather sandals, consulted the parts list, bill of sale, and contract, once more. At the bottom of the page in very small print, an unknown script. All the scholars of the Monastery were consulted but to no avail. Then Sadril turned up with the last receipt. You’re from the east Sadril, can you tell us what the small print says? Sadril glances at the fine text, looks up, “Sold As Is.” So there you have it – Ron Bartholomew’s little secret.

5 November, 2017
All images and written works by David Forward are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License