[SCENE: Workmen clearing the site for St. Mary's, Kidlington. Year 1220 AD.]
"Something iffy goin' round."
Ethelred backhanded a nit from his beard.
"He's got my chisel."
"Not seen him for moons," snorted Zelda son of Thrupp, "and my trowel."
"Let's call it a day lads, back the morrow."
The ragged labourers downed tools, supped the last dreg of mead from Zelda's wooden bowl, picked up their spears and headed back up the muddy trail as yet unnamed — for there was no church, nor street. Behind them, a circle of mottled tree-trunks gathered for seats, amid four great stones the striplings placed today to mark the corners set by Alwin son of Bletch, the stonemason.
"Father Anselm wants to know when it'll be ready, and he wants a spire."
"Who said anything about a spire? " said Alwin son of Bletch.
"Father Anselm," replied the young apprentice who lived up the trail.
"We've only just started, son. Who does he think I am, Wodin? We've not even cleared the snails. I'll speak to Father Anselm, daresay we'd have to shift the corners. What's your name?"
"I am Chad, sir, son of Cydel," the young man replied.
"Then listen to me, young Chad, if Father Anselm speaks to you again, you tell him to look for me, understand? We've got a way to go before he starts dreaming of spires. Has he got any idea how long these things take? I've got a man down. Do you know Yarnton?".
"Yarnton's not been well, sir, but he says he's got Ethered's chisel, and Mister Thrupp's trowel he borrowed to mend a wall in Oxenford. He'll be back the morrow, he says."
"I'll give him Oxenford," said Alwin son of Bletch.
"Will it be safe, sir, with a spire," asked young Chad.
"Too soon to talk about spires, son. Centuries. Should be fine."
"That's good, sir."
"You mark my words, young son of Cydel, spire or no spire, this place'll be here eight-hundred years from now. People'll be comin' inside this church every single day."
Alwin, son of Bletch, looked back at the toppled stumps, then up to an empty sky.
"Should be fine son," he said again, "long as nothing iffy's goin' round."
Alan Quarry is a former resident of Kidlington village, Oxfordshire.
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