This was me, last weekend, just before the moment came when I realised that I was not going to get to the top of a ladder. It was in an old tower. I did so much want to get to the top, and look at the view through a high circular stone window. But it was not to be. More on this story in a moment. First, what I did shortly before.
I was on a Saturday afternoon out in East Sussex. I went first to Bateman's, the former home of Rudyard Kipling at Burwash, and now in the care of the National Trust, which I hadn't been to for some years. It was looking very attractive.
You can see what a cracking day it was for fine weather! Quite a lot of visitors were over-dressed for the sunshine - for example a group of ladies I fell in with, who were on a coach trip from Sutton in south London, and had thought it might be a chilly day. Anything but.
Where next? Wanting to stay in the lush countryside, I decided to go southwards to Brightling and have another look at Jack Fuller's Pyramid in the churchyard there. Jack Fuller (1757-1834), a man of substance and social standing, is often referred to as 'Mad Jack', on account of the several follies he built in and around Brightling. See http://johnmadjackfuller.homestead.com/fuller.html. The pyramid is his mausoleum. There was a legend that when he died he was buried sitting fully-clothed at a table inside the Pyramid, with wine and a chicken dinner in front of him! But an opening-up of the Pyramid in 1982 established that this was nonsense, and that he was buried conventionally underneath the Pyramid. Nevertheless his resting-place remains an impressive monument, and a strange sight in a Sussex churchyard:
Looking through that outer iron grille, you see a sort of porch, and a window (barred with a diagonal iron grille this time) deeper inside the Pyramid, with total darkness beyond - perhaps this window looks into the room where (until 1982) legend asserted that one would see a skeleton at a table holding aloft a glass of red wine - a top hat perched on the grinning skull - and on the table, the bones of a roast bird on a plate.
I spoke with the churchwarden, who had been showing two women around the belfry of the church. He said it had been a surveyor appointed by the Church Commissioners who had gone into the Pyramid in 1982. Apparently the media were not let in, and we still have only the surveyor's word for it that Mad Jack was laid to rest in an ordinary coffin, and not upright with his right arm raised in a skeletal toast. I'm presuming that there are strict laws on opening up tombs, whatever the good reason for it; that only certain authorised persons can examine a tomb; and that they can do so only under a rigid set of regulations. Given all that, it wouldn't be so strange that the media were kept out, despite widespread public interest in the legend. But it only substitutes a conspiracy-of-silence theory for that old belief. To some it must seem clear that the surveyor saw something very odd, but wouldn't - or couldn't - tell!
One of the two women who had been talking to the surveyor before I came along had been carrying a brand-new Nikon SLR with a zoom lens. Leaving the churchyard, I saw a brand-new Nikon lens cap lying off the path. I picked it up and hurried off to where Fiona was parked, hoping that the two ladies had parked there too, and hadn't yet driven off. Well, there was a car in front of Fiona, and two persons were seated in it. Running as best I could towards them, I held up the lens cap. The woman in the driving seat signalled that I had her lost cap, and was very, very thankful to have it back. It wouldn't have been cheap to replace. My good deed for the day!
Leaving Brightling, I drove off down a lane and spotted a stone tower peeping out of a wood. It was probably another of Jack Fuller's follies. I parked Fiona and walked back to an open gate at a field entrance. A path went from there towards the tower in the wood. I took it.
The 'wood' was just a ring of trees. Within lay a well-preserved stone tower. There was an iron gate at ground level, and it was open. I could see an iron staircase leading up.
There were no notices to say what you could or could not do. I went inside, and started to climb.
The staircase went up to a platform. From there an iron ladder went further up, to a high circular stone window. I don't like heights, but it looked safe enough.
The view out from the platform was pretty good. Here I'm looking over to Brightling church:
Now for that ladder. The rungs were small, and I wasn't wearing the right kind of shoes. Oh well, here goes...
But it wasn't pleasant on my feet, and the ladder, secured at the top by a single bar that tended to pivot, began to sway from side to side as a climbed. It got scary.
That was as far as I dared to go. So near the top, but I'd had enough, and had begun to fear getting cramp in my feet. I descended, feeling defeated. You can see it on my face. The face of failure.
But a woman's got to know her limitations. I soon perked up. The afternoon wasn't over yet! I felt cheerful again by the time I left the tower.