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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Through the Mystic Door

In Bogwulf Chapel, the little family place of worship my ancestors built on the estate, there is a door. It's in the wall, halfway up the steps to the pulpit, small and features a fair degree of oaky solidity and ironwork.

So what, you may ask. You've seen doors in church before. Doors are not unusual - they're an everyday occurrence. But it's one of those doors.

See. That made some of you think. Those that know what I mean.

See, Bogwulf Chapel isn't much use to us Beaker Folk. It's too small, too cold, too leaky. We prefer warmth, comfort and seating that's not the subject of a preservation order. So we let it out to Drayton Parslow, and his bunch of Funambulist Baptists. They positively enjoy discomfort and pain.

Anyways. I was walking down past the Chapel after Pouring Out of Beakers. And I heard screaming. So I ran in and found Drayton, white-faced and sweaty. Which is not a way to start the day, believe me.

I'd told him not to open that door. I said it would be foolishness. I told him - leave it. Many old chapels and churches have these doors - made of oak, lurking in a corner of a vestry or side chapel, only four or five feet high and - very importantly - never opened.

If you ask a passing flunky - a verger or Warden, or curate or something - they'll mutter something about it formerly holding incense, or robes, or cheese or something. If you ask if you can have a look in, they'll tell you the key's lost, or the vicar has it, or it's health and safety. And if you ask why the door is so small - they'll tell you it's because people in the old days were shorter.

But if you follow up their logic, and ask why the main door isn't tiny, and you don't have to duck to walk under the rood screen, they won't have an answer. Because what the vicar may know, and isn't letting on - and what Drayton discovered today when he ignored my instructions, thinking there might be some backup tea bags in there - is that the door isn't small because people were short in the old days.

Oh, no. The door is small because it was built by hobbits.

Hobbits over the centuries have built a series of tunnels, connecting many of the ancient churches in the country to their own world. They use churches as portals into our world because they're very beautiful, and there normally aren't any people about. They nip out occasionally, in search of decent hassocks - which are in terribly short supply in the Shire.

But what they're not for, is Baptists stomping unwisely in the other direction, in search of tea bags. And so it was that, merrily singing a snatch of something from the Redemption Hymnal, Drayton Parslow found himself in Smaug's lair.

Well, no wonder he looked so shocked. He's got a nasty burn in the seat of his suit trousers, and no eyelashes. He says if a bunch of dwarfs hadn't turned up and started arguing about how to pronounce "Smaug", he'd never have got out alive.

Still, he's learnt his lesson. You don't open That Door. You just don't

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