An eventful couple of days. Yesterday I was in Newcastle, shopping for a winter coat. I'd got the choice down to That One or That One and was on my way back to have another look at That One when I noticed a pleasant faced woman coming the other way and we'd smiled and nodded and almost passed each other before we looked twice. Within twenty minutes the coat was bought and I was having coffee with Stephanie.
It's a long story, but more than twenty years ago when we lived in a small coastal town and I was a young mother and she was a sixth form student, Stephanie was our babysitter. She was also a lifesaver, because there weren't many people around that I could discuss books and theatre with. Most babysitters go straight home when you come back. Stephanie used to put the kettle on and we'd chat for a while, mostly about books. The kids still reckon she was a brilliant babysitter. We kept in touch. A lot of water has passed under many bridges since then, but now I'm writing books for children and Stephanie has published 'How I said Bah! to Cancer' and 'Thrive', based on her experiences with cancer, and has a novel coming out next year. Funny to think of where we started from.
Today was another family day at my sister's, and we took Mum and Dad to see the tiny church at Chillingham. It's twelfth century, rough, plain, cold and battle-scarred, but it contains the most amazing ornate tomb for one of the Percy family and his wife. Their effigies are carved from alabaster in astonishing detail on a high stone tomb adorned with figures of saints and angels, and his helm and family crest are above him. It looks like the sort of thing that should be in Westminster Abbey, not a country chapel.
And it should be, too. A local guide came in when we were there and told us the story. Sir Henry Percy had ordered his tomb and was to be interred at Westminster. Unfortunately he fell out with the king, who withdrew permission for burial in the abbey. Oops.