Rodney has a museum in his garden at Beyton and was so busy ‘painting a dragonfly wing’ that he forgot I was supposed to be ringing him at 3pm. And so began a conversation that took in his childhood in Beyton, helping out on the farm, bringing the cows home, before he went on to tell me about his early life as a drummer and bass player with a band called The Raiders who backed David Bowie on a tour. And how the best guitar solo, ever, is on a record by Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages. However, in more recent times he’s served as a councillor and has been awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to military associations.
But he’s always been very much a boy of the village and when we got to the picture and the poem of his favourite place or time in Beyton, he immediately said, “being alone in the Church”. He explained, “It’s just very peaceful, it’s not big, it’s not over-ornate. I’ve been in cathedrals but as beautiful as they are, I still think Beyton Church is lovely.” And then began flowing with more details about his connection with the place…
FILLING THE HOLE
I went to Sunday school there,
I got so many relations in that graveyard.
I already know which grave will be mine –
I’ll be with my great grandparents.
I decorate the church every Armistice Day
and Mick the Vic, he said, Do what you like Rod
but if you’re going to put mannequins in there
let me know first because I jumped out of my skin.
I’d dressed one up as Churchill and he thought
What is he doing in here? I’ve done battle scenes
and barbed wire, most churches wouldn’t allow it,
but Mick does. I’m never sure what I’m going to do.
Done a couple of damps jobs, re-plastered it.
When I repaired the perimeter wall
I carved my name on one of the bricks.
Where the electrics went in, there’s a hole to fill.
When I was out there, mending the wall,
everyone who went past hooted
and when I collect for the poppies
I talk to people who I see once a year.
My wife offers to help with the jobs,
my grandchildren they offer help too.
That do sound mean, but I just like being
there on my own. I just like being in there.
I like to be entirely on my own when I listen
to music. I go to the top room in my house
and sit back. There’s a record
by Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages
called Jack the Ripper. Turn the record over
and the back of it is called, Don’t you just know it.
The guitar solo on there, I swear to God,
the hairs on my arms are standing up now.
When I’ve done the display in the church
I sit down and look at it from a distance
and before I leave, I always say thank you
to the altar. I’ve always done that.
I’ve written little letters in the local papers
to say go up there, even if you’re not religious.
Go there and sit still for half an hour
you’ll feel better. I just like the silence.