And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.” — Macbeth
It’s Tuesday afternoon.
I’m in Oxfordshire, about 10 miles southwest of Oxford, in my small village Northmoor, in St. Denys church, lying on the cold stone floor, (as one does), beside the effigy of the Baron Sir Thomas More, a 12C Knight Templar. The knight’s full height, from lion at his feet to tip of his helmet barely reaches my shoulder. I think about some of the doors in some of the older houses in the village, the sitting rooms I can’t walk across without ducking.
Man, these were some small people.
But this can’t have included Sir Thomas? He was a Knight Templar. Surely he was a 6’4, 220 lbs, solid muscle, chainmail wearing, draft horse riding, super-he-man. Hasn’t anyone read Dan Brown?
So here I am, lying on the ground of a 12C church, on top of a 16C grave, and the reality is staring me in the face and I’m making up my own explanations.
Explanation no. 1 (also known as the most favourite):
His body was buried in his full 6’4 muscle-bound glory and his effigy made 1/3 scale due to lack of above ground church space.
Explanation no.2 (also known as “well, it could happen”):
He died in some noble and virtuous fight from having his legs chopped off at the knees and there was only so much Sir Thomas left to bury.
Explanation no.3 (also known as probable)
He really was that short…damn you Dan Brown, stick to reality next time.
I twist my neck around to look up and behind me; there is his wife, the Lady Isabel. She’s dressed in chemise, tunic, wimple and veil, her feet rest on her faithful dog. I shuffle over to her effigy, this time I line my head up with hers and my knees, calves and feet protrude past her dog. Maybe that was tall for the middle ages. I wonder what they’d make of me. At 5’7 I figure I’m pretty average for the 21C. I imagine I ran into a time machine and was landed in Tom’s time. Would they dress me in a tunic which only reached to my knees? That probably would be indecent. That might lead to wimples, chastity belts, forced marriage to some medieval midget and the predictable short and miserable life of backbreaking labour and flea bites. I give my over-imaginative head a shake, get off the floor and walk out of the church into the very real, warm August sunlight.