Boy's Story

These are the tales of a servant boy, later attendant to Price Edward, in Ludlow and other places 1479-1483. For Historical Background click here. A sample of 4 audio tracks is presented here, together with the matching text.

A Ludlow Christmas

Shrewsbury Town

The Fledgling

In winter the Teme freezes:
ice thickens, trout lie trapped,
sparrows peck at frost.
Welsh snow drifting over hills
settles on our battlements.
From my window seat, I think
a blade drawn tight across the sky
might rip it open, pouring
snow-drifts down.

Ludlow town is muffled
as St Lawrence bells ring out
across a white and silent world.
We trudge wearily, carrying logs,
pausing as we lower the drawbridge
while laden carts come rumbling in.

Green spike holly decks the halls,
blood-red berries telling us of Jesus
and his sacrifice. We scrub the floors,
rubbing knuckles, trim a thousand wicks.
Choirs and minstrels rehearse all night.
The bakehouse steams with crusty bread,
dainty pastries, thick brown pies, oozing
smells of venison. Pipes of ale and rich
red wine are carted in, good meat’s slaughtered
on the hoof, ducks and goslings hang on hooks,
figs and dates in sugared crusts welcome players,
gymnasts, fools, tumblers from the town,
all come crowding in.

It’s Christmas. Merrily it’s Christmas!
The twelve days of Christmas now begin.
The whores of Shrewsbury town
squat like toads along the river bank.
Barges pass.

This is a crumbling town:
damp and derelict,
a smell of rotting vegetables.

Collapsing bridges crack;
children slip and fall from wooden beams;
drown in green slime.

In the River Severn
even scavenger fish spit out small fry
like strangers here.

Muddy pools at midnight
reflect beggars, sick as eels,
pale as murdered men.

Gong boats creep downstream
steeped in stench of pits;
black rats swim behind the wash.
A small white dove
lies quivering in my hand, heart-beat
like a fairy drum, tiny hammer
thudding in my palm.

He’d tumbled to the ground,
feathers flustering in tufts,
in terror calling.

Now dark clouds lurk, shadows deepen;
even as his young wings stretch in tentative
upswing, a ginger cat
un-breathing
creeps towards him.

Flurries rustling in the dovecote
I lift him up, a fluff of trembling snow.

Tomorrow is St George’s Day, the last great feast.
Then shall we all leave Ludlow.
I am riding with the boy king’s royal escort.

Still behind the hedge
the cat in hiding waits
for fledglings.
Poems written and read by Mandy Pannett.

All music composed and played by Philip Gravett on guitar and mandolin.
‘Dark Secrets’ arranged and played with Brian Bull on synthesizer guitar.

A CD recording of the complete poetry narrative and music is available. (See contact)