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English: The Pilgrims' School, Winchester. One...

Thinking about Winchester Cathedral Close, as I walked through it at the weekend and remembered the wonderful view I once had from the roof of the cathedral, over Pilgrims School to Winchester College.  I visited a friend shortly afterwards and she had just had chemotherapy and was very ill with bone cancer.  It was difficult to know if she would survive her treatment, but I made a kind of pact that we would do the roof tour together if she survived.

We didn’t sadly, but she bravely fought on for a further twenty years or so.  I still think of her when I look up at the roof.


You have to haul yourself up by a rope:

the spiral staircase is so narrow and

the treads so shallow. I don’t think you’d cope

right now, but afterwards…

I understand,

she nods, and drinks in my vivid outline

of the tour thirstily. When I’m quite through

this chemotherapy; my body’s mine

again, we must climb the tower and view

Wolvesey Palace, the Deanery, St. Cross..

Under the heavy wig her eyes burn bright.

I try not to think of her muscle loss,

or that she’s shrunk two inches of her height.

All I know is when birds return next spring,

I’ll stand on the cathedral roof alone,

or with her. Angels will be hovering,

lest we should dash our feet against a stone.

You cannot see their faces from the ground,

yet worshipful men carved exquisitely

where only God could note, their efforts crowned

in their own hearts.

We know implicitly

that all over in six months might mean that:

ambivalence a part of existence.

Magnificat; also requiescat:

twin themes in passionals of persistence.

Now she is confined in the dark stairwells

of pain where bluebottles accumulate,

but after her suffering has ceased, bells

will peal over pantiles, to celebrate

her courage, endurance, and will redound

to those whose vantage point’s on higher ground.