Idyllic, the only possible description of the scene before us: a picturesque, centuries-old English church sitting contentedly surrounded by a sea of ancient and modern gravestones, the edges of the building softened by a hazy, honey-gold Summer sunshine, and the stones blending into each other, half hidden by long grasses and wild flowers; here and there a freshly placed posy adding a sprinkling of blues, reds and yellows to catch the eye and make you glad to be alive this beautiful late July day at the start of a new century.
But it gets better - suddenly birds rise noisily into the blue sky, startled from their sleepy afternoon musings by the sound of the church bells, their triumphant peal cutting cleanly through the warm heavy air to send their joyful message up to heaven.
Then out they come; first, the pretty bride and the self-conscious groom, blinking with surprise as they step out from the cool darkness of the church into the golden light of the sunny Hampshire afternoon.
Then the rest of the bridal party spill out into the churchyard, their chatter causing the vicar's cat to wake up with a certain amount of irritation and stalk off to find a quieter place for his nap.
First three little bridesmaids, in pink and cream satin, glad to be free at last, chase each other round a large square tomb, topped with an ornate cross; this is the final resting place of a previous vicar of this parish, dead now for over a hundred and fifty years. Some of the inscription is still legible :’ Reverend Charles Proctor, called home on 15th February …..' the year is uncertain, but might be 1820, or 1830.
The laughing children are called away, back to the church door for photographs. Off they run. But before they can begin, one of them, a sweet child of about seven years old, with a head of auburn hair as shining as the day, wails : 'I've lost my flowers'. Her Mother, not quite at ease in an unaccustomed hat, spots the posy lying near a small memorial quite close to the old clergyman's tomb. 'It's over there Daisy, do be quick and fetch it.'
Thankfully, the child scoops up the bouquet and takes her place near the bride. She is in too much of a hurry to notice the inscription on the stone where she had dropped her flowers :
Daisy Mutton. 1785-1792
A sweet, Brave Child
Walk with me a while, my friend, let me share with you the secrets of these souls who lie quietly around us, slumbering under the cool earth while our flesh is warmed by this gentle sun. Let's follow in the footsteps of little bridesmaid Daisy, and begin with the story of her namesake :
DAISY MUTTON 1785-1792