KNUCKLAS CASTLE

 Laura Jones and Phil Taylor were getting married. They had been saving up for some time, Laura more assiduously than Phil. A wedding for Laura was the supreme romantic occasion, something to which all her life had been building. For Phil it was more something that you were expected to do, on a par with paying your taxes. As a self-employed builder he did not much like having to pay taxes.

He would have been quite happy to marry in Hereford Registry Office, a quick meal and then off on holiday. Laura had other plans. These involved an encyclopaedic knowledge of all glossy wedding magazines published in the last three months and so many attendances at bridal fairs that she was on nodding terms with several stall-holders.

Then she saw in the Hereford Times that a “Legendary Site Fit for a King” was coming up for sale. Castle Hill near Knighton had come onto the market through a local estate agent. On it were the ruins of Knucklas Castle, destroyed by Owen Glendower in the early fifteenth century and now only a pile of stones. The fact would have interested her not at all had her eyes not been caught by something in the article. Local legend had it that King Arthur and Queen Gwenivere had “celebrated their nuptials” at the castle.

From the moment she read that she knew she had to be married amongst the ruins. When she told Phil they almost had their first row. He had not imagined himself getting married on a windy and probably wet hillside over in Wales and he did not much fancy telling the fact to his mother, who already regarded Laura as too big for her boots.

Angrily Laura ‘phoned Don Knowles, Phil’s best man, hoping to get him on her side. This put Don in a difficult position. He was Phil’s best man and best friend but he liked Laura and her slightly flaky ways. He did not want to upset her any more than she clearly was already.

“He’s being maddening.” said Laura. “Who would not want to get married at the same place as Arthur and Gwenivere?”

Don did not know much about King Arthur but he had a general feeling that the fellow had not been very lucky in the marriage department.

“It might be quite expensive getting all your relatives bussed up there. And what would you do about catering? Is there anything nearby?”

“I’m sure there is. It’s Wales for God’s sake, not Outer Mongolia.”

There was silence at the other end of the telephone. “Just think of it, being married at the same venue as King Arthur. Not many people can say that.”

“I’ll have a word with him.” “Thank you so much Don. You’re a wonderful person.”

Don did his duty and talked Phil around. Then another problem arose. When Laura went to see the estate agents, although the current owners proved quite happy for a wedding to take place on their land, the vicar who had been due to conduct the service was unwilling to perform the sacrament in the open air.

Laura was nothing if not determined, something that Don found to admire in her, although Phil’s take on the situation was, “Why don’t she just let it be.”

It was the vicar who had given her the idea. She got the impression that he considered performing the ceremony on a hillside nothing short of blasphemous. A quick googling on her work computer found a local wiccan group who proved more than happy to conduct a hand-fasting in the open air.

The groom’s family, when this was put to them, were less willing. Hereford people have never been too clear on the tenets of the pagan religion and there were concerned mutterings about virgin sacrifice and the safety of Laura’s two younger sisters. In some parts of the family there was also the belief that, if virginity was a criterion, they were quite safe.

Another rumour went around that they would all have to perform the ceremony in the nude, even the guests. Laura soon quashed this as she had already ordered a stunning green silk medieval number that would have made the original Gwenivere envious.

Don was surprised to find himself feeling a little bit sorry at this news. So proceedings, driven hard by Laura, fell into place.

One fine spring morning two mini-buses set off for Wales from opposite ends of Hereford, each carrying a motley assortment of fine frocks, hired formal wear and jeans, depending on how people had interpreted the medieval theme.

As luck would have it they caught up with each other on the A4110 at Mortimer’s Cross. Phil’s mother made him spend the rest of the journey with his eyes shut, she was determined that at least something was going to be right about this wedding, in case he caught sight of the bride..

He arrived feeling more than a little car sick.

Being in an unfamiliar environment, being dressed in unfamiliar and worryingly expensive clothes, there was a good deal of giggling and light banter as they were herded into a large circle by the officiating priestess and her acolytes, with Laura, Phil, Don and the two bridesmaids in the centre.

It seemed to be going well enough. There were no hymns so no one had to embarrass themselves by singing. The priestess said nothing about the joy of nature and post marital union with which anyone could disagree.

Then it came to the actual hand-fasting. The priestess produced a rope and tied Laura’s and Phil’s hands together. Phil was not the best abstract thinker. Now, so literally tied to Laura, something woke up inside him and he realised what he was getting himself into and what a big change to his lifestyle was being planned.

An increasing look of panic came over him as Laura spoke her vows to him with great sincerity. How they were bound together for all eternity and would never be pulled apart by anything that their future life threw at them. When she had finished a hush fell on the hillside waiting for Phil to go through his vows.

Since he was not much of a speaker there was quite a bit of excitement among the younger element present as to how much of a hash he would make of it. The silence went on for too long and the young element became even more expectant.

“I can’t do it.”

The hillside went even quieter as the look of panic became even more obvious on Phil’s face and he started pulling at the rope that held him to Laura, almost pulling her over.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do it.” Phil was tugging even harder now, obviously causing Laura some pain.

Don leapt forward and helped his friend be free of the encumbrance. For a moment Phil looked into the wet eyes of Laura and then he was heading off down the hill followed in dribs and drabs by his family as they recovered from the shock and realised it was not a good idea to stick around.

Don held onto the shaking shoulders of Laura. He held her tight. When he felt the time was right he led her back down the hill, talking to her gently. He was surprised by how good it felt. In a short while the hillside was empty again. What the spirits of the place thought about this we cannot say but perhaps they agreed with Karl Marx; history has a tendency to repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

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