It’s called the hidden gem of Warwickshire. But we find it easily- nestled on the A429, next to the International Warwick Riding School and a few miles away from where Edward Plantagenet was supposedly beheaded. We creep quietly with our cars, leaving tracks in gravel which is wet constantly by the constancy of rain. This gloom suits the remains of Guy’s Cliffe House in Warwickshire.
I believe in left overs. Like the poor man picking crumbs off his master’s table, I believe in crumbs that fall down and remain for us to consume.
I occasion the remains of my maternal grandparents’ house. There is a graveyard next to it where they all lie buried, where there are more spaces. I fancy reckoning that there’s one for me too. For every death, we go there and scrape the moss from the tombstones. Just to show the names. The house creaks, wooden planks from above fall. Wooden ladders which served as steps have been replaced by thick rope ladders. Outside, there is a white wall concealing a pit mimicking a lavatory. The old and aged still enjoy this ‘going’ out! Year after year, these remains crumble further. No one notices this devolution. But they come, take a little of what’s left and go back. Sometimes, it may be a conversation, sometimes a photograph or a memory. Sometimes, just the coming and going back becomes our catharsis.
We walk through fallen sycamore leaves. The trees have bent below to become canopies. For a minute I see myself walk down it in white. The image is stained with the mention of where we are going- to Felice’s leap. The River Avon struts down quietly as we hear the tale of the two leaps. The stories are flooded with phrases like ‘rumour has it’ and words like ‘perhaps’. What our guide tells us reverberates in my ear like all those Indian folklores I’ve heard. Below, bamboo gatherings push out their necks to see us. I feel abound by the landscape- nature stands mute here, but not as a witness.
Warning signs are in abundance- one even embossed directly on the stone of the main entrance. Others are in red, asking us not to enter. Fire exits are marked in green. We were taken into a Free Mason Chapel, some cellars and caves. Candles hold red switches. The place with its guides, its renovations, precautions and warnings looks prepared and awaiting. With its kitchens, cookings, weddings, guided ghost tours, feels inhabited. It isn’t imposing, but solitary. It isn’t deep thinking but superficial. It isn’t remains but trying to remain.
It’s been more than a month now but I distinctly remember the canopy. I imagine the two walking through these trees and heading to the edge of the cliff. Why wasn’t this path cathartic to them? Why did the trees which seemed so alive not stop them? Maybe the canopy’s beauty is the result of their death. Like all the stories of souls that trees possess, may be these trees bear them, that way.
The story of the poor man by the master’s table goes on to end where the poor man goes to heaven. There, seated by the right hand of God, he feeds on riches. Perhaps one day, remains will reach their remainder saturation point. But Guy’s Cliffe House was never meant to be a remains and would never reach this point. Unlike all our deteriorating houses and selves, Guy’s Cliffe which wasn’t anything primary in its days- just a secondary shelter, secondary escape route, is now on its march to its fullness, in its own ways.
(Photographs by the lovely Alice Yousef!)