It’s the quintessential English view. More specifically, the quintessential Southern English view. A thousand-year old cathedral towering over formal gardens, a symbol of Norman power to cow the local Anglo-Saxon peasants. A building meant to rule, to intimidate, to demonstrate the divine power of the conquerors.
You still get a vestige of that aura as you walk around Chichester’s walls. A walk that’s been patrolled by Roman legionaries and Napoleonic riflemen, Norman knights and the home guard. You can feel their plodding march, a thousand and one bored guardsmen.
I’m visiting my parents, a ninety minute train journey from Loudon, and they’ve taken me on a walk around this ancient city. Founded in the first century AD by newly landed Romans, it’s withstood Saxon raiding parties, the Black Death and the industrial revolution.
It’s a wealthy cathedral town. And where once the Roman soldiers marched and the friars chanted, now the great and good gather for cricket on the green or an aggressive round of lawn bowls - all beetled brows and white trousers.
This is as English - Southern English - as you can get. From the snap dragons in the Bishop’s garden to the flint cottages. The tea rooms and rugby pubs to the amateur theatre and the local fete.
All this passes through my mind as I hurry to catch up with my step-father, he’s walking ahead eager to show off their new home. A world away from the remoteness of Cornwall. His straw panama is firmly placed on his head and his trusty pedometer attached to a belt loop with an old shoe lace. Some things never change, and I feel the comfort of home, as well as the old familiar feelings that always bubble to the surface.
I’m glad I’m here to talk to him and celebrate his 77th birthday. And I’m enjoying sinking into this nostalgic aura of an English market town. But I’m also glad when I sit in the train and watch the great bone towers of Battersea power station slowly pass by, outside the train window. I’m home. In the wonderfully un-English City of London. In all its unordered messy glory.