DuchessShire Duchess of the Shire Export 
The church itself is beautiful; squeezed between some Georgian buildings and the park, it's more Gothic façade certainly stands out, but it looks comfortable and at home in its busy surroundings. Even though I'm half an hour early, the centre of London is already more awake than my sleepy home environment. I try and imagine what the church would have looked like back in May 1961. Looking to the ground I notice paper confetti on the ground. There must have been a wedding yesterday, which helps massage the tendrils of my  imagination. 

I take a step inside. There is a lady of a similar age to mine handing out leaflets to those who enter. She smiles as she sees me walk through door, though I can tell she is intrigued because she doesn't recognise my face. 
'Good morning,' she hands over a leaflet. 

'Good morning,' I smile back, knowing that I'm going to have to ingratiate myself with someone, and it wouldn't surprise me if she knew Father Thomas personally.  
There isn't anyone else around and I wait a fraction of a second before she asks me the inevitable question, 'have you just moved to London?' 

'Not to my knowledge, though the way things are changing so quickly these days, it certainly feels like it sometimes. I actually live in Richmond, but I had some family who used to live around here. It's been so long, so I thought I'd pay a visit.' 

'That certainly is out of your way. Are your family joining you today?' 

'Unfortunately not in person, but hopefully in spirit. I haven't been here in years, it hasn't really changed much, has it?' 

The lady raises her eyebrow and I realise I've made a mistake, 'it still feels the same when you're inside,' I smile again trying to make some headway with this tight-lipped woman. She's a lot tougher than first impressions would have you believe. 
'The reconstruction isn't always noticeable, I suppose when you've not been here in so long. But for me it feels very different to when I was here as a child. It's still the same church but sometimes I feel like it's had to grow up so fast in the last five decades, than it has in the last four centuries! What was the name of your family? I'm Clare Miller,' she gives me her spare hand to shake. 
'Augusta Davidson. My family were originally called Healy though, before I got married.' 

'Oh, did you get married here?' 

'Oh no, I was married out in the Cotswolds, but my step brother was married here back in the 1960s. I don't suppose you keep records here for things like that do you? It's just it'd be nice to have a look at the date written down, and to see their signatures again.' I do my most earnest face in the hope that this Clare Miller's heart will soften.  

Perhaps there is a flash of recognition across her face, or maybe I'm just clutching at straws, but she nods and says that most of the records since the Second World War are still kept in the church, but all the older church registers are kept in the London Metropolitan Archive. Silly me, I should have known that, I've used the LMA more times than I  can count. But at least that means Albert Healy's wedding details should be in this church, just within reach. 

I give my overenthusiastic appreciation, telling her how much this means to me and I find a pew towards the back, behind a column, so as to observe but not be observed. I know I've made a grand assumption by stating that much of my family is dead. I hope she doesn't believe that the Healy's are dead, for there is always the possibility that she knows of them. London may contain seven million people, but there are those who have a memory for names and faces. Clare Miller strikes me as one of those.  

The church quickly fills and even though I am not one of life's most devout Christians, it pleases me to see that there are quite a few families with young children in the congregation. The bells chime for the start of mass and we all stand, as is proper. Some churches I know have a processional hymn as the reverend walks towards the altar, but although there is music, no one is singing.  

Mass was never something I felt very strongly about; how can one hour of your life sitting next to someone you don't know, while listening to someone tell you the same stories you've heard all your life, be beneficial to you, your faith or even society? I didn't even want to get married in a church, I much preferred the idea of a registry office, but Jonathon and my parents were adamant we were going to do it properly.  

I remember being surprised by Jonathon's determination, and although I fought against him for quite a few weeks, I eventually caved when I realised he truly believed in getting married in a church. He'd never once shown that he was deeply religious, and I don't suppose he was, but he had a certain faith that I lacked. But our religious differences made us who we were, and we didn't crow about who was right or wrong. We let the differences slide, and though church was never a great part of our lives we abided by tradition and baptised our children, letting them make the decision as to how much they wanted to be involved in their faith. 

The pastor or reverend (I can never remember) gesticulates on, but he isn't talking in words that I don't understand. Everything he says makes sense, and I appreciate his intense ability to make his audience listen. He's a young black man, probably no more than thirty, if he's even that. I don't know why I'm surprised. I shouldn't have expected a crusty old priest who could barely be heard. 
Father Thomas is engaging and interesting and it makes me think he'd have been a good lawyer. I smile inwardly, hoping not to offend anyone sitting closest enough to me to see my amusement. Jonathon, despite or maybe in spite of his religious tendencies, used to laugh and say that lawyers and priests were cut from the same cloth, which used to aggravate everyone we knew. 
Lawyers have always had such a terrible reputation, but I only wanted to help those who cannot help themselves. I wanted to be a voice for those too afraid to speak up. I suppose in that respect, priests and some lawyers are not too dissimilar. 

I do not go up for communion with the rest of the congregation. I do not feel it would show respect, and I certainly don't feel good enough to accept the body and blood of Christ. Communion, even as a little girl, seemed so farcical to me. I know it is supposed to have great meaning and should be of great significance, but the horrid, dry wafer and wine that almost tastes like vinegar shared with everyone? I'd rather we all held hands and prayed for each other's souls. 

But it does mean that mass is coming to an end.
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As far as we see the next step will be the visit to the LMA. Will Augusta find what she’s looking for?


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