It was a glorious day! The first day of real spring: blue skies, a soft scented wind; birdsong. The family was out on a history trip, to Pevensey Castle in Sussex.
The castle has a fascinating history. The Romans built the first fortification here, then the Normans when they landed in 1066. It was defended again and again through the middle ages to the 1600s and then fortified yet again, with gun emplacements this time, in 1940; when it became home to servicemen from America and Canada. I wonder what they made of billets in a real, honest-to-god castle!
Though little more than a ruin now, it is a fascinating place. We started at the gatehouse and then descended to the dungeon – a terrible place, with a floor covered in water after the heavy rains, and a heavy door guarding the way to the steps.
"This was where ordinary prisoners were kept," said the audio guide. "Keep listening and you will see the place where prisoners of consequence were kept: those who could be ransomed for gold."
So, on we travelled round the castle, viewing with awe the piles of spherical bounders used by the trebuchets to pound the walls in times of siege, peering into the well, spotting the camouflaged pill boxes used in WWII, and eventually we came to the place where the more noble prisoners were kept.
I had expected a room in a tower, a room with at least basic comforts – a fire and garderobe (toilet). No – these prisoners were kept in the oubliette.
An oubliette is a deep hole in the ground. There is no stair down; the prisoners were let down on a rope. We can only hope that food was also lowered down and that they were given a bucket. But there was no prospect of escape; none. The audio guide gave a dramatized scenario of a young man imprisoned and waiting for his father to pay his ransom; becoming increasingly desperate and losing hope.
I have likened my experiences with depression to being trapped in an oubliette: Keeping Vigil, 23rd September 2015, (https://www.moodscope.com/blog/keeping-vigil">https://www.moodscope.com/blog/keeping-vigil ), but today I thought about what would happen to that young man when the ransom was finally paid and he was redeemed.
He would not be the same man who had gone into captivity. He would be pale from living underground for so long. His muscles would be weak. But more than this, he would need to recover emotionally. He might feel guilty at having been captured and to have cost his family so dear. He might be reluctant to fight again, fearing recapture. He might have nightmares – what we would now call post-traumatic stress.
So, for those of us who have come out of depression, maybe we need to think about that young man, and to be gentle and understanding with ourselves.
And for those still in that Oubliette, you are not forgotten. One day you will get out.
A Moodscope member.