Sunday, 10 August 2014


A "real" key
I love keys, I always have. Even before I was old enough to have a my own key to the front door, I had a collection of keys. Over the years I have owned many keys, some opened locks that I also owned, but some were just keys, another little piece of engineering to add to the long chain that my collection had become. For whatever reason, that huge collection has gone missing. Maybe one day I will find it at the bottom of a long unopened box and I will be able to finger those lovely keys again, remembering some of the locks they belonged to or some of the people who gave them to me.

Even though that collection is no longer around. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love keys and every time I have the pleasure of having a new one in my hand, I still wonder at what might have happened to it during it’s long or short life. Modern keys are real masters of security engineering, but to be honest, give me a big, old-fashioned key any day.

Funnily enough, I’ve never been interested in locks. As an engineer maybe I should have been more interested in how a keys turns the relevant part of a lock to magically open the door, but it has always been the keys for me. Just like the story of the Secret Garden really starts when Mary Lennox finds the lost key which opens up her life and shows her new horizons, I am more interested in the thought of what that key will reveal, than the lock itself.

A "normal" bunch of church keys
Round here locks still have “real” keys, great big chunky metal things that have lived a long life and been well used, particularly church keys which we have had a lot to do with in recent weeks. We are currently trying to see inside all of the locked Romanesque churches we have come across. A visit to a church therefore now starts with a visit to the Mairie to ask if they know where to get hold of the key. That in itself can be a journey of discovery.

Sometimes we are set away, sometimes we are told who has the key, sometimes we are given a telephone number to make an appointment and sometimes we are actually given the key. Mostly we are looked at as though we are bonkers and sometimes the look suggests that we should be certified. The other day was such a moment. The look was between, “don’t mess up my day” and “I’m going to phone the men in white coats”. But the lady concerned did eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, telephone a mystery person to try and ascertain where the key might be. The hushed conversation ended with, “so I just give them our key then?” Obviously the response was in the affirmative and the already irritated secretary went off to search for the required church key.

Which one opens the door?
Normally when we receive a church key, it is one large church key and one or samller keys, but this day’s haul was impressive. The receptionist returned with a fist-full of keys, dumped them on the counter and said “it should be one of them”. So off we went with the bundle to try and get into the church. We were lucky and we got in at the 4th attempt, but we might have been there all afternoon! Was the church worth the visit? To be honest I can’t remember, that church will always be remembered just as the one with the huge bunch of keys.

For information on holiday accommodation near some beautiful Romanesque churches of which some are locked with beautiful keys click here.

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