The term time immemorial is generally accepted as referring to a period of time beyond which there is neither memory nor record. Highly subjective and somewhat nebulous, you may think. In English law, it’s historically slightly different.

During the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), there were drawn up three so-called Statutes of Westminster that attempted to codify all the laws of England. It is an ironic oddity of history that the statutes were written in Old French, then the language of law and government.

Among the provisions of the First Statute was one relating to the ownership of land and property and rights attaching. No claim could be entertained if the property had been in the ownership of the current occupant’s family since time immemorial.  The Statute specified the date of Richard I’s ascendancy to the throne — 6 July 1189 — as the terminal point for living memory. Anything that happened before that date was deemed to be beyond living memory, or, in legal parlance, the French equivalent of time immemorial.

The Prescription Act of 1832 effectively repealed that provision and set in its place a range of measures to determine legal ownership and rights. That means that the term is now of as little consequence in the United Kingdom as it is in the rest of the English-speaking world. Or, perhaps, the French-speaking world?

Why am I telling you this? Apart from the fact that I found it on the Haggard Hawks blog, as Richard Rogers so eloquently put it, not really by chance, I thought it would

  1. be of some interest, and
  2. pad out what is likely to be a short and probably rather dull story.

So there we have it.

Our practice of creating a small pseudo-beach in the middle the field at the back of our house hasn’t, as you might have been led to suspect from the foregoing, been going on since time immemorial and it certainly hasn’t been a family ‘thing’ since before 6 July 1189. In fact, it’s a tradition that has its roots in a significant event that took place a mere five years ago and has yet to repeat itself.

The event in question was a near-catastrophic flood. The water level stayed high for some weeks, prompting us to transfer all the sand from the children’s sand-pits as well as a couple of loads that the local builder didn’t seem to miss and dump it close to the high-water line. We also put out a changing tent, deck chair and a load of other beach furniture and made it look like a real seaside area. The kids loved it (they were quite young at the time and extremely gullible). It is now a family tradition and is known as la plage sèche – the dry beach.

Given that this area hasn’t flooded for five years and there’s no record of it ever having flooded before then, you may be wondering why we bother to do it every year.

I’ll tell you.

I was once a boy scout (okay, only for a couple of weeks before I was drummed out for something the memory of which has long faded into obscurity) and the motto ‘be prepared’ is embedded in my very core.

It will happen again, and I shall be prepared!

This was written in response to Kreative Kue 253 published on this site.

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