Where have I been all this time? Partly travelling across Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. We noticed one thing in common between Polish and British railways: the fruit trees beside the tracks, convenient for the railway workers’ rest huts. These plums were somewhere in Western Poland, between the border and Warsaw. At centre-right, in the opening between the trees, is the silhouette (take my word for it) of one of three young men foraging them.
Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the idea of a political marriage to become a nun, had her feast this week. She reminds me to harvest the walnuts.
It’s harvest time because right now they have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.
The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.
Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!
Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent. John Salmon
In the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies the village of Bodsham: barely a village really, but once again it is blessed with a pub. Mr and Mrs Berry have moved their Kaos Blacksmith’s business up here and are reopening the pub, the Timber Batts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to begin with.
On their second day of trading we found a warm welcome, cold Kentish Gadd’s beer and cold Dudda’s Tun Kentish cider, both designed for the end of a warm walk through fields of barley growing for Gadd’s future brews. Crusty baguettes were well filled and presented; we enjoyed them looking across the valley. Kent’s beauty is all its own and on our doorstep.
Two years without a pub, and now this! The quirky interior looked most inviting, but perhaps next time. The sun was shining, we sat outside. I’m sure we’ll be back.
Imagine working out for the first time that these are individual birds!
Mrs Blackbird with nesting material
Seeing the world through new eyes: what a blessing!
Our grandson is a year old. Twelve months ago he could not focus at a distance, so a great deal of what goes on around us he is seeing for the first time. That index finger is forever pointing at something interesting; today the birds. Sparrows in next-door’s roof, arguing the toss in great excitement; starlings in family parties, descending on our tree, never silent; the cock blackbird, hidden by the leaves, but even louder in his song – or his warning notes – than the others. Louder still, the herring gulls circle, often calling though sometimes silent; magpies and pigeons stalking the playing field, but best of all a jackdaw, who leaves his group and walks beside the buggy for a good few yards, no more than five metres away, bright eye locked onto bright eye. Bird! Bird!
I probably should not take my mobile phone to church on a Sunday, though 90% of the time I remember to silence it – and then forget to turn the rings on again afterwards, so receive no messages.
However, the gadget serves to record, once in a while, the glories of what I might otherwise miss. This third-rate photo just gives the impression of scarlet pimpernel and purple grass heads taking over some bare soil at the top of the hill. Almost an abstract.
Lovely enough to say, ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’ (WH Davies).
Next day, somewhat dispiritedly riding home in the rain, I spotted maybe a hundred starlings, adults and juveniles, enjoying the downpour because it was bringing worms and leatherjackets to the surface of the park. Would I have noticed them if they’d been quiet? Maybe not, but they are incapable of staying quiet! ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’
He still makes me look to the back door of the house if I am in the garden: the next cock blackbird up the street, with his imitation of a telephone ring – the same one that we have indoors. As well for my sanity that he is not a song thrush, singing each song twice over! I heard the same notes again this afternoon, from a blackbird near Mrs O’s garden; far enough away not to be the same bird. It’s usually starlings that work mimicry into their songs – or so I thought.
Back in our garden, three of us have seen Mrs Tittlemouse this week, even if Mrs Turnstone was just in time to see a tail whisk behind a brick, she did see her mascot. Smiles all round.
Yesterday afternoon we found Mrs T’s hanging basket had been attacked. This morning I caught the culprit on my phone camera: Mrs Blackird, gathering moss for nesting! She’ll be maming a home in the hedge.