Muddy Hands Delight in Work

It was raining when I visited Miss Turnstone’s class of four and five year olds to talk about trees and plant a couple.

Talking about trees was really enjoyed by the children and by me. I don’t know that, aged 5, I’d have dared put my hand up to say, ‘We’ve got a pear tree at home, Mr Turnstone.’ It showed that the child was making connections, but in my time in primary school it would have been about the right connections, as defined by teacher.

Still, we talked about roots and shoots and nuts and fruit and leaves and soil and plant food (bone meal being porridge for trees) and worms.

Worms fascinate four year olds; I don’t think one of the twenty or so who came out to plant trees in the rain did not pick up a worm and have a good look. We had to be reminded that they live in the ground and help the trees grow!

The children are excellent at taking turns, or we could not have planted the trees safely; three people with hand forks and trowels is enough at any one hole at a time! But the holes were dug, thanks to someone’s ten year old big brother who came to help with the heavy work; the soil at the bottom was loosened and bone meal worked in; the trees, a hazel and a peach, were planted; muddy boots were taken off and muddy hands washed, ready for home time.

And something for everyone to talk about over tea: a lovely afternoon we had, despite the rain!


A Darkling Thrush

At dusk I took a walk to a neighbour’s house in a scrappy wind, but still could hear the thrush singing from a television antenna. Less romantic, perhaps, than Hardy’s, ushering out the XIX Century, but as welcome.

The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Walking in a Van Gogh Winter Landscape


The land around Sandwich is very flat; much of it was under the sea less than a thousand years ago, so it makes excellent links for the golfers. On a day of showers, like yesterday, it is reminiscent of the Low Countries and Millet Van Gogh’s winter landscapes. A different sort of beauty; the low light glistening on the puddles and wet railings; it’s just the bright green of the winter wheat that those two artists might not have seen so often in the 19th Century. It really is bright!


The End of the Concert


The Starlings were in the trees again, all singing at once. I decided not to be anxious about the grapes this time, and enjoy the music while hanging out the washing. I pulled out my phone to snap the dozen or so on next-door’s roof and aerial only to see the whole group rise into the sky and away, exchanging their song for the murmuration of their wings.

The phone’s memory was not fast enough to take in the different shapes the flock took as they gathered themselves for their flight to the fields to forage for seeds and insects, slugs and worms.

I’ll want some grapes for the Harvest Festival next Sunday, so I’ll still be a little anxious …