I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here. The book is available at Project Gutenberg.
Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.
This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.
At the top of Saint Thomas’s Hill, behind the University, the old road dips down and climbs again to Blean Church, far enough from the main road to grow this bed of lichen on a tombstone. On a grey day it glows.
A most unexpected contrast as I was cycling home from the supermarket. The low, wintry, afternoon sun is full on the bridge and the lady walking through, but the naked tree is black against the gold of the willow stems behind. The shadow of the bridge at work!
AS we in the northern hemisphere enter Advent and the darker days of winter, here is a thought-provoking article about light pollution, dark skies, astronomy, and being human and humble creatures. And what we miss through our obsessive use of street lighting. Read and ponder. Would the wise men have seen the Christmas star today?
Life has been too busy to harvest these container grown spuds until today, in time for Hallowe’en supper, baked in the oven with either ratatouille or pumpkin soup. But the rather fussy grandson will have to be told they are ‘jacket potatoes’, not ‘baked’.
The triangle of brambles and nettles near our house belongs to an absentee landlord who has tried twice to get permission to build on it. On Sunday morning, as Mrs t and I were walking home from church, something crossed our path. Just an impression at the corner of my eye: I thought at first it was a crow, but it did not take off, and was not to be seen as we drew abreast. It was not a rat or a cat, nor yet a squirrel or small dog.
Finally I realised that it could only be a hedgehog. She was out rather late, at nine o’clock in the morning, but it was the day the clocks went back. My neighbour will be pleased, and so will my hedgehogophile daughter!
Let’s hope the landlord does not get concerned enough about his property to clear the brambles. Thirty years ago, I was walking about 20m away from this site with my 2 daughters then aged about 4 and 6, when we heard a distressful sound from the nearby wasteland, and on squeezing through the rickety gate, we found a square hole, maybe 120cm deep, cut by the archaeologists who had inspected the site before building was allowed to begin.
At the bottom of the hole were two trapped adolescent hedgehogs. It did not take long to nip home to gather up a cardboard box, ring their school, and arrange for the creatures to be taken there and released next to the wooded corner of the grounds.
Maybe that – and Beatrix Potter – explains the eldest’s love of spiky little creatures!
There was a badly abused tree in my daughter’s garden; there was no chance of its growing straight or shapely ever again, so out it had to come. I was uncovering the roots so that I could slice and saw and twist and shake until it all came tumbling down.
Before that happened, I unearthed a fat worm about 15 cm long. It lay as if dead then began to move in a most unwormish way. It was a slow worm, my favourite British reptile, one of this year’s brood. I hope it managed to find shelter, as it must be near hibernation time.
My phone had drained its battery, so here’s a photo from salted m8 on Wikipedia.
You can’t make cole slaw without cabbage, so to the local supermarket or the local farmers’ market at the Goods Shed? Almost equidistant, and on this occasion I had to pass the shed first, and before it got too busy with out-of-towners.
This cabbage’s stalk had not dried out, it was not wrapped to death in plastic, and had most of its rosette of outer leaves. Beautiful. Worth buying, worth a snap, and worth sharing.
Dessert apple and grated ginger lift the cole slaw, but the best start is a good cabbage!
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
The mistletoe-laden trees above are in the meadows at Oxford, where Hopkins studied. His poem addresses the mysteries of life and death, both of which our hearts have heard of, our ghosts (our souls) have guessed at. We are born to die, and this world is very dear, too good we often feel, to leave. Let’s spare a sigh, but nonetheless be grateful for each day.