We buried our friend Mrs O a few days ago. She had a good send-off, the church comfortably full. I was comforted an hour earlier, to see a rainbow, arched over her house as the rain drifted away into the North Sea. A promise that she will not perish! And the thrush and blackbird were singing.
‘Safe’ by Mary Webb.
Under a blossoming tree
Let me lie down,
With one blackbird to sing to me
In the evenings brown.
Safe from the world’s long importunity –
The endless talk, the critical, sly stare,
The trifling social days – and unaware
Of all the bitter thoughts they have of me,
Low in the grass, deep in the daisies,
I shall sleep sound, safe from their blames and praises.
That is one of Mrs Turnstone’s favourite poems.
This particular rainbow over Mrs O’s house occurred a few years ago.
I should have revisited the graffiti-covering ivy back in September. I waited, as I was thinking it looked all as it did in Spring. But it has been trying to grow; the dark-leaved branch is racing ahead of the variegated since it takes in more sunshine through the extra chlorophyll in its leaves.
Progress was disappointing since two branches did not grasp the wall with their roots and were blown away in high winds funnelled along the pathway. The present stems look well attached, so let’s hope they cover most of the scribble this year.
We’ve had the first significant frosts this week, bringing red sunrise and sunset and another hint of autumn. I walked down Abbot’s Hill, admiring the remaining red berries and – a welcome promise of spring every year – the lambs’ tails of the hazel beside the ditch.
But at the bottom of the hill I was startled to see a leaf dancing its way to earth. Of course I looked down, to find the path littered with hazel leaves, still green, but released from their parent tree as the low sun reached the upper branches. There were more to come, but the catkins on this tree were still tight, nowhere near ready to begin their own tango with the wind. I guess the leaves need to fall before the flowers can open.
The railway companies are pilloried for delays blamed on the ‘wrong kind of snow’, ‘the wrong kind of ‘sunshine’, and so on. Let’s hope they know the right kind of leaves. There is a bank between the line and the main road, not far south of Ashford. The men have finished planting it with trees, all cosy in their rabbit-proof plastic tubes. I am all for more trees. I just hope these will not be cut down in fifteen years’ time, when they are tall and leafy and lovely, because they have the wrong kind of leaves.
I have been trimming the hedge of ivy that has grown over the top of the garden wall, hoping to bring light to the apple trees and vine. That hedge held at least three birds’ nests: two blackbirds’ and a robins’, the latter dry as a bone and all concealed until the loppers passed by.
Less welcome were the many snails, resting up till the weather favours them again; they’ve been busy all through November and December until this cold spell set in. There were hibernating aphid and other pests, but my companion knew what to do with them. One of last year’s tenants, the robin, was keeping a very close eye on what was uncovered, and snapped up more than a few inconsidered trifles.
Plato talked of prisoners watching shadows on a wall and picturing the outside world from what they saw projected there. Not picturing it very clearly.
This afternoon, a low sun was shining through the birch tree, casting intricate shadows upon the gable end of next door. Two shadows were more mobile than the rest. Up and across the wall they went, tails flicking. Magpies, instantly recognisable even in monochrome. I could picture them very clearly indeed!
We have had rain every day this week, filling the rivers, but giving us many rainbows. A bit of a cheat to show this one which was taken in June in the West of Scotland, where such weather is less remarkable, but I’ve been out without camera or phone. Our rainbows have been as welcome, even with an urban backdrop.