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31 December: Lichen

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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.

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Si vis pacem pare hortum II, or Willow, willow, willow III

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If you care to return to old posts – Si Vis Pacem Pare Hortum  and Willow, willow willow, you’ll find the day four years ago that  I rescued this bench from being demolished by a willow tree falling across it.

The bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms,  may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.

A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!

And a job well done, if I say so myself.

At this table

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A meal in the garden in the company of friends is a great blessing, one Mrs T and I shared this week in Wales. Good local food well cooked. Our friend’s granddaughter has a chef for a brother and seems to share his love for cooking – one passed down the generations!

There was talk of the brother as well, of course, of cabbages and kings. The lad takes a pride in his work, to the extent that he has persuaded his bosses to buy butcher’s meat and fresh fruit and vegetables so that he could prepare better meals at no extra cost. He is feeding young people on activity holidays.

‘And now, instead of frozen, ground down whatever and jars of sauce, they have spaghetti Bolognese with proper, lean minced beef and sauce from scratch.’

…….

I hope you enjoy a few outdoor meals this summer, and that the cooks enjoy them as well as the diners. The next day was bread and cheese for just the two of us, halfway up a hill in Herefordshire. That was enjoyable too: we’d walked up an appetite!

 

At the end of the ride

Not even the birds could persuade us to linger at the motorway services, and we soon found our way to Shropshire, and Ludlow. Where Canterbury has a farmers’ market in the old railway goods shed, Ludlow has a brewery. Even on a Monday morning there were people enjoying the sun and the beer. We saw no reason not to join them.

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Impressive plumbing behind the bar, where we bought a sample of three small glasses of different beers; all very good.

From our seat on the mezzanine floor, we were able to appreciate the physical labour that goes into producing the beer. The mash tun was being cleaned out, but was obviously still very warm for the man dismantling the filters. In the old days he would have been allowed beer ad lib; today he had a pint glass of good Shropshire water. Probably as well, all three we tasted were very drinkable, but might leave the drinker a little unsteady on those steps.

 

Soaking up the sun

The day was warm enough for Mrs T to seek the shade when we stopped at the Oxford motorway services. Perhaps that was why the starling took no notice of us as it sat, wings spread out, feathers fluffed, soaking up the sun, maybe half blinded by it.

The bird was so relaxed that only the arrival of the caretaker, emptying the bins, persuaded it to move into a nearby bush. Had it even noticed the two red kites, skimming the trees, barely six metres above us?

They noticed us humans and departed. He survived their survey,

 

Another unexpected bird.

Unexpected? Always unexpected: a flash of blue along the river by the Glebe and you only realise when he’s gone – that was the kingfisher!

That was yesterday; twenty years ago I was walking George home from school when we stopped to watch the fish in the shallows of the river. The kingfisher dived right at his feet, a metre and a half down to the water and emerged, fish in beak, before realising he had an audience, and made himself scarce.

George instantly became a bird watcher.

Less unexpected birds in the city.

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The garden spectacle this week has been the two fledgling sparrows that have left the nest in next-door-but-one’s roof to flit and flutter to our back gate where they can perch, and cheep and flutter their stubby wings in the hope that their parents – or any passing sparrow for that matter – will feed them. There must be hope they will live, now they have spent two days out of the nest!

Here is one of them watching intently as his mother (or is it his aunt?) pecks at the fat balls over the gate. The fact that he was fed did not prevent him starting to call again as soon as he’d finished swallowing.

Although the adults are very tolerant of humans moving about the garden we share with  them, Chico took off as soon as the back door opened. Three metres’ flight to the washing line, where he could not get a grip, turned base over apex before achieving enough co-ordination to crash into the holly bush.

The two chicks were soon back on the gate, ‘Please Sir (or Madam) I want some more!

On the move.

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I was waiting at the seaside bus stop when a handsome young lad arrived, a smile on his face. He was dancing on the spot, though his headphones were off his ears and indeed switched off. He looked crazily happy, but not crazy!
One of his mates got on a couple of stops later, and so we heard just why the firstcomer was so happy. He’d just got accepted at university. ‘I can’t wait to get out of here, man, and get to university. This place is dead, there’s nothing to do.’
I got off at our local university, to walk home in the Spring sunshine across the green of the campus. Two students alighted in front of me; quite a few prefer to live in the peaceful resort rather than the city.
No doubt there will be young people coming to Canterbury from the town where my fellow-traveller is going, glad to get away from somewhere that has grown too small for them. Many come from London, glad to get off  their patch and out from under their parents’ eye.
I trust and pray the fire that made the seasider dance will burn within him all the days of his life.