To gather blackberries you must be prepared for scratches and nettle stings. Lime flowers are usually within reach, though wild cherries are not. Sweet little hedgerow plums also come with nettles and sloes grow on the blackthorn.
Walnuts, once you’ve found them, are often in easy reach of the upright human, but the trouble comes later. To prepare them for pickling, the unripe nuts in their green shells – as seen in our last post – must be pricked all over with a fork before steeping in brine for five days. Pricking the nuts releases the juice, which is a very effective fake tan, or rather a fake 50 a day smoker’s tan, such as is rarely seen today. I could wear gloves, if I could find XXXXL size that would not split as I pulled them on. So I’ll go with the deeply unfashionable nicotine addict look.
And I shall join Mrs Turnstone, who gathered walnuts with me, and others who did not, in enjoying the nuts in due season. (Happy Christmas in advance!)
I think we can declare the foraging season open! There have been a few wild cherries that the birds have not eaten, not enough to make a mall jar of jam, but the first blackberry was picked today, 6th July, about 9 days earlier than expected. Like the cherries, it was a little tart.
Last week I was harvesting lime – linden – flowers by the river, when a man, who looked Mediterranean, saw me. He grabbed a handful of the flowering branch-tips and plunged his face into them, inhaling the scent deep into his lungs. What memories were quickening for him?
This evening I went to look at a tree I had marked as likely to be in full bloom today. So had someone else. Being taller than most people, there were still flowers within my reach. I went home along a path I rarely take, and soon reached another lime tree in flower, scenting the wind. Plenty for me and those who might come after me.
Our other discovery was two walnut trees in public thoroughfares, ripe for foraging the soft-shelled nuts for pickling. As our daughter said, the longest day is past, Christmas is coming!
Railway lines had been laid over the whole 700 or 800 miles to facilitate my progress; bridges had been built, and tunnels made; an army of engineers, and guards, and signal-men, and porters, and clerks were waiting to take charge of me, and to see to my comfort and safety. All I had to do was to tell Society (here represented by a railway booking-clerk) where I wanted to go, and to step into a carriage; all the rest would be done for me. Books and papers had been written and printed; so that if I wished to beguile the journey by reading, I could do so. At various places on the route, thoughtful Society had taken care to be ready for me with all kinds of refreshment (her sandwiches might be a little fresher, but maybe she thinks new bread injurious for me). When I am tired of travelling and want to rest, I find Society waiting for me with dinner and a comfortable bed, with hot and cold water to wash in and towels to wipe upon. Wherever I go, whatever I need, Society, like the enslaved genii of some Eastern tale, is ready and anxious to help me, to serve me, to do my bidding, to give me enjoyment and pleasure.
Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy describes how he has been coping with the discipline of working from home. (1 May 2020)
My life in lockdown has become a bit monastic, and there’s a lot I like about that. There’s quite a nice, simple balance of work, prayer, meals, reading, recreation (much of that in the form of walking or cycling). I’m a bit more tuned in than usual to the subtle but magical changes in the natural world: the colours and the smells, the times of the day when the birds sing more loudly, the wonderful sight in the sky a few nights ago of a crescent moon underneath a brightly shining Venus.
This was the sight that greeted me when I got to work at the Glebe this morning. My corona virus sanctioned exercise for the day: three hours of gardening, in sunshine or those cool shadows. And the first radishes awaiting attention.
The red flowers are campion, sown from a pack of wild flowers a few years ago. They will need sorting out at some stage, as they have become a haven for aphids. Let’s hope some aphid-eating bugs occupy the wooden bug house this year!
If I do not use these pictures soon, the moment will have completely passed. On one of our Sunday walks we passed these two Kentish orchards, one old, one new. How many years will the old one keep fruiting? And how long will the new one be productive? It represents a massive act of hope in the future, something we all need with the virus restricting our lives!
The tombstone of Harry and Winifred Cuthbert proclaims that they were ‘dedicated’ to farming and fruit growing, witness the strawberry plant seen here. Every seed, every plant is an act of hope. So is a smile, a wave, a word of encouragement.
It was the first rainy day for weeks; in two hours of walking on paths that had been busy by viral standards last time we walked them, I scarcely met a score of fellow walkers. It was a few degrees cooler than the preceding days, and wet. As I reached Blean church, big heavy drops drove me under the yews; I began looking for passion flower carvings without success but enjoyed seeing the lichen again and these bluebells of different colours.
Many times have I cycled past here, usually going to or from work, but never noticed these, partly because the church is at the top of a hill and all my attention would have been on completing the climb. Since it was the virus that drove me out here on foot, this is a going viral post, Stay safe, let your heart be unconfined!
HDGB is working from home in East London, so walks are often on city pavements, but not without blessings and rewards. This view is changed since Francis Thompson wrote The Kingdom of God. He was deeply wounded by life and in his homeless days was all too acquainted with the \London’s pavements.
O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
Tis ye, ‘tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
The ladies of Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury are mostly stuck at home and the Church is closed in any case, all of us praying at home. Today, however, I had to water the L’Arche Garden at St Mildred’s Glebe, so took the opportunity to thank the parish for their support over the years by making them an Easter garden. Note the cross, the cave, the cloths that were wrapped around His body; Rosemary for remembrance, a baptismal pool of water and pilgrimage cockle shells. Thank you Saint Mildred’s for taking us under your wing for all these years. And Happy Easter to all our readers. Let your joy be unconfined, wherever you find yourselves.
Thanks to the virus, George is working from home, keyboard steaming away, but still time to observe the birds in Mile End, London. This morning at 7.30 our street in Canterbury should have been busy with drivers off to work but the only traffic was a pair of pigeons and two magpies, pecking at discarded takeaway food. The birch tree was busy with long-tsiled tits a few minutes later.