Category Archives: town and country

Crossing paths

Mrs_Tiggy-Winkle,_Clothes_horse (1)

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!

 

Not from the supermarket

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!

Mind your feet!

With all that’s been going on, this story was forgotten till Mme Frog jogged my memory. One evening last week, my daughter went down to empty the kitchen bin onto the compost heap.

Something scurried across her feet. ‘Oh no! a rat!’ she thought, but it didn’t run across the garden like that. And it had spikes: a hedgehog! Our neighbour, who cut a hedgehog hole in his new fence, will be mighty pleased. So was Mrs T, who would like to see an end to slimy slugs in her garden.

Unfortunately Mrs Tiggywinkle did not stop around for a photo-call.

Sunflowers

sunflowers.sm

Last year, for reasons that now escape me, I took my beloved Brompton bike for a ride around Rye, across the border into Sussex, as a reflective part of my birthday celebration. I passed to the north of a field of sunflowers, which, being sun-worshippers, all had their backs to me.

This time, my seventieth year from heaven completed, we celebrated beneath these sunflowers at the L’Arche garden in Canterbury. This time, we were to the south of the blooms, and received the blessing of their faces, reflecting their master as they smiled upon us.

And a good time was had by all!

Hail and farewell

cathedralbyellie2

When we moved to our home in Canterbury there were house martins nesting on neighbours’ houses; we did not get them because the chicks would have baked in the direct noonday sun. One house opposite had hung little balls from the eaves to warn the martins off. Super house proud, or possibly paranoid about droppings. Remember Tobit!

It’s been years since there was any excuse for excluding the birds. No martins have nested hereabouts for many years. Newcomers have never seen them nesting: what you don’t know, you don’t miss. The same goes for the martins: their memory of living on our street has gone; they will not return.

I’ve seen very few matins or swallows this year, but last week as I was walking across the field behind our house I saw two martins overhead. I guess a couple of this year’s brood, getting into fettle for the flight to Africa. God Speed them there and safely back!

 

The Noonday Croak

frog in grass

An hour ago, Mrs T sent me on a message to Frog’s   next-door neighbour’s house. A glorious sunny September noontime, roses tumbling over the fence, bees buzzing, as well as motor mowers.

I turned to go, and distinctly heard a frog croaking from Mrs T’s friend’s bushes. Perhaps Frog’s resident frog has not wandered too far from her little pond.

Abel found two of this year’s froglets in our pond yesterday!

Will.

 

 

 

A Pilgrim.

 

terrible london

Not a view of London any of us will have seen, though the crowded streets are still there. Saint Paul’s too, but it has been overshadowed by the temples of Mammon. This picture and text are from ‘London Impressions’ by Alice Meynell, illustrated by William Hyde, pub; Archibald Constable, 1898, available on Project Gutenberg.

Now and then a firefly strays from the vineyard into the streets of an Italian city, and goes quenched in the light of the shops. The stray and waif from ‘the very country’ that comes to London is a silver-white seed with silken spokes or sails. There is no depth of the deep town that this visitant does not penetrate in August—going in, going far, going through, by virtue of its indescribable gentleness.

The firefly has only a wall to cross, but the shining seed comes a long way, a careless alien but a mighty traveller. Indestructibly fragile, the most delicate of all the visible signs of the breeze, it goes to town, makes light of the capital, sets at nought the thoroughfares and the omnibuses, especially flouts the Park, one may suppose, where it does not grow. It hovers and leaps at about the height of first-floor windows, by many a mile of dull drawing-rooms, a country creature quite unconverted to London and undismayed. This flâneur makes as little of our London as his ancestor made of Chaucer’s.

Sometimes it takes a flight on a stronger wind, and its whiteness shows dark with slight shadow against bright clouds, as the whiter snow-flake also looks dark from its shadow side. Then it comes down in a tumult of flight upon the city. It is a very strong little seed-pod, set with arms, legs, or sails—so ingeniously set that though all grow from the top of the pod their points together make a globe; on these it turns a ‘cart-wheel’ like a human boy—like many boys, in fact, it must overtake on its way through the less respectable of the suburbs—only better. Every limb, itself so fine, is feathered with little plumes that are as thin as autumn spider-webs. Nothing steps so delicately as that seed, or upon such extreme tiptoe. But it does not walk far; the air bears the charges of the wild journey.

Thistle-seeds—if thistle-seeds they be—make few and brief halts, then roll their wheel on the stones for a while, and then the wheel is a-wing again. You encounter them in the country, setting out for town on a south wind, and in London there is not a street they do not recklessly stray along. For they use our arbitrary streets; it does not seem that they make a bee-line over the top of the houses, and cross London thus. They use the streets which they treat so lightly. They conform, for the time, to human courses, and stroll down Bond Street and turn up Piccadilly, and go to the Bank on a long west wind—their strolling being done at a certain height, in moderate mid-air.”

They generally travel wildly alone, but now and then you shall see two of them, as you see butterflies go in couples, flitting at leisure at Charing Cross. The extreme ends of their tender plumes have touched and have lightly caught each other. But singly they go by all day, with long rises and long descents as the breeze may sigh, or more quickly on a high level way of theirs. Nothing wilder comes to town—not even the scent of hay on morning winds at market-time in June; for the hay is for cab-horses, and it is at home in the clattering mews, and has a London habit of its own.

White meteor, lost star, bright as a cloud, the seed has many images of its radiant flight. But there is only one thing really like it—the point of light caught by a diamond, with the regular surrounding rays.