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Spring is rising!


We were hanging the bat box at L’Arche’s Glebe garden in Canterbury, and to do that Vince had to saw through two thin branches. I was footing the ladder, keeping still and keeping him safe.

Drips fell onto my hand as he handed down one of the branches: no rain, this was sap, the sycamore’s lifeblood. This is an invasive maple, and remembering the maple syrup farm I once visited in a Canadian March, I licked my hand. It was sweet!

I don’t think we are about to start tapping the sycamores, but Vincent recalled tasting birch syrup, and very tasty that was, he said.

An old cherry orchard near Canterbury in early Spring.


Gardening: a gift economy.


periwinkleJust before it got dark I went out with the secateurs to take a few cuttings from our periwinkle. It is excellent ground cover, smothering weeds around the roses but allowing the daffodils to burst through. Even in winter there are a few flowers around (the picture was taken in spring though).

Down at the L’Arche Glebe garden there is a patch of shady ground under a hedge where these cuttings can find a home. While I was gathering them I remembered Mabel, who gave me some from her garden across town. I didn’t hear of her death till after the burial. Her vicar said someone described her as ‘the soul of goodness’. I totally agree. She was an inspiring person to be working for, and deserves recognition at Canterbury Christ Church University, for which she did so much in its earliest years.

Even though none of the present L’Arche Community knew her, she did know about the community in its earliest days and thoroughly approved. Even Mabel, however, could not stretch herself any further to play any part – except to pray. She prayed, she encouraged, she shared her knowledge and skills freely. The soul of goodness indeed.

We enjoy her periwinkles, and tradescantia, and various other perennials, and I treasure her memory.

Another Free Promenade Concert in Canterbury.


stMaryMtowerCT (600x800)

The mediaeval tower of St Mary Magdalene, just in front of St Thomas’s Church.

We never know what to expect of the free promenade recitals of classical music at Saint Thomas’s parish hall Canterbury. ‘All will  be revealed!’ said Fr Daniel this morning. Once again Director of Music Ben Saul discovered a pair of talented young musicians in pianist Greta Åstedt and Lucia Veintimilla on the violin.

Mozart settled the audience into listening mode. One of the toddlers in attendance was transfixed at the sight and sound so close to her. Her face increased my enjoyment of the music.

A piece by Japanese composer Takemitsu evoked an invisible and not necessarily friendly, presence in the room, chased away by de Falla, inviting the little ones to dance. Another contrast from Lutoslawski, by no means going gentle into that dark night, while there was one more chance for the dancers to go with the music thanks to Slavonic dances by Smetana.

Two more names to watch for: the players are just starting their professional careers. And if you are in Canterbury on a Saturday, come to Iron Bar Lane for 10.45. And next week? All will be revealed.  The preschool children were well behaved and in no way diminished anyone’s enjoyment.

A retiring collection goes to pay the musicians and towards the restoration of the church organ.


Lift up your eyes to the hills …


There are hills and hills of course. Saint Thomas’s Hill is on the rim of the dish that cradles the city. Most cyclists seem to dismount to climb up it, but coming down is another matter; I think that qualifies as a hill. For the last fifty years it has housed the University of Kent, not visible in this winter’s picture.

Indeed I’ve deliberately shown this ‘temporary’ car park in all its glory to stress the point brought home to me as I turned this corner the other day – without my phone of course, so I could not recapture that careless rapture. Here the panel of parking regulations, the hastily spread asphalt  and the scrubby edges of the car park impel the walker to pass by on the other side as quickly as possible.



I walk this way nearly every day,  eyes averted.

Between where we stand and those whitewashed cottages a footpath takes a short tunnel under the railway; then to the left of the cottages and to the playing field behind the tall trees; a not unpleasant walk. From there the hilltop is covered in university buildings; from here neither they nor the post-war houses across the field make much impact.

There’s no way you could imagine yourself in the Kentish countryside, but look up! There is a hill, there are trees, there is hope. Even if the developers would happily sacrifice the trees on the altar of Mammon. This car park has never been built upon. It used to be an allotment garden, gone wild before we came, but good for raspberries, brambles, lizards and slow-worms. A sustained effort was made to rescue the reptiles, now safely rehoused on reclaimed land elsewhere. But this land will be built on. People need homes too.

look up hills

But what struck me the other day as I walked home?

A hint of sun on the hill, made the grass, and the young stems of the trees – there are plenty of willow in yellow and red – shine against the black of their trunks and branches. It was a Psalm 121 moment – I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A spring in my step, though nothing material had changed. The car park, graffiti and the intrusive buildings were still there, but look beyond!

The window looks out onto real hills, the Black Mountains of South Wales.


Another of those years


This year we made more like 200 jars of apricot jam than 20; never was there such a fruiting in all the years the tree has been with us.

I wondered about the stones: was there a quick and easy way of cracking them open to get at the kernels, used in Italy to make amaretto. Events got in the way of that, but when Mrs T cleared out the shed she found that the wood mice had carried a great heap of stones into a dark corner and feasted on the amaretti. No biscuits or liquor for us, but who could begrudge the mice their treat?


Is Briskness all?


Does anyone go mad from trying to keep up with advice from the healthy living czars? A recent one was that everyone should take at least a 20 minutes brisk – it must be brisk for the magic to work – most days in the week.

The day after reading it I took a walk of about 1 km with 2¼ year old Abel. Brisk it was not! We dallied and dillied. We hid behind trees, watched the trains go by, bought some tomatoes. We took them home and ate most of them. We did that slowly too.

I’d warrant that was a healthier walk for both of us than, say, my strapping him into the buggy and jogging for 20 minutes with a monitor on my arm.

Is there a monitor for fun?

Or love?

Festina Lente! Look it up, preferably in an old fashioned dictionary, but no doubt the web will tell you.