We walked home from church with a friend who wanted to see the bluebells in the wood. She had heard about them but did not know they were so close to home. A pleasure shared already, but she took pictures aplenty to share with her mother in East London, a pleasure further shared: her mother will enjoy not just the bluebells but the clear and infectious pleasure our friend received from them.
A gift that is special to an English spring.
A few days before we had walked that way with young Abel, who’s too small to damage the flowers as he walks, but he too loved the ‘blue flowers’: pleasure shared as a little child lets us into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t often quote Rupert Brooke, but remember …
the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is reflected in that very English carpet, but an English Heaven? One that welcomes people from around the world, I trust, or it would not be Heaven, just an off-shore island …
Between 7.30 and 9.00 in the morning must be the noisiest time of day but most people have to filter out the noise, just to do what we have to. Young Abel often draws our attention to sirens, trains and loud machinery, but I did not need his advice this morning.
The Builder’s dog is with us and needed his morning walk. Today he was sniffling round a shrub when I heard a woodpecker drumming somewhere nearby. Not that I saw him, but it’s a pleasure to hear him. Trying to place him – somewhere in the treetops – without binoculars was futile, but it made me aware of the din around me, even though I was some yards from the nearest road. The school playing field was being mown with a tractor and a mower; the main roads and inner ring road were still very busy, but a motorbike and ambulance stood out. There were trains and planes, and children winding down to go indoors for the morning.
But I could still hear the woodpecker. And the chaffinch and the blackcap … and the herring gulls and rooks overhead.
Sometimes we must dive into whatever silence is around, even if no-one else can hear it, even if only for a moment.
There are moments – split seconds – worth recording in memory that one could never on camera. One such was given to me yesterday, walking home from church alongside a hedgerow. Up to the surface popped what some call a dunnock but I still think of as a hedge-sparrow. All resplendent in best spring plumage, it had in its bill a down feather from a pigeon.
And then we parted.
Those eggs will be cosy, the chicks warm and snug till they grow their own feathers, then off and away!
A miner turned gardener taught me the old Yorkshire adage: After breakfast, walk a mile, after dinner, rest a while. I was reminded of this the other morning when I met a friend in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. I knew she had had knee surgery but was able to congratulate her on how well she was walking. ‘Oh, yes, thank you. It’s going well. We walked back from Chartham the other morning.’
Chartham is three miles from the city centre.
This column tends to celebrate the natural world, but time today to praise the work of orthopædic surgeons and all the scientists, engineers and technical staff as well as the nurses who enable them to do such fine work.
Three miles from Canterbury in another direction, another fine walk.
The new LED lights along the college pathway do hide the moon light, but the path across the grass was sure to be slippery, so under the lights it was. Nevertheless the owls were calling across the campus: watch out rabbits!
Maybe watch out frogs, too. Where the path runs along back garden fences there was a clamorous croaking cantata. There must be a few ponds around there, and why not dig one ready to invite amphibians to live with you?
Our pond is not huge, 1.5mx2m, but we always have a few frogs in the warm weather. it is traditional that Mrs T worries that we won’t have any spawn – Miss T likes to have some in school – and, as the tradition has it, a fortnight of talking to work colleagues convinced her that we would not have any.
And, as tradition has it, there are a few mounds of black-speckled jelly balls in the pond, letting the sun do his work.
OK, so this looks like a spindly, bare, whippersnapper of a tree …
Naburn Primary School children with one of their new apple trees
… but pupils at two York schools have been imagining what it will grow into, and how they will enjoy the fruit it will bear in the future. And they have been doing so through poetry.
The ‘Poetree’ project was dreamt up and delivered by Vikki Pendry of York Edible Schools (Y.E.S.) and me. Two local schools were offered two apple trees each (courtesy of Y.E.S.), and an accompanying poetry workshop from me.