I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here. The book is available at Project Gutenberg.
Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.
This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.
I was not best pleased to find the hosepipe all rolled up and disconnected when I arrived at the garden. The pump is temperamental, the hose likewise, and reassembling it all takes longer than it should. Perhaps we need a few more connectors.
Well, I was feeling as temperamental as the equipment when, on my knees, I caught site of this damsel fly drying its new wings beside the river. I would never have seen it, just walking by. I even had chance to grab the phone from my coat and snap! These creatures do not sit still for long once the new life is surging through their veins, so I was grateful to have had a good look and to be able to share it with you.
Abel was riding behind Grandad, across his favourite bridge in the old Tannery housing estate. A few yards on, he announced, ‘I saw two baby ducks.’ Grandad did not see them, but Abel missed out on the grey wagtail chick with its parents, (or was it two chicks with one parent?) by the Glebe. He missed our blackbird cock feeding a chick as big as himself on the scraps of fat fallen from the fatballs that the starlings have been telling their chicks all about, very noisily.
But we’ve all seen the baby robin who is already as tame as its parents, here perching on the bike’s handlebars. Spring is fun when you are nearly four or even nearly 70.
A public holiday in England seems a good time to share this story.
It’s Wednesday evening and I’m at Canterbury West station, chatting to a railwaywoman while I await my chance to slip onto the platform. Hundreds of people were streaming away from an incoming train.
‘You’d think if they were going home they’d look happy!’ she said, and truly, they did not. ‘I’ll get one smiling’, I said, as I saw M coming into view. To be fair, I’d seen him smiling already. I know he likes his job, and I knew he was not going home for long; he was due to attend a church meeting about an hour later on that cold windy night. But he smiled and chatted and went on his way.
‘Now you can start working in the other 451 of them!’ said the railwaywoman. (With a smile.)
So maybe I’ll share one of the station staff’s efforts to raise a smile at Christmas with this little plum.
A message just came from the Butterflies class, who have been observing and caring for some of the frogspawn in this picture.
There are five froglets and a few tadpoles with legs! Great excitement in the classroom, but the children know the froglets and their brothers and sisters will soon be coming back to their native pond. For certain sure, more of them have survived than if they had been in the pond at the mercy of Mr Blackbird.
Thank you Butterflies class and your marvellous teacher!
Fr Tom Herbst OFM, an occasional contributor to the Agnellusmirror blog, sent this notice today on behalf of Kent University Chaplaincy.
We are organizing- at very short notice- a candle/prayer vigil at Uni as a memorial for the Sri Lanka victims. It will be held at 8:00 PM beginning outside Eliot College then moving into the chapel. If you can make it that would be great as we would like to see as many people there as possible. Can you pass the word to people who may be interested? Maybe announce on your blog?
If you can make it this evening, that would be good. If not, please spare a moment around 8.00 to join us in prayer.
Mrs T’s reading before going to Venice was the guidebook and Salley Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel. I’m not sure which was better preparation for our visit. My book made more sense once we were in the city, and helped make sense of the city. Ellis Peters, best known for Cadfael and all things Salopian, wrote Holiday with Violence soon after the Second World War, during which Venice escaped bombing but endured great hardship. There are glimpses of that poverty, of the rundown buildings, and also of the precious green spaces:
She saw in the drowned shade of the little waterways, narrow between high palace walls, the occasional green of trees looking out from secret gardens, in a city where all the rest of the spectrum was spilt recklessly, but green was jealously hoarded.
Such a secret garden can be seen on the background to this picture. Some of these plots had walls surmounted with a hedge of Canary Ivy, home to blackbirds which had their singing posts nearby to celebrate the dawn and dusk chorus, all the more audible with the lack of motor traffic.