Category Archives: winter

Drip, drop, gurgle.

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I may have enjoyed umbrellas as a child, admiring the exploits of Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain, but when I came to man’s estate, with a heigh ho, the wind and the rain, I became wary of them in other people’s hands. The ends of the ribs are often on a level with my eyes, and I feel even less safe when the umbrella-walker is lost in a mobile phone! The trivial trials of city life!

Heigh ho, the rain it raineth every day, or so it seems this last week, so I don my own protection in the form of a canvas sunhat with a wide brim. After turning off the main road, where all I could hear was the prolonged and monotonous schweeeesh of car tyres on wet asphalt, Kirby’s Lane offered a rain recital.

There was an amplified rhythmic bass line in the hammering of drops on my hat. Unlike much music played on headphones, I doubt anyone else could hear – there was no-one else to hear. The amplification came from the rim’s proximity to my ears.

My feet splashed through shallow puddles, of course. If Abel had been there, we’d have sought out the deep ones, and then the gutter at the edge of the carriageway, which was happily – allegro cantabile – chuckling an alto melody until it giggled soprano into the drain. For tenors I had the downpipes on the houses – one side of the Lane is the backs of tall Victorian buildings clustered around the railway station.

A foolish thing is but a joy, for the rain it raineth every day.

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Free Saturday Concerts in Canterbury.

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SAINT THOMAS OF CANTERBURY RECITAL SERIES

Saint Thomas’s parish in Canterbury has begun a series of free promenade recitals of classical music in the parish hall beside the church from 10.45 to 11.30 on Saturday mornings. Refreshments are offered before the music and a retiring collection goes to pay the musicians and towards the restoration of the church organ.

Many players will be young musicians starting their careers, but the audience will not know who is playing, or what music, until the concert is about to start. So far impressario Ben Saul, who as church organist has every reason to attract his audience, has come up trumps. This week soprano Farah Ghadiali and pianist Paolo Rinaldi offered a selection of operatic arias followed by a portion of Polish melancholy from Frédéric Chopin. They made me listen afresh even to familiar pieces, such as Handel’s ‘O sleep, why dost thou leave me?’’ and Chopin’s Funeral March Piano Sonata.

So look out for those names, and if you are in Canterbury on a Saturday, find your way to Iron Bar Lane for 10.45. As for next week – who knows? But whoever comes will be worth listening to.

I hope we see the dancing little girl again. The preschool children who came appeared to be taken with live music before their eyes and ears, as were their elders. If you are in Canterbury on a Saturday morning, do drop in!

MMB.

 

1.1.17: Ditches

 

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As I walked out on the last day of the year, I noticed the hazel bushes. Some were already shaking their tails, but others were still not quite ready to open up, biding their time.

This was plucked from a bush beside a ditch – a running ditch after all the recent rain. The vase came from a ditch as well, one running beside a windmill next to a canal in Belgium where we had a cycling holiday on February. It reminds me of Victorian school ink bottles, but since the top is broken, all we know is that the miller cast it in the ditch, to be treasured many years later by a family of foreigners. It suits a single stem very well.

Lift up your eyes to the hills …

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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This is the River Tame, brown with peat, passing through Uppermill, Saddleworth, last week. What looks like a weir is a set of stepping stones. I thought such things were imaginary when I was little, as they tended to appear in the sort of story books our teachers thought we should like.

Now there’s a set I can walk across any time I visit my mother.

Well, not every time, as you can see. But there is a bridge very near by, so no great hardship involved.

And yet the river has been known to rise much higher than this, when the upstream flood plain is saturated, and the rain keeps on falling. The bridge then cannot accommodate all the water that pours down; it tries to find other ways through. People get the sandbags out.

It rains a lot in Saddleworth!

So thank heaven the powers that be seem finally to have decided against covering the flood plain with concrete and buildings for a new school!