As I walked along Canterbury’s Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.
No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.
I bought gooseberries.
That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends, I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.
Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. It all went. Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!
Unexpected? Always unexpected: a flash of blue along the river by the Glebe and you only realise when he’s gone – that was the kingfisher!
That was yesterday; twenty years ago I was walking George home from school when we stopped to watch the fish in the shallows of the river. The kingfisher dived right at his feet, a metre and a half down to the water and emerged, fish in beak, before realising he had an audience, and made himself scarce.
It began with a low flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, fighter planes from World War II; after that our eyes turned again and again to the deep blue sky. Then Vincent spotted a buzzard, not unknown in Canterbury – see 3 September 2015, Bravado of the Birds.
Not unknown, but worth downing tools for. Who was going to see him off, I wondered, recalling ravens, jackdaws and gulls escorting these predators away from their children – though sadly ravens are not seen over Canterbury today. But no jackdaw nor gull appeared, instead there was another buzzard soaring over us, and then two more. None of us earth-bound humans had seen four together over Canterbury before.
Too early in the year for this season’s chicks to be on the wing, surely? Were these four juveniles or two parents with last year’s offspring? Certainly two bore pale flashes on their underwings, and one of these was audibly and physically corrected when it flew too close to one of the others. We heard it over the roar of traffic from the inner bypass.
From up there the birds could see a long stretch of green: our little acre is on the river and just across the main road that runs behind us lie the Westgate Parks which lead to the meadows, and the cycle path to Ashford which we earthlings visited yesterday.
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.
Just 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.
This corner of Canterbury is called the Bomb Crater. Don’t dispute its right to that name, but …
As traditional as the name is its status as the venue of choice for sledging. The local hills, including the one from which it was gouged, may feel steep to climbing cyclists, but they are neither steep enough nor deep enough for sledging. The ‘Beast from the East’ weather system has given the children a few days off school – a gift such as most of them cannot remember – and many locals were enjoying the bomb crater when Mrs T and I walked by. Joy!
Who could begrudge their happiness by saying they should be in school, in uniform, when they can have a taste of winter?
I can remember snowball fights against the teachers – how many Health and Safety and Child Protection issues would that raise now?