Tag Archives: Canterbury

31 December: Lichen

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At the top of Saint Thomas’s Hill, behind the University, the old road dips down and climbs again to Blean Church, far enough from the main road to grow this bed of lichen on a tombstone. On a grey day it glows.

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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.

 

Things in the night that monstrous seem.

crypt.monster Take far away each hideous dream,

Things in the night that monstrous seem …

Two lines from the compline hymn came to mind when I read about the Christmas TV Ad which shows a boy who has a monster under his bed. Not a lot to do with the real meaning of Christmas, I hear you say. Let’s play with that idea.

This monster above has lived in the crypt, or basement of Canterbury Cathedral for many hundreds of years, along with a few more of different kinds, not unlike the imaginary beasts in the margins of ancient manuscripts. This fellow is within sight of Mother Concordia of Minster’s Mary and Child.

Ancient writers imagined the infant Jesus creating living creatures from the mud of the ground. I can imagine him playing with toy monsters and dinosaurs as so many children do today. There were plenty of monsters to be seen among the deities of ancient Egypt where he grew up!

Can we not play, and play fairly, in the world created for us and be grateful? Let’s play fairly by some of our less favoured sisters and brothers this Christmas – we all know several ways of helping. Let’s not be selfish monsters!

 

 

 

 

After breakfast, walk a mile …

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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.

 

Time to Stop and Stare

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We had an appointment in Canterbury city centre and were almost there when we spotted something white in the tree downstream. Stop. Stare. Stare again. It was not witches britches – air-borne plastic impaled in the branches – but a little egret, shining in the sun. Not long ago a rare visitor to Kent, now almost a familiar friend.

By the time we’d done snapping with our phones, a small crowd had gathered. I hope the sight lifted hearts a little.

 

The Clones go marching on.

One rooted cutting of Mrs O’s Veilchenblau has moved half a mile to the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury; Sam and Richard are deliberating where to plant it beside their new woodland walk.

Another has gone to my mother, who says it is thriving; one will go to my brother and one to the dear friend whose willow tree I wrote about a while back. A little joy that will last for years; if Mrs O knew – and I’m not convinced she doesn’t – she would be pleased.

This afternoon I met B, a neighbour, looking for a rosemary bush to raid for her roast lamb. It was more than a little joy to me when I was able to give her a rooted cutting, grown in Mrs O’s greenhouse. B and her family were good friends to Mrs O, so that cutting will truly be ‘Rosemary for Remembrance’.

 

 

The Pilgrim’s (rail) way

A few weeks ago it was primroses all the way along the line from Dover to Canterbury; today the predominant flower is that pilgrims’ joy, the Canterbury Bell, that sings out from the walls of the cuttings. And so, my journey home is a pilgrimage – as it indeed ought to be, every time.

At the shrine of the common table Mrs Turnstone has prepared a feast of home grown salad, with a handful of sungold tomatoes and pizza from Enzo’s Bakery at the Goods Shed.