Tag Archives: children

Silence amid the Noise.

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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.

Robin on Christmas afternoon.


After a big Christmas meal among a crowd of adults, some of them unknown to him, 18 month-old Abel was getting restless so he went to the back door and found his wellington boots. It was time for some fresh air.

By the corner of the park he stopped. He pointed at the lilac tree and shook his finger – a gesture he uses if he hears a loud noise like a siren – or grandad sneezing. Grandad’s sinuses were not challenged on this occasion; the noise was coming from the tree: Robin playing his part in the dusk chorus.

Abel watched and listened till Robin changed his perch, then said, bye bye. Off he went into the park and straight up onto the old abandoned railway line. At the top he paused again, listening. Singing close by were a thrush and blackbird as well as another robin. After listening for a while, it was bye-bye to these birds too. We were unable to see them.

We did see the gulls flying below the clouds on their way to the coast: bye-bye to them too.

It was dark when we said bye-bye to Abel, but he pointed from his car-seat to our own robin, still singing, still patrolling his boundaries by street-light. Bye-bye Abel, thank you for listening with me!

A walk in the woods


A walk in the woods with Abel, now 16 months old, is another story. I’d greet all the dogs as a matter of course, but he enjoys them to the point of bubbling with laughter; there is disappointment that the brambles are now bare of blackberries, but even so he (and I) appreciate the seasons; puddles are for throwing stones into and exclaiming ‘splash’, or as  near as we can get, while a big pine tree is for hide and seek. Happy Days.

Muddy Hands Delight in Work

It was raining when I visited Miss Turnstone’s class of four and five year olds to talk about trees and plant a couple.

Talking about trees was really enjoyed by the children and by me. I don’t know that, aged 5, I’d have dared put my hand up to say, ‘We’ve got a pear tree at home, Mr Turnstone.’ It showed that the child was making connections, but in my time in primary school it would have been about the right connections, as defined by teacher.

Still, we talked about roots and shoots and nuts and fruit and leaves and soil and plant food (bone meal being porridge for trees) and worms.

Worms fascinate four year olds; I don’t think one of the twenty or so who came out to plant trees in the rain did not pick up a worm and have a good look. We had to be reminded that they live in the ground and help the trees grow!

The children are excellent at taking turns, or we could not have planted the trees safely; three people with hand forks and trowels is enough at any one hole at a time! But the holes were dug, thanks to someone’s ten year old big brother who came to help with the heavy work; the soil at the bottom was loosened and bone meal worked in; the trees, a hazel and a peach, were planted; muddy boots were taken off and muddy hands washed, ready for home time.

And something for everyone to talk about over tea: a lovely afternoon we had, despite the rain!


Vandalism takes many forms

We can feel beset by vandals. Walls get tagged with graffiti that has no artistic merit. Later in the year I hope to see good results from guerilla gardening on a wall near my place.

There was a bitter-sweet story locally last week. The preservation society for the long-lost railway behind our house, which would be doing good business today, decided to open up this subway under the trackbed – one of the oldest railway bridges

bevfarmtunnelext in the world, dating back to the early 1830s. It had been filled with rubble some 50 years ago.

Indeed they did open it up but it is less than 2m high inside, and deemed unsafe by the city council, so it is already sealed off with steel gates. However there was another reason for closing it off – to prevent its being tagged.

When the subway was built there was farmland at either end and the footpath led across fields to the farbevfarmtunnextmhouse and on to the next village. There is the remains of an old hedge alongside the footpath which had an undergrowth of celandines at this time of year. Now it is barren, thanks to over-enthusiastic spraying of weedkiller by the city council’s contractors. There was meadowsweet in summertime too, for this path ran by a ditch, now covered over.

Celandines look like this, reflecting the sun. I won’t share the barren hedge-bcelandinesottom with you. Maybe the contractors found it easier to kill everything rather than scythe or strim the nettles once or twice a year. Maybe I’m the only one who’s noticed, or cares. Maybe the wild flowers were too scruffy.

For the last two summers a bed of ‘wild flowers’ has appeared on the playing field that now occupies the bottom of the old farm. But they don’t look wild, just scruffy.

One good thing about student landlords’ laziness is that many wild plants stand a chance in their gardens, as these celandines do next-door but one. I hope you can see ladybird biedronka in there!

Celandines are dear to me as when I was little a kind teacher introduced them to me. I was away from my family, allowed just one parental visit per week, only able to wave from the window to my siblings, even having my Easter egg confiscated to be pooled with all the other children’s. Our crime was to have been ill. We were in a convalescent home. The fresh air was good, but there was no thought for our spiritual or mental well-being, except among the staff caring for us day to day. They did not make the rules.

The celandines were a promise of new life, outside the gates. Now they remind me of a greater promise of new life. Shame on the city council!

Mr Noah

it has, from time to time, been suggested that Mr Turnstone could pass for a patriarch from Genesis. Today it was the Noah side that came to the fore.

Despite Mrs T’s worries, our pond had plenty of spawn by last weekend, when Ms Turnstone II came to call. She was begging some for her class of 4-5 year-olds. Mr Noah was recruited to bring the spawn, with a few hatchling tadpoles, over to School. Great fun was had by the children as well as Mr Noah, and I think the children will enjoy observing the little creatures as they grow.

One lad was guessing what sort of animal I’d brought along – is it a tiger?

No, said Noah, he might eat you for breakfast, then you for break, and you over there for lunch, and so on. The conversation moved on … We discussed Ms Turnstone’s pet hen she had as a child, which had all 60 children – there were two classes – performing a chicken routine that had to be seen. And Ms T blushed!

Finally, Mr Noah put his foot in it at lunch time when he said he might bring the tiger in to get some lunch. One poor boy took it literally, when all the rest enjoyed the shiver of shock. Sorry Lad! I think we parted as friends.

And that was a good day.