Tag Archives: family

To the Almshouse.

maynards spittal
Dear Simon,
We were sorry to hear that you and Ruth have divorced after so many years. We were unaware of the difficulties in your relationship which do sound beyond human repair. But if you can conserve a friendship then who knows what might not be built on the foundations of the love that brought you together in the first place? And of course, however imperfect the lovers, however imperfect the love, much good has come of your time together. Between you, you sustained two fine young people through to where they are now.
Do you enjoy living in the almshouse? Is there a community feel to the place? I well remember, soon after our George was born, a friend called Kathy came over from Canada, and was just visiting Canterbury for one day, so a quick personal guided tour of the city was required. All the main sights, of course, but also a few of my hidden favourites. We went down Hospital Lane towards the Poor Priests’ Hospital, and of course you cannot really miss the almshouses, which may originate as far back as the 12th Century.
Kathy absolutely fell in love with the idea of almshouses, which provide secure, if compact homes for senior citizens. These days someone in an overlarge rented house might free that property in favour of a family, and receive a handy place in the centre of town. I suspect that when Kathy leaves Planet Earth she’ll not have the money to leave to establish almshouses in Nova Scotia under her name. And nor will we.
The old ones were not built for the likes of me all 6ft 3½ of me— but I gather your place is a 21st Century built apartment, warm, convenient, comfortable. Rest and be thankful!
Will.

Growing up

4canal (10) (640x362)

Thirty-odd years ago, the road was new, noisily slicing through orchards, swallowing some of the best growing land in Kent. Nevertheless, our children all loved the walk out of town, by lanes and footpath, through those orchards to the ford with its wooden bridge that memorably was once washed away.

We enjoyed hunting for blackberries, and knew where to find a couple of self-sown pear trees, one quite close to the busy road, and the odd crabapple tree.

Now, as in this photograph, the trees along the road have grown up. I was just cycling that way: the path joins the river path to make a head-clearing short circuit for cyclists or walkers. I was keeping an eye for windfalls (too early) and wild fruit. A few crabs in the bag, one pear tree had been flailed back, the other?

It used to be here, I thought, looking for pears at eye-level, used to orchard trees on dwarfing roots with their fruit readily harvestable. This tree was not modified in this way, and it was by its bark that I knew it. I was reminded of one we had at school, the size of a forest tree, its fruit inaccessible; it was a lovely tree with no branches below 2 metres. With no close neighbour it had developed into a green pyramid, but we ate very little of the fruit.

The tree I was looking at today had plenty of neighbours, some planted by the Highways Authority, but mostly self-sown willow and ash, all so close that their trunks were growing straight up to the light.

And the pears, with their lovely russet peel, were high up, out of reach. Oh well, we might be able to find one or two windfalls for the L’Arche cider project!

bridge.meadows.maycrabtree-rly-488x640The river path and a crabapple tree.

 

 

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When the shouting’s done

 

samaritans' poster cbw

A man recently took his lie after appearing on a British ‘reality’ tv show where a lie detector allegedly ‘proved’ that he was unfaithful to his partner.

Thank God for the Samaritans, including my friend L, who listen in ways beyond the capabilities of such shows. They know, far better than the distressed caller ever can, how much their death will affect others. Here’s another reminder of how to contact them, a poster that greets the traveller at Canterbury West station in Kent.

Talk to us if things are getting to you, 116123.

And if someone desperate talks to you, take courage, and listen.

WT

6 May: the Happy Commuter

steamtrainNI

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.

  • Why did the bicycle catch the train?
  • Because it was two-tyred!

Northern Ireland Railways, 1969.

Passion Flowers.

Our Victorian forebears were rather taken with the language of flowers and could semaphore their feelings through a careful choice of blooms in a posy. Hence the pansy, or pensée in French, signalled, ‘you are in my thoughts.’

Mrs T and I visited Chartham village with Abel. After he had played on the roundabouts at the village green, we wandered into the churchyard for lunch under the trees.

chartham.passion.flower.3

Our Victorian forebears, if they could afford it, erected finely carved stones over their loved-one’s graves. Without much effort at all we found these three carved with passionflowers which represent the saving death of Jesus. There are ten petals for the ten apostles who did not deny him – leaving out Peter and Judas. There are five stamens representing the five wounds; three stigma for the nails, and the fringe of filaments around the flower stands for the crown of thorns.

All this suffering somehow mirrored in a beautiful flower. And by carving this flower over their dear ones’ graves, the three families were proclaiming belief that the dead would rise again with Christ. A good thought and prayer for November and All Souls.

 

passionflower.real.jpg

 

The fifteen minute mixing

sloe.gin

The recipes for sloe gin are many and various and often vague; I went for a simple version with quantities that made sense, rather than ‘just cover with sugar …’ and  so on.

Essentially though, it is sloes, pierced with a fork, sugar and gin shaken up together. After some family consultation I added two scraps of cinnamon stick.

We’ll see. All is sealed in a Kilner jar which has to be agitated frequently.

Maybe we’ll take a sip at Christmas, while the sloes will make a fine marinade for the family meal.

The fifteen minute forage

 

A warm October evening, and Mrs T and I felt lethargic. Time for a walk? Indeed there was, so up Abbot’s Hill we went. Autumn colours showing themselves, but what about the sloes? Mrs T made sloe gin last year, and the family enjoyed it, Mrs T excepted.

There they were on the old hedge, and I had a bag in my pocket. In a quarter of an hour we culled sufficient to our need – and I was delegated to make the gin this year. We slightly overshot our target of 1 lb or 450gm.

On the way down we gathered in the first dozen or so chestnuts: there’s a little squash waiting to be stuffed; a few mushrooms will help. Mists and mellow fruitfulness anyone?