Tag Archives: friends

Foraging has its disadvantages

To gather blackberries you must be prepared for scratches and nettle stings. Lime flowers are usually within reach, though wild cherries are not. Sweet little hedgerow plums also come with nettles and sloes grow on the blackthorn.

Walnuts, once you’ve found them, are often in easy reach of the upright human, but the trouble comes later. To prepare them for pickling, the unripe nuts in their green shells – as seen in our last post – must be pricked all over with a fork before steeping in brine for five days. Pricking the nuts releases the juice, which is a very effective fake tan, or rather a fake 50 a day smoker’s tan, such as is rarely seen today. I could wear gloves, if I could find XXXXL size that would not split as I pulled them on. So I’ll go with the deeply unfashionable nicotine addict look.

And I shall join Mrs Turnstone, who gathered walnuts with me, and others who did not, in enjoying the nuts in due season. (Happy Christmas in advance!)

Going viral X: In the Gloaming

A strange Good Friday but the L’Arche morning service, conducted through a Zoom gathering, made it specially memorable. It was good to see and hear so many friends, all pleased to see each other. The reflections on the traditional Stations of the Cross were personal and insightful, illustrated by photographs of each station enacted by Cana house. It was a privilege to be there; no more to be said about the day and its import.

In the evening we took our walk in the gloaming and saw our first bats of the year. Life goes on; Jupiter beams down as well as the Easter moon, waning now. The last stretch of the planned walk we deferred as it was too dark to see the potholes; home safely for all that. People taking care to distance themselves from each other.

To the Almshouse.

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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.

1 July: Into the forest

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I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, King David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.

But, even setting aside the effect on the climate, something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.

One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.

Perhaps the priests who ran my school were prophetic in sending us boys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left.  Glamping this was not!

Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown, as well as others not here present. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the fathers were prophetic!

MMB

At this table

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A meal in the garden in the company of friends is a great blessing, one Mrs T and I shared this week in Wales. Good local food well cooked. Our friend’s granddaughter has a chef for a brother and seems to share his love for cooking – one passed down the generations!

There was talk of the brother as well, of course, of cabbages and kings. The lad takes a pride in his work, to the extent that he has persuaded his bosses to buy butcher’s meat and fresh fruit and vegetables so that he could prepare better meals at no extra cost. He is feeding young people on activity holidays.

‘And now, instead of frozen, ground down whatever and jars of sauce, they have spaghetti Bolognese with proper, lean minced beef and sauce from scratch.’

…….

I hope you enjoy a few outdoor meals this summer, and that the cooks enjoy them as well as the diners. The next day was bread and cheese for just the two of us, halfway up a hill in Herefordshire. That was enjoyable too: we’d walked up an appetite!

 

On the move.

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I was waiting at the seaside bus stop when a handsome young lad arrived, a smile on his face. He was dancing on the spot, though his headphones were off his ears and indeed switched off. He looked crazily happy, but not crazy!
One of his mates got on a couple of stops later, and so we heard just why the firstcomer was so happy. He’d just got accepted at university. ‘I can’t wait to get out of here, man, and get to university. This place is dead, there’s nothing to do.’
I got off at our local university, to walk home in the Spring sunshine across the green of the campus. Two students alighted in front of me; quite a few prefer to live in the peaceful resort rather than the city.
No doubt there will be young people coming to Canterbury from the town where my fellow-traveller is going, glad to get away from somewhere that has grown too small for them. Many come from London, glad to get off  their patch and out from under their parents’ eye.
I trust and pray the fire that made the seasider dance will burn within him all the days of his life.

Gardening: a gift economy.

 

periwinkleJust 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.

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’.

 

 

A Promise

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We buried our friend Mrs O a few days ago. She had a good send-off, the church comfortably full. I was comforted an hour earlier, to see a rainbow, arched over her house as the rain drifted away into the North Sea. A promise that she will not perish! And the thrush and blackbird were singing.

‘Safe’ by Mary Webb.

Under a blossoming tree
Let me lie down,
With one blackbird to sing to me
In the evenings brown.
Safe from the world’s long importunity –
The endless talk, the critical, sly stare,
The trifling social days – and unaware
Of all the bitter thoughts they have of me,
Low in the grass, deep in the daisies,
I shall sleep sound, safe from their blames and praises.

That is one of Mrs Turnstone’s favourite poems.

This particular rainbow over Mrs O’s house occurred a few years ago.