Three years, give or take a week, I have been working at L’Arche Kent’s Glebe garden. The River Stour flows alongside; not a wide stream, so we can hear, and in winter and early spring, see across to the flats (apartments) opposite. We often hear snatches of conversation as people walk by, but today, for the first time, I became aware that people were talking from one balcony to another. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I was alone on our side, so perhaps I was hearing something that was often going on in the background, even in this age of secure outer front doors and entry phones. But I do think this neighbourliness was indeed something new. It was certainly heartening.
Indoors the fire is kindled;Beechwood is piled on the hearthstone;Cold are the chattering oak-leaves;And the ponds frost-bitten.Softer than rainfall at twilight,Bringing the fields benedictionAnd the hills quiet and greyness,Are my long thoughts of thee.How should thy friend fear the seasons?They only perish of winterWhom Love, audacious and tender,Never hath visited.
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.
The other night I noticed that the hole where the leaf cutter be once laid her eggs was occupied again, I think by another setting of bee’s eggs. The hole next door – well, those four black legs have four more behind them, Any nocturnal insect or woodlouse walking by would not know what hit them.
I was once tempted to plug those holes, for tidiness’ sake. I’m glad I didn’t.
Let’s make this a small picture for you arachnophobes! This is a plea to be kind to the spiders that cannot get out of the bath. It’s that time of year. Don’t try to scoop them up in your hand or a cup, just drape a towel so that one end rests inside on the bottom of the bath. Then she can climb out when she’s ready.
Of course, a true arachnophobe can then worry in case the hairy little creature is in the folds of the towel when you come to dry yourself…
‘He’s the first bloke I’ve had who hasn’t complained about my snoring.’
Advancing age inspires caution when tackling physical tasks. I first observed this as a teenager, working in the local park. The old guys, as we thought of them, got as much and more than we did in the day with less effort. They weren’t afraid of work; most of them had been miners, but knew how to look after themselves as they worked.
So I try to plan jobs to take account of my aches and pains. Now, though, it is important to remember Robin, who takes great interest in whatever we are doing. Today it was stacking logs, just delivered from the orchard, to keep us going through the winter.
For Robin the logs were a source of dainties. After a year or two’s seasoning they had a population of woodlice, worms and other creatures, some of which were disturbed as I moved the logs, only to be pounced on by this miniature bird of prey.
We managed to work alongside each other very successfully. I’m sure he’s as good as any young Robin can be at self-preservation.
One wall of our house has many pitted bricks, like this one. Some of the damage may have been done in World War II air raids on the nearby railway. It’s good to see how this hole has been adopted as a shelter by this daddy-long-legs or harvestman. He fits in very well with the cracks in the brickwork!