Tag Archives: home

Going viral VI: Listen to the neighbours

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.

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.

Indoors the fire is kindled

warm.glow (640x637)
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 benediction
And the hills quiet and greyness,
Are my long thoughts of thee.
How should thy friend fear the seasons?
They only perish of winter 
Whom Love, audacious and tender,
Never hath visited.
(from “Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics” by Bliss Carman)
I’m not sure I agree with the last three lines, but perhaps it is up to us to be audacious and visit some of those who lack the warmth of human contact; the elderly should not depend on memory’s long thoughts alone to warm their hearts.

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.

Looking into it.

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.

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.

Be kind to your hairy little friends

spider.bath

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…

Health and (Robin’s) Safety

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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.