I may have enjoyed umbrellas as a child, admiring the exploits of Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain, but when I came to man’s estate, with a heigh ho, the wind and the rain, I became wary of them in other people’s hands. The ends of the ribs are often on a level with my eyes, and I feel even less safe when the umbrella-walker is lost in a mobile phone! The trivial trials of city life!
Heigh ho, the rain it raineth every day, or so it seems this last week, so I don my own protection in the form of a canvas sunhat with a wide brim. After turning off the main road, where all I could hear was the prolonged and monotonous schweeeesh of car tyres on wet asphalt, Kirby’s Lane offered a rain recital.
There was an amplified rhythmic bass line in the hammering of drops on my hat. Unlike much music played on headphones, I doubt anyone else could hear – there was no-one else to hear. The amplification came from the rim’s proximity to my ears.
My feet splashed through shallow puddles, of course. If Abel had been there, we’d have sought out the deep ones, and then the gutter at the edge of the carriageway, which was happily – allegro cantabile – chuckling an alto melody until it giggled soprano into the drain. For tenors I had the downpipes on the houses – one side of the Lane is the backs of tall Victorian buildings clustered around the railway station.
A foolish thing is but a joy, for the rain it raineth every day.
Do we call her the Silver Birch or the Diamond Birch on a grey, drizzly day in January? This is our next-door tree, the bright jewels visible against the dark bricks.
This is the River Tame, brown with peat, passing through Uppermill, Saddleworth, last week. What looks like a weir is a set of stepping stones. I thought such things were imaginary when I was little, as they tended to appear in the sort of story books our teachers thought we should like.
Now there’s a set I can walk across any time I visit my mother.
Well, not every time, as you can see. But there is a bridge very near by, so no great hardship involved.
And yet the river has been known to rise much higher than this, when the upstream flood plain is saturated, and the rain keeps on falling. The bridge then cannot accommodate all the water that pours down; it tries to find other ways through. People get the sandbags out.
It rains a lot in Saddleworth!
So thank heaven the powers that be seem finally to have decided against covering the flood plain with concrete and buildings for a new school!
2.00 p.m.: it was the summer storm we’d been waiting for, though not predicted by this morning’s weather forecast. A good 25mm, 1” of drain-blocking rain in an hour. Before I tackled that little job (and I would have waited for Abel, had I known he was almost on the doorstep) I looked out of the back door.
The rain had ceased. Movement in the apricot tree: a song thrush decided it was time to dry herself off. An all over shake; spreading first the left wing, then the right, preening each with her bill; fanning the tail and giving that a good shake, followed by a dance move no human could copy: head thrust forward and down, feathers all fluffed, then three or four undulations from head to tail. That did the job! Satisfied, she preened herself once more and flew away.
I’ve seen few thrushes in our garden over the past few years. It was an extra pleasure to witness this intimate moment in her life.
When I looked out of the window this morning, I saw that it had been raining in the night. But that can happen at any time in England. What was so spring-like about it? Simply that under the lime tree (tilia) opposite our window was a circle of dry pavement. The leaf cover has arrived! I celebrated with a brew of lime flower tea, though using flowers picked from by the river, not from street trees! A class from the nursery school had taken great interest in my foraging last summer.
I probably should not take my mobile phone to church on a Sunday, though 90% of the time I remember to silence it – and then forget to turn the rings on again afterwards, so receive no messages.
However, the gadget serves to record, once in a while, the glories of what I might otherwise miss. This third-rate photo just gives the impression of scarlet pimpernel and purple grass heads taking over some bare soil at the top of the hill. Almost an abstract.
Lovely enough to say, ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’ (WH Davies).
Next day, somewhat dispiritedly riding home in the rain, I spotted maybe a hundred starlings, adults and juveniles, enjoying the downpour because it was bringing worms and leatherjackets to the surface of the park. Would I have noticed them if they’d been quiet? Maybe not, but they are incapable of staying quiet! ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’
It feels as though Will Turnstone has been hibernating these last few weeks. Did he notice the blackheaded gull in full plumage out there on Valentine’s day? He did, but did not tap the keys. Nor did he tap the keys for the wren that disappeared behind an ivy leaf at his approach, the goldcrest opposite the kitchen window, the bluetit possibly prospecting the nest box used last year; Br’er Fox crossing his and Mrs T’s path at 6.00 in town; the rainbows that punctuated recent showers – a gift from the low-shining sun; the lapwings, redshanks, pochard, and others at Rye, in the company of Mrs T; the daffodils wide awake for Saint David’s Day on March 1st. But be sure that he did indeed notice them and rejoice.