I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here. The book is available at Project Gutenberg.
Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.
This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.
I was not best pleased to find the hosepipe all rolled up and disconnected when I arrived at the garden. The pump is temperamental, the hose likewise, and reassembling it all takes longer than it should. Perhaps we need a few more connectors.
Well, I was feeling as temperamental as the equipment when, on my knees, I caught site of this damsel fly drying its new wings beside the river. I would never have seen it, just walking by. I even had chance to grab the phone from my coat and snap! These creatures do not sit still for long once the new life is surging through their veins, so I was grateful to have had a good look and to be able to share it with you.
I was dining alone with 3½ tear old Abel the other day, when he put a spoon into his glass of water. (His mother need not know about the 50 year old toy truck that helped feed him by ferrying grapes across the table.)
‘It makes it bigger’, Abel announced of his spoon in the water, so taken with this that he did not notice the photograph being taken,
‘Like your magnifying glass’, I suggested. He considered this for a moment. ‘My magnifying glass is missing.’ I feel sure he knows exactly where it is. He seems to think that things like to hide. Under the piano is a good spot.
But note the budding scientist: don’t tell him he’s wrong, when he is simply not in possession of enough facts and enough vocabulary to say more clearly what is happening. Let’s see if he can find that magnifying glass!
Well, Abel came round again the following day, and after lunch grabbed his grandmother’s hand and took her to the pond. This time there were two green frogs.
There must be something in the genes: thirty years before, his mother enjoyed a close encounter with this frog. She – Abel’s mother that is – was very fond of the red boots and colourful anorak but fascinated by the frog.