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.
bbc.video of thrush
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.
The Midnight Spider
In the middle of the night, I met this spider in the kitchen. Whose home is this? I wondered. I brought my finger gently up beneath that outstretched foot; as soon as finger and foot met, the spider spun and bounced frenetically at the end of it’s thread, but then resumed station between fridge and breadbin.
How many flies has it eaten over its short life? Why does it have no more than six legs? Or am I missing something?
There is a hint of France on the horizon in this picture!
Speeding along the Channel Coast – yes speeding – I fancied I could see the monument to Napoleon’s Grand Army on the ridge of hills behind Ambleteuse. That fine, hot summer two centuries ago did not raise a wind to get the men, horses, artillery, supplies and camp followers across to Kent, so back to barracks they had to go. Enterprising oarsmen from ports like Broadstairs and Dover are said to have taken tourists across to see the enemy ships; from a safe distance of course. No doubt the fishermen used the tides and currents to help speed them back and forth.
The Orange Army of engineering workers worked in all seasons to reinstate the track between Folkestone and Dover and enable us to speed along this afternoon. Well done them!
Read about the work here.
Where have I been all this time? Partly travelling across Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. We noticed one thing in common between Polish and British railways: the fruit trees beside the tracks, convenient for the railway workers’ rest huts. These plums were somewhere in Western Poland, between the border and Warsaw. At centre-right, in the opening between the trees, is the silhouette (take my word for it) of one of three young men foraging them.
I warmed to Poland at once!
And their plums are very tasty.
Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the idea of a political marriage to become a nun, had her feast this week. She reminds me to harvest the walnuts.
It’s harvest time because right now they have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.
The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.
Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!
Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent. John Salmon
In the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies the village of Bodsham: barely a village really, but once again it is blessed with a pub. Mr and Mrs Berry have moved their Kaos Blacksmith’s business up here and are reopening the pub, the Timber Batts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to begin with.
On their second day of trading we found a warm welcome, cold Kentish Gadd’s beer and cold Dudda’s Tun Kentish cider, both designed for the end of a warm walk through fields of barley growing for Gadd’s future brews. Crusty baguettes were well filled and presented; we enjoyed them looking across the valley. Kent’s beauty is all its own and on our doorstep.
Two years without a pub, and now this! The quirky interior looked most inviting, but perhaps next time. The sun was shining, we sat outside. I’m sure we’ll be back.