Tag Archives: trees

February 6: and then comes what shall come— Brownings I.

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Robert Browning is writing to Elizabeth Barrett, his secret fiancée. She has told him of her dependence on morphine, as prescribed by her doctor, who is reluctant to take her off it, but agrees to do so, ‘slowly and gradually’. Robert is keen for her to get out and about, for she has been housebound for a long time, and offers her some encouragement. He writes this day, February 6, 1846. His home at Camberwell was still in Kent then, while Elizabeth was in Central London, under the jealous eye of her father.

‘Slowly and gradually’ what may not be done? Then see the bright weather while I write—lilacs, hawthorn, plum-trees all in bud; elders in leaf, rose-bushes with great red shoots; thrushes, whitethroats, hedge sparrows in full song—there can, let us hope, be nothing worse in store than a sharp wind, a week of it perhaps—and then comes what shall come—”

Elizabeth (‘Ba’) had written of when the drug was prescribed:

I have had restlessness till it made me almost mad: at one time I lost the power of sleeping quite—and even in the day, the continual aching sense of weakness has been intolerable—besides palpitation—as if one’s life, instead of giving movement to the body, were imprisoned undiminished within it, and beating and fluttering impotently to get out, at all the doors and windows. So the medical people gave me morphine, and ever since I have been calling it my amreeta* draught, my elixir,—because the tranquillizing power has been wonderful. Such a nervous system I have—so irritable naturally, and so shattered by various causes, that the need has continued in a degree until now, and it would be dangerous to leave off the calming remedy, Mr. Jago says, except very slowly and gradually.

  • The drink of the Hindu gods, conferring immortality.
 from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846”, available on Kindle or online. 
The Apricot is also in bud now, and will soon flower, leaving us to fret about late frosts killing off the developing fruit. Comes what shall come …
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Talking of Trees

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It was the ash trees that set us talking: we were looking for signs of die-back disease, which is in Kent, and cannot be kept from the trees at the Glebe. So far, so good, but V reckoned on a further ten years before we know whether any of ours will be the ones to preserve the species into the twenty-second century.

Naturally we slipped into talking of the elms, still around in our boyhoods. ‘You’ll have to go to Brighton to see a good specimen now’, said V, ‘and they are pumped full of fungicide’. He told me they grow from suckers in hedgerows elsewhere, but once they approach maturity, the beetles find them, bringing the Dutch Elm Disease fungus with them.

A useful tree, we agreed, as well as beautiful. I recalled seeing pipes made from elm, even in the iron-founding Taff valley in South Wales. Perhaps the wood was more flexible, less likely to crack, than cast iron.

Then, what should I see beside the level crossing in Canterbury, but these carved elm gutters, fallen, I guess, from the back of a lorry. How old are they, I wonder? From the smooth channels and the splintered ends, they look as though they would have been good for a few more years’ service when they were hacked up.

1 January: Singing in the New Year.

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It was a great pleasure that the first bird I heard this year was a song thrush from a bush in a neighbour’s garden, closely followed by blackbird, starlings, pigeons, jackdaws … suburban Canterbury on wings.

I gave greater pleasure to Mrs Turnstone when she heard that in the course of tidying the woodstore, separating the kindling from the logs that had been hastily laid on top of them, I had seen a woodmouse scurrying to safety. She had not liked laying down poison for the rats that had infested the other end of the garden, fearing for the colony of mice that has been here longer than the family Turnstone. This year’s Mrs Tittlemouse is made of stern stuff.

A grace note to the story: the kindling was 18 month old apricot. Clattering the sticks together released the scent of the fruit, just as the leaves did. See ‘Two unexpected autumn gifts’, November 24th 2018.

Two unexpected autumn gifts.

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It was a little damp for sweeping leaves, but the apricot was shedding its gold over the public footpath and we didn’t want passers-by slithering at the corner, so out came the broom.

Perhaps it was the dampness that brought it out: a distinct scent of apricot rising from the leaves! I never noticed that before. Let’s hope it’s a promise of harvests to come.

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A few days later, as I went to lock up for the night, I noticed the remaining leaves glowing and dancing in the lamplight. (I wish I could say moonlight, but she was obscured by low cloud.)

A silent disco; people pay good money for such entertainment!

And so to bed.

 

The community of gardeners

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Where the council took out an ailing cherry tree in the next street, they left a void. One neighbour offered a hazel, and another cuttings of hydrangea. With a little tlc they are thriving, but the annual flowers have not enjoyed the dry summer so much. Other neighbours have offered their outdoor tap for watering, saving yours truly a few yards carrying watering cans. Someone else has promised daffodils which can go in next month.

Today I was tackling some of the weeds which have sprung up between the annuals from seeds that have lain dormant for years; fat hen, various docks, sow thistle, dandelions and their friends and relations. Mrs H stopped by: ‘I might have known it was you. Thank you for doing this.’ And just when I could get no more in the bucket, a professional gardener offers to empty it into his van and ‘save you carrying it around.’

All very encouraging! I’d best keep up the good work.

 

A Summer Walk in the Downs

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It’s a while since you were invited to join us for a walk. This one started at the Timber Batts pub in Bodsham and took us by field paths and along country roads, back to our starting point. Boots on!

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Almost at once we are into ripening grain crops with wild flowers blooming along the field margins where the path runs.

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Along this lane we met no traffic except a stoat.

 

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The farm buildings at the top of the hill included this old shed, which looks like a WWII prefabricated building.

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Kent chalkland is not the most dramatic scenery, but the contours lie easy on the eye. Civilisation means that electricity cables are never far away though. But they make life possible for the farmers and other locals.

 

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A few sprigs of wild marjoram (oregano) will help flavour an omelette.

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Scabious on one side of the lane, poppies on the other, wild clematis, ‘traveller’s joy’ in the hedge. Happy memories of using this for our daughter’s wedding last summer.

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Along another lane, we passed this old house, the oaken frame raised off the damp ground on a stone plinth.

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Then into the shade of a belt of trees, which still smells of wild garlic underfoot.

 

 

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The path now is partly loose flint, but naked chalk in places; both surfaces require careful walking, the chalk can be very slippery when wet. This dry summer is another matter.

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Back in the lanes, where honeysuckle and willow herb brighten the verges. But this is working countryside.

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And Saint James’s church at Elmstead is a working church, though 900 years and more old, with a ring of six bells in this unique tower. The church was open.

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And this lady was waiting to greet visitors.

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From the church we went back to the Timber Batts, and after a welcome Disco Cider (made from Kentish Disco-very apples) we attended the Bodsham School Fete; a good day out altogether!

 

 

Si vis pacem pare hortum II, or Willow, willow, willow III

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If you care to return to old posts – Si Vis Pacem Pare Hortum  and Willow, willow willow, you’ll find the day four years ago that  I rescued this bench from being demolished by a willow tree falling across it.

The bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms,  may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.

A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!

And a job well done, if I say so myself.