The daffodils have given way to the bluebells which, in turning, are giving way to the buttercups, dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace.
Friends, it is glorious.
Every year I am overwhelmed by the beauty of Spring and the push towards Summer. The English countryside bursts with growth. The grasses, the wheat, the barley, the oats and even the garish rape – all are a rapture in this landscape of ours.
We have lived in Mistley for twenty years and thought we’d covered, in that time, pretty much all the walks and sights in this East Anglian lowland of muds and estuaries – but yesterday for the first time, we discovered Dodnash Woods and Valley and were astonished that it has taken us so long to go there. Of course we’d heard of it for years and been urged to visit it but never have – until yesterday.
There was in the 11th Century, an Augustine Monastery in this little valley we are told; there is a block of stone remaining attesting to this, with a railing around it to protect it from the sheep; but no notes. It is believed to have been founded in 1128 by Baldwin de Toeni and was in use until Cardinal Wolsey’s downfall in 1525. Whether Henry VIII destroyed it along with so many others no-one seems to know though it is a rather water-meadow’d little valley and could not have been a comfortably dry place to live!
to a young child Márgarét, áre you gríeving Over Goldengrove unleaving? Leáves, like the things of man, you With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? Ah! ás the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder By and by, nor spare a sigh Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; And yet you will weep and know why. Now no matter, child, the name: Sórrow's spríngs áre the same. Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed What heart heard of, ghost guessed: It ís the blight man was born for, It is Margaret you mourn for.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1884-1889
“Yes yes yes – we are longing to travel about and will defo. try and see you sometime,” said one of you, Friends, “and eating & drinking goes without saying of course.” But I do know what you mean about rather repetitive chats. In fact we find that lapses into complete silence are not uncommon – and rather alarming, for those of us who used once never to stop talking!
This is an owl which Mabel, one of our fast growing Pixies-of-the-Green popped through the door. Soon we will not be able to call them Pixies, time flies by, and their adorable eccentricities, their divine innocences will fade away. (Too sentimental? Cloying? I hope not! They are very special.)
Reflecting on the effects of the pandemic on our sanity, I have realised that a degree of infantilisation has crept into our lives. The list of nicknames we use has grown ever longer and short cut methods of communication get ever shorter. Passing through kissing-gates is a good example. We learned about them over eighteen months ago from Friend L—–, on a long hike up the Gipping valley from Ipswich to Stowmarket.
I knew they were called kissing gates of course but not how you traditionally traverse them: the first person passes through the gate, turns round, bangs the gate shut and kisses the second person who passes through the gate, bangs it shut and so on until all are through. Terrible bad luck she told us, not to complete this little tradition at each gate. It then took us twice as long to get to Stowmarket because on that route there are hundreds of these gates. An eighteen miler in eight hours with a lot of kissing!
This tradition during the pandemic and our gradual infantilisation, along with holding hands, has been revived on our walks as an expression of tenderness at a tough time and seems not to have frightened the cows or any passers-by who may or may not have caught us in the clinch!
L—– introduced us to another thing that neither of us had heard of, not for our use naturally, the SheWee. A sensible device though I was shocked to find that in parts of the Islamic world these devices have become vital in maintaining a woman’s dignity where Sharia in its extreme form forbids a woman to crouch for natural purposes. Since many hundreds of thousand of women work the fields, in fundamentalist theocracies, this device has a practical and, almost, life-saving purpose.
You learn something new every day.
The 17th May brought Friend L…….(another L) , our first visitor for nearly a year, to stay for two nights. It felt extraordinary I must say. We have become institutionalised by the lockdown I think? Don’t you feel? We have to start learning how to be with friends again. How to socialise. Conversations dry up don’t you find, in the absence of anything new to say? In the past ten days since then, we’ve celebrated a birthday in a pub, had another visitor, Friend M……, to stay, are expecting family to join us at the May Bank Holiday weekend coming, played oodles of bridge online, been impressed with Kate Winslet’s Mare of Easttown, riveted by Dominic Cummings’ appearance in Parliament rubbishing Bojo the Clown and some of his minions, notably Matt Hancock. It’s almost as exciting as a BBC Boxset!
June’s calendar is full.
Julie’s House. Love it or hate it!
We are grappling with the notion of Amber? Does anyone have a view on Amber and its actual meaning? Do we Come or Go, Talking of Michelangelo? Do we make up our own rules or not? I ask because unless the Bojo Clowns don’t make it clear, we cannot get our travel deposits back or know whether or not to travel at all. Apparently neither do the airlines nor, really, the government!
Happy Birthday, Mali!
Mind you, a visit to Minsk might not be appropriate at the present time – my travel insurance doesn’t cover state-sponsored terror or the consequences of mid-air kidnappings by Migs!
And so, forward Friends to the sunny uplands, we hope, of midsummer and an amber Solstice. Away with the rain and cold weather : do you remember the Flanders & Swan weather chart song?
Farmers fear unkindly May, Frost by night and hail by day; June just rains and never stops, 30 days and spoils the crops!
REHEARSALS FOR FALSTAFF BEGIN!