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Word from Wormingford

by Ronald Blythe

Posted: 24 Jan 2014 @ 12:22

Ronald Blythe takes a seat in a chair named after one of his books

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IT IS one of those not uncommon April-in-January mornings. Cirrus clouds rinsed with gold, animals wearing haloes - which they should, of course. The white cat, spread out on a radiator below the window, like a Roman at dinner, invites the winter sun to warm her. Birds idle above.

A long time ago, standing in the school playground and looking up, I heard a little boy say: "They don't know it's Thursday." Now and then, I don't know it's the 14th, or whatever. Someone knocks and says: "You are expecting me, aren't you?" "Yes, yes, of course, come in." I reach for the coffee/tea.

Jason has brought the Akenfield chair, a handsome descendant of the Arts and Crafts movement. It takes up its position in the ancient room with aplomb. I sit in it, and am at once enthroned. Tim, the wonderful craftsman, has made it out of oak, and maybe fruit woods. I must ask him. I sit in it apologetically, like the unworthy inheritor of a crown. It had pride of place at the Alde Festival.

The River Alde flows vaguely towards the Aldeburgh marshes, and thus to the North Sea. I lived by it when I was young. Now I live by the Stour, and in fine company: Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. Slightly in flood, it glitters through my bedroom window.

When I was young, it poured through the low-lying cottages at Burs, just down the road. No electrics and fitted carpets in those days; so the wooden furniture was hauled up the narrow stairs until the water went down, and was swept out. Seeing today's flood victims in Gloucestershire, my heart goes out to them. Water right up to the telly, boats outside, belated insurance, no dove to announce God's forgiveness.

Constable loved rainbows. He painted one above Stoke by Nayland a few miles from here - knew how to merge the seven colours, all in their prismatic order. There could be a rainbow today, I think.

The Epiphany continues another showing. Another "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning", among which count me. I'm not very bright in the evenings. "Wake up, that boy at the back there!" Fragments of old protests try to stir me into action. What a hope.

On Sunday mornings, before Meriel or Mike arrives to drive me to church, I listen to the radio service, unreasonably disappointed by the thin singing, longing for that glorious full congregational sound. A priest overcomes all the techniques of broadcasting with her prayerfulness. It is very beautiful. I read George Herbert on this programme, and my friend Canon Judy Rees officiated.

I was with my friend Vikram Seth, a Hindu who comes to evensong. It was at Bemerton, near Salisbury, where Herbert was rector for a little more than two years - and changed the face of the Church of England. Should you go there, you will hear the bell that he tolled, and open the door that he opened - and not only to his parish church, but to aspects of believing which remain transforming. He was tall, young, and ill. Coughing, singing to his lute. Writing poems that no one knew about. Vikram Seth has absorbed them, even continued them.

At the Epiphany, we continue in the light. What would we see without it?

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