Word from Wormingford
Posted: 24 Mar 2010 @ 00:00
As Lent continues, Ronald Blythe sees signs of spring
“FOR, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come . . .” This is what I had had carved on the tomb of the artist John Nash. Lichen is gradually erasing it, but it is literally true at this moment. What a cold rainy winter it has been. What a singing of birds it is. What a sun pours into the garden and against the old walls, now that the hazel coppicing has been done.
And here is the Song of Solomon open on my desk. “Make haste, my beloved” urges the last verse. “How beautiful are thy feet . . .”, but I mustn’t go on. Scholars scratch their heads over its origin and say that if it is not read allegorically it has no business being included in the canon. But writers I love — St John of the Cross, Richard Rolle, St Teresa of Avila — loved it; so I love it, too. And my singing birds break off to feed on chopped apples and mouldy Christmas cake. What a blessing it is when something cannot be certain.
To be correct, the singing of the chainsaw has come and gone. David brought down a mighty aspen bough which was drawing up the kitchen garden to fruitless heights. Its logs will dry out for a year, then burn well. But I will miss its dreamy voice, which said: “Don’t do a thing. Let me entrance you.”
Duncan has fished a hefty lump of iron from the horse pond. It was a wheel-brake for a carriage, but now it is corroded into a kind of tuning-fork from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. There would have been few steep-enough hills around here to need it. Our lanes were notoriously dreadful, and shook carts and carriages to bits.
Lent plods on. I fill it with the humdrum: page-proofs, and raking. I make plans, make unlikely dishes from the turned-out fridge, listen to Gerald Finzi, write kindly refusals, discuss Shakespeare with the white cat, give morning hymns to Meriel, feed the woodman, talk about the water supply with the council officer, and find primroses.
I hear the politicians shouting the odds, and the village football team distantly hollering. All noise is off. A dear friend goes to God at a mighty age, and on the radio Chopin at no age at all. On Saturday, we are off to Cambridge for the annual Readers’ conference at Selwyn College.
For 20 or more years, Canon John Woods had drawn the East Anglian Readers there out of our isolation, because, although next-door to each other in our clear landscape, we would not otherwise see each other. Writers who are Readers are doubly locked away, and so I find this jaunt doubly interesting. And I like this budding Cambridge, with the Victorian shrubberies about to burst, and the river damps promising glories along the Backs.
This year, I will say compline at tea-time. And say to people I have met once a year for ages, “I’m sorry, but I have forgotten your name.” And they will point to their badge, and I will get out my glasses. And George Selwyn will look down from his frame, and so will his son, John, and the undergraduates will look like children. And the drive back to the parish will not be without melancholy. Like a day at the seaside when we were ten.
Lectures are inclined to make me daydream. While some take notes, I take the opportunity to take stock of the days.