HUMAN hollering is in fine voice. People are paying good money
to shout. And now the American election roars away. What do other
creatures make of it? I put this question to the white cat, no one
else being around. She answers it with her exquisite silence.
Stadium sound is historic. One must include the House of Commons in
this, and also, most pulsatingly, Welsh rugby.
For me, it has always been voices off. The Olympics have raised
yelling to the heights. I cannot imagine joining in - although one
never knows. To reach our town cemetery, I have to cross the Roman
amphitheatre, where 20,000 ticket-holders, they tell me, once
hollered for all they were worth.
The garden, too, is unruly, since it is mid-September. It is
doing what it likes. The old seat grows moss, the beds anything
they fancy. Sweetpeas rise above it. Such scent, such quietness.
But convolvulus, too, climbs whatever happens to fade beside it:
hollyhock stems, seedy daisies, a gaunt rose. We all need something
to hold on to.
Here, it is pick-your-own blackberries. A big bowl of them raw
for dinner, plus cream. I whet Roger's scythe, and lay the orchard
grass low. The immortal rise and fall of all things - what a relief
to know this. At village funerals, I omit the skin worms, but never
the grass in Psalm 90. The words are so beautiful that it is almost
worth dying to experience them. When one is very old, one passes
through medicine to philosophy, and through faith to
Speaking of passing, what a lot one misses by not taking a
turning. Last Sunday, we turned off the familiar Cambridge road to
a handful of parishes that were as new to me as some territory in
the wilds of Italy. Villages with lovely names: Weston Colville,
We had come to pay homage to a rustic poet, James Withers, and
in his own church. Twin elderly sisters had arranged wild flowers
in it. Deep lanes in undulating fields. Late sunshine. Evensong,
perfectly, although a little uncertainly, sung. Intercessions with
profound pauses from the back. All as it should be.
I spoke from the pulpit on John Clare, the finest of all village
voices. And read his nightingale poem to the most apprehensive of
birds. In it, a boy longing to see its nest creeps through the
undergrowth, nearer and nearer to where it sings; not like John
Keats's nightingale, in palaces, but in a thicket.
How curious is the nest. No other
Uses such loose materials or
Their dwellings in such spots:
dead oaken leaves
Are placed without, and velvet
And little scraps of grass - and
scant and spare
Of what seems scarce materials,
down and hair. . .
A funny year for fruit: almost no Victoria plums; tiny
blackberries; few apples. But, surprisingly, considering the rain
and the last-minute sun, pretty good corn. And now this hot
September, with novels and a drink on the wobbly garden table, and
giant convolvulus winding its way up Duncan's generator to the