THREE muntjacs - two grown up, one a
fawn - are feeding on wet blackberries, 50 yards from the house.
When they sleep, do they dream about Java? They eat delicately,
taking each sodden fruit at a time. Their red-brown coats are thick
and damp. They have oriental eyes and twitching scuts. The white
cat surveys them from the woodpile window without indignation. Ash
leaves sail down on to their broad backs, one or two settling like
poppies on the heads of Albert Hall soldiers.
It is very still. Also warm. The tail
end of the Church's year. Harvest-festival flowers hang on in the
cold aisles. It is Simon and Jude. I look them up. Killed in
Persia. Poor October men.
I have written "Finis" to a
book. Put out more flags. I must sharpen my scythe and do something
about the orchard. There are badger tracks between the failing
horsetail. Also a daily accumulation of pear and oak leaves. Not to
mention a muntjac highway.
We have lunch in Willy's pub. Everyone
we hope to see there, is there. In a confused world, how wonderful
it is to find so many people in their rightful places. I preach
about St Cedd, Bishop of the East Saxons, coming down from
Lindisfarne to bring light to them that sit in darkness - a young
man with yellow hair and a painted book. Very bright. Finding an
old fort that once belonged to the Count of the Saxon Shore, he
turns its stones into a cathedral. But his congregations meet under
oak trees, and, in autumn, leaves tumble down on to their bent
heads. They sing hymns that we have forgotten. Maybe here at
Bottengoms, when nobody had heard of Java.
My friend Charles Causley's poem was
put up in lights on Piccadilly Circus. It was National Poetry Day.
It turns everything around: "I am the song that sings the bird." He
lives in a Cornish house named 2 Cyprus Well, Launceston. How often
we went on jaunts from there! I showed him Suffolk; he showed me
Cornwall. Only long ago.
"I am the word that speaks the man."
He hated gardening. They said he should have been Poet Laureate,
but he would not have liked that, either. He took me to see Sabine
Baring-Gould's grave at Lew Trenchard, and I took him to see Edward
FitzGerald's grave at Boulge. It was a courteous exchange of sites.
Poets are so lucky. Their voices cannot die.
I thought I had better read St Jude.
He is ferocious. Oh my goodness! But I like his attack on
"murmurers and complainers", and I love his exulted signing-off.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present
you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion
and power, both now and ever." Now and ever. That is the thing.
It is now 10 a.m. There will be
coffee-breaks in the City. Here, the morning has not decided what
to do, but continues to rest in misty indecision. I would sit
looking out on it, were I not so disciplined. I must pray for the
gift of sloth. No need to do that, the white cat says: "Take a
lesson from me."
St Jude in his few hundred words is
hyperactive. But then, they all are. And never more so than at the
turn of the year. Dreaming keeps you busy, of course. And watching
muntjacs eat hips. And wondering if we could sing the office hymn
for Simon and Jude. But much is beyond us. Especially when late
October gets into the church.