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Word from Wormingford

02 November 2012

Ronald Blythe takes a moment to watch the wildlife in the garden

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.

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