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Word from Wormingford

24 August 2012

Ronald Blythe resists the temptation to sit outside and read

I AM surrounded by tyes and teys. Nedging Tye, Marks Tey, Bulmer Tye, Cuckoo Tye, where father came from. They are native to north Essex and west Suffolk, and they began as pastures that were a good way from the main village, but which often grew a farmhouse or some stranded cottages.

Bottengoms Farm is a kind of tye. It grew up along the parish boundary line of Wormingford and Little Horkesley, and would have spent most of its centuries hearing and seeing very little of what went on in them. It would have been a two-mile walk to church in their case. But, with the wind in their favour, one could have listened to the bells.

There is a soft western wind at this moment. It caresses the old walls, and stirs the aspens, making quite a noise. Almost nobody walks here any more. Maybe with the dog, late on Sunday afternoons. They are harvesting; but where? A combine hums from different directions, but there is no Indian fire-like dust to say where.

West winds are luxurious, like the great fans that disturbed the Egyptian air for Prince Joseph, and I have a good mind to sit outside and read No Name by Wilkie Collins. But it gets harder and harder to do nothing, with East Anglian puritanism in one's blood. Polly comes to remind me of the Suffolk Poetry Society meeting.

The lectionary says: "Don't forget Sunday." What happens then? It is all answers. Will the west wind last to blow across the oaken knight and his wives? To carry the butterflies and dragonflies towards the bees as they rock in the balsam?

David arrives to say goodbye before he goes flower-hunting in Pretoria. These friends, how they get about! He attends, now and then, the spiritualist church, which makes me think of Madame Arcati. His real spiritualism is with plants. He can always say what flowers there are beneath his feet.

We have some red wine, and talk of wetlands. The owls have been crying - the Little Owls, which live along the farm track, and which were once called jillyhooters.

Last Sunday, Stephen and I went a dozen miles downriver to Flatford Mill, where it was a family occasion. Youthful fathers and mothers and broods in boats. Or sitting in the bird garden. Or pointing to living Constables. The great artist, who lived in Hampstead, once wrote to his brother Abram the miller, asking him if it would be all right if he brought his seven children to Flatford Mill for a holiday. Abram said: "Certainly, if you wish to have them all drowned."

Locks and mill races are deep and treacherous. The young fathers were holding the hands of their boys and girls tight as they strolled the footpaths. The west wind here provides a descant to the perpetual roar of deep water. A woman is painting a Constable on an easel. The river weeds are rocking with insects. Nothing is still.

But tomorrow is Sunday. Wormingford matins. Little Horkesley's farm-walk. No peace for the wicked. And 2 Peter - so beautiful: "My children, love must not be a matter of words or talk; it must be genuine and show itself in action. This is how we may know that we belong to the realm of truth. . . This letter is to assure you that you have eternal life." I preach on Caedmon the herdsman and his hymn.


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