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Word from Wormingford

31 August 2012

Ronald Blythe becomes a distributor of prizes in Wormingford

THE hare does not bolt when we see each other, but takes his time to look at me before lolloping off into the bracken. He is damp and scruffy, and his eyes are like polished stones. He is a sagacious animal, with a thought process that engages with my wonder.

Humanity and hares have a strange history, when you come to think of it, a dramatic way of try- ing to make sense of one another. We have given hares attributes and plants that have nothing to do with them - and a lot to do with our fantasies. A jack hare with his doe wife and their leveret children do not burrow, but live above ground. The boys box in March.

The Colonel opens the flower and vegetable show, and I award the cups. They have been polished, and stand on black mounts, each with its giver's name lavishly engraved. The Gordon Brown cup, etc. As most of the donors have departed to other rewards, the calling out of their names in the village hall always creates a certain sadness. The Lucas cup, for a single rose.

Long ago, the artist John Nash was being driven by Colonel Lucas's elderly sister, when she nodded off.

"Grace, old girl!"

"Oh, my dear, it must have been the lunch."

The cricket ground is mown to a T, and, although the temperature is in the 30s, looks cool. A dozen young people do karate, all robed in white like our future selves in the carol. They knock each other over with bare feet. They bow east, south, north, and west when the karate ends. How amazing that they live in our village, and, as far as I am concerned, have been more invisible than hares.

But whereas in my boyhood everything in a village was known, now little is known. And this is not because there is a new way to keep secrets, but because everyone who lives here takes a world-view through the internet, and the car, and has limited interest in parochiality. But this year's flower show unconsciously releases something that is pure Wormingford - something that no neighbouring village can have, even if it rents the same bunting and marquee, and shares the same goalposts.

I judge the children's handwriting entries. These could not be more minimal. Softly blaring music, gorgeous cake, unloaded paperbacks, the raffle, handsome ladies who have been in the sun, and, at the end, the sell-off of home-made bread and more or less straight runner beans.

On Sunday - Jonah. Jonah for August. His brief tale has been chopped into three, to last out the month. Which is a shame. And, as we all know, like there not being an apple in Genesis, there is no whale. Jonah's notorious three days in the belly of the great fish are really the least fascinating of his adven-tures.

I like his getting sunburnt as he eagerly takes a grandstand seat above Nineveh - "that great city" - to watch it burn. God shakes his head. He reminds young Jonah of the divine protection that has been at hand all his wayward life - the big marrow leaf, for example, which now shades him from sunstroke. God says: "They are not all wicked in Nineveh. Think of the boys and girls, the cats, the cows. . ." We leave Jonah thinking.


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