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Word from Wormingford

24 May 2013

An ancient artefact takes Ronald Blythe back in time

THE long cold winter is running into a not-all-that-cosy May-time. But the blossom has missed the frosts, and the plum and greengage trees are very starry. My wildflower meadow is amazing, with everything from fritillaries to an about-to-burst campion, and over-wild tulips are filling it to the brim.

As for the birds, they are shouting their heads off. This morning, a loud cuckoo was almost overhead. And also fleeting clouds - the East Anglian sort, which pile up into racing armadas; so that hot sun and chilly shadows take turns in extremes. The ditches run icily to the Stour, and the ditch near the house is white with wild garlic.

David has cleared a blackberry forest, so the fine lilac can show itself off in the hedge. It is between Ascension and Whitsun, between the cloud of unknowing and Pentecost, when we should be able to see without the candles.

A neighbour arrives at 8.30 a.m. to find me unshaven and in rags. "I thought you got up early!" She has brought me a photo of Nat Jackson's Mesolithic axe-head, picked up by the Mere the other day. On the radio, the Chief Rabbi tells us that it is 33 generations since Moses. The axe lay between shooting weeds. As always, I think of the hands that shaped it, on the high ground of the forgotten village. Somewhere under the sun.

The Mesolithics lived between Palaeolithic and the Neolithic, from 12,000 to 3000 BC, and in a world of flint. Moses lived only last week.

Simon's bees topple about on the "bloody cranesbill" and the crinkly orange poppies. As for the birds, they are operatic. I should be weeding, but the wildflower meadow says, have pity on these outriders! The weather runs hot and cold. There is spring noise and spring silence. Nothing is in between. Everything is positive.

I do some showy mowing. "We can see where you've been," cry the afternoon walkers. I can see where the axe chipper has been - down by our river, in Flintland. Did he sing there? Did he have music while he worked? Did he let the chips fly like the birds? Aeons ahead, an escaped people would sing unto the Lord a new song, for he had done marvellous things.

It is a marvellous thing that Nat holds in his young hands - it is 22-carat something-or-other BC. A master hand had cut it. Poor, tender bleeding flesh at work. Phyllida owns it, and she knows its diamond worth. Countless years later, the Virgin's monograph and the Host would be set in flint on the base of a Suffolk church where I was a warden. This most glorious use, perhaps, was in the flushwork of St Peter and St Paul, Eye. It has been called one of the wonders of Suffolk, and no traveller should miss it, especially when the sunshine follows rain.

The enormous Garrya looks dead. Yet here and there, in a forest of crisply shrivelling leaves, a little green hangs on. "Cut it down," say the know-alls. "It will come to life again." But I'll give it the summer. Who could deny it this; and who could deny the 12th-man ministry of St Matthias, although he is little more than a name? Gaps in factual history are there to be filled with our imagination.

Suffice to say that this lot-drawn apostle was worthy of his rank, else those who had seen, walked with, and heard Jesus, would not have accepted his equality with them. There he is, in the Whitsun room, his presence helping to shake it.

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