THE Epiphany continues. Today, snow-light. White-blue hills,
sagging boughs. A cold to take one's breath away. Delectable soups
on the go. Twenty hardy ramblers descend into the valley. Keith,
our Admirable Crichton, descends on me to paint a room - white. And
Peter, equally versatile, thinks nothing of driving from Thetford
to re-lay the brick floor.
Between them, they expose wonderful and dreadful things, a
century or more of lost treasures and dirt too horrible to tell you
about. For such is an ancient house: a container of modest
antiquities and a lot of rubbish. Here is a George V envelope; here
are objects I've been searching for since last winter. And, of
course, the rooms being upside down, Paul has arrived, so cups of
A ramblers' club appears on the horizon, clumping its boots and
beating its arms. The white cat eats a lot, and travels from
radiator to radiator. I walk in the powdery orchard. I put up green
woodpeckers, and hasten the squirrel on its way. Will it last? This
void of winter?
I think of Georgian families in their box pews and their feet in
nice clean straw as the frozen parson held forth. And singing maybe
"Turn us again, O God, show the light of thy countenance and we
shall be whole," very slowly, as they did then.
I work on some poems for a composer to set. Three or four. I
listen to Schubert's sad-grim Earl King from Wigmore Hall,
supper on one knee and cat on the other, and listen to the creaky
night-time winter. There are hellebores beneath the snow. They
bloom on, untouched by cold. Although, pity the poor traveller on a
night like this.
I remember the pre-central-heating days of my boyhood, when we
baked at the front and froze at the back. Put on another jersey!
Think of the homeless! I lie awake, thinking of my million
snowdrops and of the owls over the river. I think: where have I put
the breadknife?, all sorts of things. Spring cleaning in January is
very disturbing. And the dust! I look like a wraith.
Today, a friend flies to Ethiopia to study Coptic manuscripts,
but before he did this, he drove a few miles to see Copford Church,
there to see the painted Christ in Judgement, who is in
darkness until one presses a coin into a pay slot - as one does in
the high-rise car park. Then he appears, no gentle Jesus, but
someone to bring one to one's knees. There can be no guilty plea.
Go to Copford Church near Colchester with some small change. Be
awed. This is less a pilgrimage than Addis Ababa, and on flat
fields, not 8000 feet in the air.
Christmas is a hundred years past. It is what happens in
January. But the Epiphany is timelessly going on and on. This is
what happens to light. Ice and snow appeared in the morning, but
the stream ran fast, cold, and clear. The dawn was lurid, streaking
across Duncan's barn in the best Rothko style. I filled two pails
from the stream, just in case of a freeze-up. The sun is hot on my
back as I write. A window pane makes winter luxurious. Frozen roses
scratch the glass, tight petal-spheres which will never open. To
have got so far.
Well, says the neighbour, there's nothing we can do about it. He