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Word from Wormingford

08 November 2013

A room with a view enables Ronald Blythe  to meditate daily

EVERY morning, between six and seven, I meditate on the view from the kitchen window. That is, I drink tea in an armchair, staring at the view across Duncan's meadow, there being nothing else to look at. Birds, chiefly seagulls, whirl around. I suppose not that long ago, and at this particular time of the year, a holy looker might consider them to be the souls of the righteous.

In church, I will read the long list of the departed, and this does create a strange sadness. Can so many have gone to God, and so soon? And their houses gone to others? Their chattels, too? What a curious name for one's furniture. It rattles like a box.

Last year, peering through the local depository, I saw up for sale the pretty chairs that belonged to an old friend. The ones on which we sat at lunch - a long-drawn-out affair because, having got us to her cottage, she could not bear to let us go before four. The gulls leave nothing behind other than a cry. They should be eating the horses' leftovers, but they wing on currents, Chinese-white against the still-vivid autumn green.

I gather fallen pears from the dank grass, wash them, halve them, bake them with just a mite of sugar. And a clove or two. As patron of a nearby redundant church, I should go to see the Christmas lights switched on, but a gale whips up.

The aspens rage, and loose branches fly around. The vine clings to the south wall for dear life. This year, it has paid clinging calls on the Garrya, an ash, and a climbing rose. It isn't at all cold, but benign, if uproarious. And, so as not to appear defeated by weather, quite a lot of people come to church.

A neighbour fetches her daughter from a party at Buxhall, where you can read one of the earliest bell-ringers' ciphers: -12345-21345-23145-23415-23451. . . About 1620, shall we say? Until then, there was just a merry clanging or a sad tolling. Engraved on a bell not far from there, in Latin, is my favourite inscription: "Box of sweet honey, I am Michael's bell."

"Can I take our bell-ringers' service?" Brian enquires. They have made me an honorary ringer, although I have never done anything more than some emergency tolling. Not for me the Buxhall arithmetic. But we can't all be brilliant.

But I preached on Dr Luke without a note, he being a favourite apostle and the Renaissance man of the New Testament - which doesn't mention autumn. Only summer and winter. And spring only once.

Ezekiel mentions a vine that withers "in all the leaves of her spring". A bad sign. A problem for Gardeners' Question Time. A problem for me is pulling all the branches out of the farm track. I find jobs like this more meditative than staring out of the window at the birds.

Ever since I was a boy, I have been fascinated by the imaginative benefits of hard labour - although David's chainsaw is a help. It whines in the shortening afternoon, gives little screams. Flames dance in the wood burner. Advent looms, and keeps me on my toes.

My track begins deep in a sloe and hawthorn enclosure where the Little Owls have dwelt from time immemorial. Worn to a flint groove between tall banks, it becomes the bed of a tiny river when it pours. Gathering strength as it passes the house, it runs into deep ditches, and soon into the Stour. Tom's Lincoln cows eye it morosely.


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