THE classic September days take their time as they succeed each
other. No hurry. They are turning Old Master-gold. Come out and do
nothing, they say. A nine-months-old baby calls and bumps about on
his bottom, talking in Czech and English, but it is all double
Dutch to me. He lives in the Barbican. High up? Low down? Is there
grass? "Oh, yes." I have only his parents' word for it. His round
blue eyes shine.
The white cat lies on the garden wall, taking it all in.
Chiff-chaffs talk monotonously in their thicket; otherwise the late
summer quietness prevails.
Alone, I call my sloth "meditation". The postman brings proofs
of an essay I have written about Laurie Lee, something that has to
be read without reading, as it were, so as not to miss a mistake. I
pick up falls in the orchard: Victorias, apples - the latter are
fit only for the birds, but the plums are bursting and delicious.
And too many to devour at this stage; so I put them into plastic
bags for the fridge.
Coming down to make the morning tea at six, I encounter a Miss
Muffet-size spider attempting to climb the sink Alps, and carry him
to the doorstep. I always mean to study spiders, but there is so
much to do, so little time, as they say. But I am discovering a
method of sorting out small blocks of time for this or that,
although the Lectionary is no help.
A long time ago, I read the wrong Trinity collect, and, at the
door, a farmer's wife said that it had quite spoilt her worship. I
nearly replied, "I don't believe you," which I didn't, but I
thought better of it, and looked contrite, even wicked.
We had a Church of Ireland priest who had the Bible borne before
him on a red cushion as we processed in, which I thought most
beautiful; but she did not. "It quite spoilt my worship."
Little spoils mine. The centuries of words and music and
silences keep me on the illimitableness of what might happen during
a country service. "I spy strangers," we all say, should such grace
us with their presence. From my seat, I watch some of them
plundering their way through the Book of Common Prayer, others
helping. "Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in
continual godliness . . . to the glory of thy Name." Both in and
out of the building there is our inescapably grand history, our
wildflowers, our views.
David arrives to split up the willow logs that he cut last
winter. They tumble musically as the axe falls. He builds them into
shining walls inside the old dairy. It is impossible to feel what
the coming cold will be like. But "sufficient unto the day" etc.,
Jesus said. "Don't look back: remember Lot's wife." And don't look
forward: live for today.
Children always look forward, and have no idea about living for
today. Who would, with so much to look forward to, and maths to be
solved before tomorrow? I like to read old diaries to find out what
Parson Woodforde, for example, was doing in his Norfolk parish at
this time of the year. Eating, of course; but what else?
10 September 1783. "I walked to Church this morning and
publickly baptised Mr Custance's little Maid by name Frances Anne.
After I had performed the ceremony, Mr Custance came to me and made
me a present of 5.5.0 wrapt up in a clean piece of Paper. We stayed
up at night till after 11 o'clock on account of its being a total
Eclipse of the Moon." That evening, he had lost nine shillings at
cards. Turkey and a goose for dinner. The Bishop of Norwich
affable. A single parish. Two cheeky servants.