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Word from Wormingford

28 August 2015

Ronald Blythe, the horses, and the white cat welcome the rain

A SOFT morning. Bees are working the fuchsias by the door — the one we brought from Cornwall when we were young. We had seen John Betjeman struggling against the wind at Constantine Bay. Here, the rain falls in its reminiscent fashion, drenching everything, the horses and white cat included. It is blissful.

For some reason, it makes me remember those glimpses of a place which one gathers from the bedroom window where one is staying. Little immortal vignettes of a scene, like the one from my bedroom at Leargan, above Loch Rannoch, which was no more than the tip of a pine, and yet which continues to contain all Scotland for me.

Tidying up the fiction, I find myself feeling a kind of grief or sorrow for all the novels I do not re-read. What will become of them? Are their authors still with us? Do I dare to open one of them and turn a page? This one is from an old friend, long gone. It smells new. It opens new.

I begin, and, outside, the summer rain goes on falling through the oak leaves. The church clock sounds the hours. Simultaneously with this old tale, another story starts in my head; for this is one of the ways in which writers work. It is not edifying, this muddling along, and those people who teach you how to be an author in the magazines would not approve. Put it all down to the summer rain, and the coming and going of the next-to-nothing wind.

Friends who once lived here are in church, and say that they are coming back. I had preached on the Good Samaritan before hearing this, and, what with one thing and another, I feel, well, buoyant. It is not as though I had preached on the Prodigal Son. If only it had drizzled all the way to Jericho. It is, of course, a mighty story. It never frays in the retelling. It holds up all the way. Violent, dusty, it takes one aback.

It is 18 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho, the oldest city in the east, and a poor teacher such as Jesus might have walked to it safely, but not a Samaritan. He was not like other Jews. Samaria was his city, not Jerusalem. We are not told the religion of the robbers. They were outcasts, who hid above long and lonely roads until a true traveller with his pack trod into view, “asking for it”. His fate would have been commonplace.

If one had received ritual cleansing for some sacrament at the Temple, one would hardly be likely to get involved in a road accident en route. Other walkers would have been in a hurry to keep appointments. Or simply minding their own business. But it is a deeply accusative story, and one that suits all ages. We still admire those who go out of their way to help others. Christ (Redeemer) went his way, although tempted to take another direction.

The mild morning runs its course. Although you could hardly call it farming, the ancient business activity is going on. But I can hear clankings and engines, and a little human encouragement — and, of course, the little French dog. And even a whispering shower. It is what people run away from for a holiday. For the sun. And what I longed for in Australia. A soft grey day with damp creatures, including dragonflies.

I shall do a bit of scything in the orchard. Nothing much. Just enough to show willing.

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