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Word from Wormingford

31 March 2017

In this archive column from 1998, Ronald Blythe notes spring moves and spring cleaning


THE spring sale-boards are up, and for me they make sorry reading; for old neighbours are in flight. We rationalise our romantic moves. The children have flown, the garden is getting beyond us, the market bids us up sticks, but in reality the years are telling us, “Why not? What is stopping you?”

So Cornwall or, in Alf’s case, the Costa Something it is. But, oh, the departures, the desolations! and, oh, the increasing incomers whose faces we never glimpse and whose names we never know. And what romantic urge has brought them to Wormingford? And how long do they intend to stay? Well, we know the answer to this: until the children have flown, the garden . . . the tempting market . . . until we are “getting on” — and spring sale-boards elsewhere offer the elixir of life. I had friends for whom all moves were frivolous, and friends for whom earthly existence was a joyous chain of mortgages which ran from house to house: three years were enough anywhere.

I rarely see our local papers, preferring to live in innocence of most of what they call news, but when I do borrow one to find out if Mrs Brown is on at the Odeon, or what they are doing at the Rep, a thousand properties tumble from them. Perhaps there should be a petition to heaven for those on the move, a special prayer for those who are feasting with estate agents at this present.

Spring rains have arrived at last, at last. The enchantment and gratitude to wake up and look out and see the

meadow sodden, and the daffodils leaning over and dripping, the light soil dark, and a damp mildness everywhere. “Yes, thank God for it, what there is of it.” Yesterday I took a diagonal walk across Duncan’s field, which was dusty grey. This nice wet morning it will be “loving”, i.e. clinging.

A bi-annual journey to Southwark Cathedral for the Cathedral Camps meeting, at which we arrange spring-cleans for many an ancient interior. To my mind, the very presence of a score of young people so expertly dusting and cleansing brings a special enlightenment to some great church.

The committee pauses for holy communion, and, as I always do, I glance down from my stall at the grave of Edmund Shakespeare, an actor in his twenties, and brother of the young man at the Globe just along the lane. The celebrant reads Ezekiel, whose fiery language is no match for an electric drill “off”, as William would have said; so that disconnected prophecy floats towards us.

I pay my respects to the poet John Gower in the north aisle, his curly head lying on a pile of his own books. Poor Gower has had a hostile reception — “He has raised tediousness to the precision of a science” — but things are changing. He was great friends with Geoffrey Chaucer, and I see the pair of them on London Bridge, chatting away and grumbling about their publisher, Caxton. It was chill, the Thames slopping against the arches, as I crossed.

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