Reaction

Reaction

Today is bright, sunny and began very frosty and cold. Mercifully we haven’t had any snow – I am quite ambivalent about snow – I like to when it lays deep and crisp and even but after a day or so I just want it to go. It will be a short entry today because I have had a bit of a reaction to the vaccination. Nothing to be a drama queen about but I am feeling somewhat ‘under the weather’. 

It began last evening when I was watching the television in rather casual fashion not really taking note of what  was flickering away on the screen. I began to feel cold and shivery but put it down to getting very cold at the Airport and particularly when I had to sit for fifteen minutes in a sort of tourist viewing place on a very hard plastic chair. It was my own fault I reasoned, despite it being very cold outside I had taken off my sweater in the car and had gone in wearing only a short sleeve polo shirt and a fleece. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for the administers of the jab to do their job. By the time I went to bed, even with a hot water bottle, I couldn’t get warm. Inexplicably too my back ached and try as I might I just couldn’t find a position to lie in that was comfortable. I turned one way and then another, twinges shot down my leg, just for. second searing pain pulled at my lower back. Perhaps lying flat on my back but no that didn’t work, on my side then but no because on one side that was where the injection had been and it was getting quite sore, sitting propped up was the only answer and so I slowly nodded off gradually sliding down the pillows until when I eventually awoke I was lying prone, no longer held in a sitting position. The leaflet suggested that if necessary the taking of paracetamol was  a useful way forward and after taking one I did manage to sleep. This morning I felt a bit groggy and for the rest of the day so far I have been a bit headachy, chilly, and lethargic. Fair to say I feel a bit as though I have got a mild attack of flu.  Thinking that siting reading my latest novel might be a way forward that wouldn’t be too arduous etc I sat beside a radiator and started to read. Suddenly the book fell to the floor and I awoke with a jerk. I tried again and the same thing happened. I shall finish writing this and then maybe go and watch some TV and probably fall asleep! 

When I wrote yesterday’s piece I forgot to include the fact that the eight before I had looked out of the window when I went to bed and the sky was star spangled, Orion’s belt was clearly visible but also a number of other individual stars shone diamond bright and above it all a waxing gibbous moon silver and bright. The frost that had already formed on the grass, branches and twigs and that had iced over the puddles in the plough field glittered white. 

I was interested to read in today’s paper that in the latest survey of garden birds there was a decline in many of those birds that one might think would be around in all gardens. Apparently Blue Tits, Sparrows and Starlings are in short supply. Perhaps because we live out in the countryside where there is an abundance of bushes and trees etc we have not seen such a dropping off of numbers in these species. In fact the Sparrow population has increased at the feeders in the past few weeks and Blue Tits and Great Tits are always around. We also see Starlings on a regular basis but in no great quantities. I have, however, not seen any Long Tailed Tits this year and this is a shame. The Robin arrives every day and after perching in the bush nearby he lands on the ground below the feeders and pecks up the pieces that there drop. Each day, too, the fat pigeon arrives along with the two Magpies that scavenge on then garage roof. 

In ‘normal’ times we would often see aircraft trails in the sky and hear the dull hum of them as they flew to distant lands. Since the ‘lockdowns’ there have been very few but as I glanced out of the window I saw the white contra trail and high in the sky the silver mechanical bird flying high above.As quickly as it came it disappeared as though it had never been. Strange how seeing a plane is now noteworthy, something to comment on. It must be cold out still because the large saucer like bowl I have used as a birdbath is still frozen over.

I have always been fascinated by the patterns ice and frost make on windows. Ever since, as a small child, I woke to find ferns of sparkling whiteness obscuring the light I have wondered at this natural phenomena. Yesterday the conservatory windows were covered in delicate vertical ice stems each encrusted with myriad stars for flowers. Defying the cold I went into the conservatory to take some pictures and I have added them below.  

Red Sky in the Morning

Red sky in the morning

This morning I woke to see the brightest of red light pouring through the window, reflecting from the wall and bathing the room in a warm rosy glow. When I looked out of the window the entire sky above the sea wall, in the distance, was on fire with enormous streaks and flames radiating from the fire ball of the sun. While the heavens blazed the land lay silent and frozen white and diamond scattered, each twig, leaf, branch, blade of grass, ridge and furrow and water filled tractor rut lay silvered and solid – the world was turned to an icing whiteness that sparkled and glittered, glinting with  scarlet  as the fingers of sunrise reached out and touched them as it passed. The silvered world stayed but slowly, and almost imperceptibly, the crimson. glow of the dawn faded and  a cloak of cloud reduced the fading golden rays to mere streaks that clung to the horizon until they too were subsumed into the all pervading oppressive blanket of pewter grey. Later in the morning the bloated water filled gloom burst with a down pouring of rain and sleet that beat on the windows and lashed the last of the frost until it disappeared. Now the distant hills are lit by that overly bright sunlight that pierces its way through the clouds to beam a searchlight of brightness on to a small area of land whilst the rest of the wider landscape is carpeted in a dull shadow that renders it a backdrop to that which is stridently glowing in jewelled colours. This mornings array of weather more than adequately illustrates the old adage of red sky in the morning shepherd’s warning. 

Late in the morning the phone rang and it was the vaccination centre to ask me if it would be possible for me to attend at lunchtime instead of later on in the afternoon. Needless to say I was only too willing and with plenty of time to spare I set out across the marsh. I stopped off to drop something into a friend and went on my way through the rain, wind and sleet to the car park at the Airport. A friend had told me that she was registered with the surgery at Lydd and it was impossible to get through to them at any time and she asked if I could ask about arrangements for those such as her. There was a queue but it was fairly speedily moving and it wasn’t very long before I found myself standing on the threshold of the actual vaccination room. Ushered to a place, my name date of birth etc was checked and the vaccine administered, then a fifteen minute wait until I could leave. I was able to find out that my friend could go to get her vaccination later today and that she just needed to explain that her surgery was the one in Lydd. On my way home I delivered the good news and then headed back to have a very late lunch.  The whole operation was impressive in its faultless organisation and all concerned are to be congratulated on the courteousness, kindness and efficiency of everyone – from the volunteers who shepherd us oldies through the system to the medics who administer the vaccine. Thank you. 

I am conscious that I have not thanked all of you for reading my ramblings for some time now and to those of you who are in the USA can, I am sure, look forward now to a brighter future. I watched the inauguration of President Biden and was very much impressed by his speech of inclusion and unity. He strikes me as a seasoned politician who knows the reality of the task ahead but also a man that has the courage to dream, and a genuine desire to try to make that dream come true for as many people as he can. A man with integrity and vision. 

 As I write I am listening to Vera Lynn singing a medley of second world war songs that made her famous but which have also been credited, on occasion, with inspiring those who first heard them with a faith and spirit to carry on no matter how bad it got. I remember my parents singing along when, after the war, she was on the radio and for me they still remind me fo them but also of that indomitable spirit that appeared to see their generation through six long and dreadful years. We haven’t been in this ‘lockdown’ for quite a year now yet we are all finding it so very difficult at times. Are we not made of such tough stuff as their generation? I think we probably are just as resilient but they too must have had their moments when the despaired but they picked themselves and carried on and we shall all do the same. 

Well I must stop – I have parcels to deal with – I have decided to send my sister the remains of her Christmas presents. She is on her own and in these cold, wet snowy, gloomy days she could probably do with something to distract her even if for only a little while. There is nothing very exciting but a parcel arriving is always an event that calls forth a bit of excitement. 

Vera is singing Rose of England – stirring and uplifting if you have a mind to feel patriotic and if not there are two Magpies in the yard – two for joy then! 

Not the most prepossessing building by a very long chalk but nevertheless a potential life saving one for most of us here on the marsh.

Sunset.

Sunset

Today is a dry again and although a bit chilly generally bright. Yesterday’s walk at near on sunset was only just taken in time to catch the last of the sun setting and although it was beautiful it was not the most spectacular sunset. The skies were a pearlescent opal with delicate shades of the palest pinks and yellows edging the rolling peaks on the mountains of the clouds. Over the village there hung  swathes of misty, dark grey/blue clouds that veiled  the going down of the sun. Gradually and slowly the light faded, the moon rose and the night crept on. I walked the length of the lane and then crossed the small sheep field, noting that there was a black 4×4 parked near the gate and surmising that the occupant was probably walking a dog. Out onto the main path that follows the ditch across the marsh, with slippery, muddy ground beneath my feet and having to use the stick to keep my balance, I noticed someone way across the field with a dog – presumably the car owner. On I plodded, every now and then taking another picture to record the changing light and to catalogue the passing of the light. Soon I was opposite the farm buildings and the yard entrance. It is open to the field and I decided to cross the yard and head for home. Puddles of murky water dotted the ground, giant machinery stood as metal monsters of some strange torture, lined up in the open fronted sheds. Around the corner and on the concrete apron in front of the grain drying sheds – empty now and echoing the sounds of my foot steps and taping stick. Heading for the padlocked gate out of the yard and into the lane, past the old wooden sheds that once had been the centre of the yard and had latterly held sprays and other substances that were supposed to be secure under lock and key. Now they stand with the door hanging off, peeling paint and a sagging roof. The vestiges of a bygone age that speaks of a farming that was less factory, much slower and probably respectful of the soil and the natural world, that changed with the seasons, that worried about the corn being dry when it was collected in not needing to be dried in great industrial units that buzzed and whirred day and night until the humidity of the crop reached the specified mark as set by some authority that had no idea of how corn is grown, of when it should be harvested or that some one somewhere depends on the land for their life and livelihood. Out into then lane now and heading for home as I notice that there is someone putting the dog into the 4×4. The man changed his shoes and was about to climb in when I reached the car. We passed the time of day and he asked if I had seen the Barn Owl fly across the field. I hadn’t but we agreed that the fact that there was such a creature around was truly magical and wonderful. I shall go down across the field another day as dusk is falling in the hope of seeing it. Such wondrous creatures and above all absolutely splendid that we have at least one so close by. The gentleman said that he has seen the Owl before so I stand a good chance of seeing it if I am down there near the buildings as it starts to get dark. On my way back I saw some scrapped earth in amongst the grassy tussocks – they looked as if they might have been made by a badger perhaps but nothing of real substance to confirm my theory. In the distance, way across the marsh, smoke rose from a bonfire, curling its way up into the dying light and dissipating into the sapphire skies. A pinprick of piercing light stretched a single beam across the fields from a far distant cottage window and the world resided in silence and quiet calm. Above my head a great flock of birds, dark, sharp silhouettes with sabre curved wings flew in formation making not a sound but purposefully heading for a destination that only they knew. The pond stood dark and ponderous, still and unmoving in its tranquility, reflecting the last of the pink tinged clouds that rose above the black outlines of the churchyard trees. 

Today, as I write, I have just glanced out of the window and the yard trees are etched onto the peach pink clouds that rise like candy floss mounds, unmoving and slowly fading with the last of the light. 

Today I received a surprise book as a present. It is a small but very interesting tome that documents the history of hop growing and picking etc in Kent and Sussex. It includes a number of illustrations that show the changes from hops growing in ‘pole work’ to the more modern mode of cultivation in the latter part of the twentieth century when ‘wire work’ was used to support the lines. Today, too, is Waitrose day. As usual there will be some surprises as I have forgotten what I have ordered over and above the essentials. Meanwhile my mind has had to turn to the perpetual question of what we should eat tonight. The temptation is to go for something easy. Nevertheless it is easy to be distracted and I just have been by the twinkling of a light shining across the fields and that appears to e coming closer but maybe that is some kind of illusion. Where is it coming from? Is it from one of the few houses on the narrow lane  that runs three or four fields away? Or is it from the farm? Have they put in some security lights that automatically come on with the fading of day? On the hill side a smaller and less strident light shines out from one of the parts of the zoo. The castle is scarcely visible apart from a floating string of pale pin heads of brightness that stab through the gloom. Otherwise the night is falling and silence prevails. 

Vaccination and Sheep Products!

Vaccination and Sheep Products!

Well what a splendid day it is all thing considered. The sun is shining, the sky is a magnificent crystal clear for-get-me-not blue and the morning started with a sparkling white world outside the window. The muddy fields, stark black skeletal trees and murky puddles were all transformed so that they glittered and shone in the golden fingers of light that touched them with the rising of the sun above the sea wall. The Magpies are back for their daily snacking on the garage roof, one of the bird feeders was filled with peanuts yesterday and today it has attracted a continuous stream of customers including a Starling who stayed for some long time. As I write I am listening to Vera Lynn singing “There will always be an England”. I know it is overtly patriotic in a way that is exceptionally frowned upon these days and some of the words  would certainly call forth the ire of many, but the general sentiment does still appeal to me. The picture of England as a place that is epitomised by the images of “country lanes”, “cottages small” and “fields of corn” very much speaks to the current longing throughout the past year for seeing England as rural and the countryside as the place to be. 

In other very pleasing news and in praise, really, of social media  I have been able to secure an appointment for my Vaccination. Thanks to  a local social media site and a phone call from a friend I was alerted to the fact that my local vaccination centre would be open throughout the weekend and that they were calling for people to contact their local surgeries to book an appointment if they were able to attend. Clearly they did not want to be in a situation where they could not use all the vaccinations they had available and so they had extended the age range to slightly lower age groups. I waited until this afternoon before ringing my local surgery and I did so with some trepidation, not least because I didn’t want to deprive a more deserving person but my original intention had been to get my name on a list of people who were willing to be called at short notice but rather than that I was offered an appointed time slot. In all fairness I think it is certain that the more people who are vaccinated the better and that this is the only way we will be able to beat this pernicious virus. Having said all of that I am almost beyond excited – weird really.

While I am writing some of this blog in then middle of the afternoon the remainder I am planning to write after I have been for a walk. As regular readers will know I can’t resist a sunset, particularly at the moment, and so I am planning to write the rest after I have been out and I am hoping I will then be able to add a picture of the sunset. In the mean while I am going to attempt to package up a few items that I would have given my sister for Christmas. Because they will be too large to push through a letter box I am going to try and book in a collection from the postman but first I need to weigh the items, package them up securely and sort out the labels etc. Likewise I have some things that could go to one of my children and so perhaps I will do those as well. 

Yesterday I finally got around to ordering a new duvet and two pillows. At Christmas I bought himself a British wool duvet and ever since he has been singing its praises and for sometime I have been meaning to change my pillows. They have gone flat and are made of some synthetic stuff that is probably not the healthiest and so as I had a money off offer I took the plunge and ordered from ‘The Woolroom’. If anyone is looking to buy any such products I can highly recommend them and at the moment they have a sale on which meant that my purchase were reduced by 30%. They specialise in British wool products and can trace the provenance of their products to specific producers. I expected to wait a few days for my order to arrive but this morning I got a text message telling me that everything would be delivered by lunch time today. They duly arrived, packaged in a large cardboard box and each item in its own zip up pure cotton bag. As an extra bonus postage and packing was free. If I have any criticism, and it is very minor, it is that when they are first removed from the packaging they smell a bit of sheep. I have no problem with this – in fact I quite like it because the smell transports me back to my childhood and the sheep shearing that I used to watch when my father was working away on hot summer days. The sheep smell only last for a very short time and is completely outweighed by the  warmth and comfort of the products. I have included a picture of my packages just because I am so pleased with them.

The walk was pleasant and not too cold but I have only included one pictures of the sun set – again pleasing but not spectacular, rather more under stated.

Wind and Rain

Wind and Rain

Well today started bright but rather windy – an ideal day for getting washing dry in fact. Last night the wind had howled and buffeted its way around the house until the early hours when it appeared to have abated somewhat. The weather forecast for today was not encouraging when I saw it in the newspaper but by that time it was too late, the washing was in the machine. It continued bright and breezy throughout the morning and there seemed every chance that my laundry would dry. By this afternoon it was clouding over a little but I calculated that I had enough time to walk to the bottom of the lane and back before any kind of dampness set in. Off I strode past the long puddles that flanked each side of the lane, pausing at the pond to notice that the the water is creeping ever nearer to the lane side of the verge whilst also noting the ever growing extent of the pond as it rises and covers a greater area of the field. The ditches that have been newly created in the dips in the ground are becoming watercourses in miniature, grass bottomed with peat brown leaves drifting along in the clear water like shoals of exotic fish swimming among the tussocks and clumps of gently waving green. There are branching tributaries, narrows where the water moves more quickly, widened areas of shallow mini pools, and straight lengths high banked by the surrounding field. On I marched until I reached the fir tree that stands alone and buffeted by each and every passing breeze and tempest until it has become bent to one side by the prevailing wind, and now growing in a shape that leans towards the road as though bending down to whisper into the ear of a passing traveller. Using my walking pole for stability I climb up the grassy bank to get a better picture of the  ditch and the reeds that swayed and rustled. Getting down as not quite so easy and as I positioned the pole to make my descent the rain began. Not very much, not very hard, rather a drizzle but with an edge of persistence about it. On to the road and a brisk pace heading back home. Not brisk enough though I thought as the rain intensified. I broke not a sort of ungainly trot – my version of a run I suppose but with dodgy knees and a back that can be a perfect menace gracing my perambulation with the word ‘run’ is almost definitely an over statement of the most exaggerated kind. Nevertheless I did do my best to actually run. Not fast, certainly ungainly, rather a sort of very speedy hobble really. Gasping for breath, huffing and puffing like an old grampus, I fairly quickly covered the ground and was soon approaching the barns. Then the rain began to ease and my reasoning persuaded me that the washing was already damp and one final spurt would not make any difference. A brisk walk and I was collecting the washing in. Not, however, before I had exchanged a few words with my neighbour who as heading out to collect her children from school. I apologised for my rather unorthodox outfit but explained that it was ideal for the weather. Her reply, delivered with a smile, informed me that she had wondered who the ‘vagrant’ was coming up the road. 

Yesterday I received my order of bird food and today I filled up the bird feeders. I am pleased to say that they have been visited by most f the ‘frequent fliers’ that usually visit them, the Robin came to perch on top ad trilled away as though he knows something about Spring coming that I don’t. The two Magpies are here each day now. They saunter about on the garage roof pecking in a studied casual way at the moss that as grown there. Once they have exhausted their criss crossing of the roof they fly off into the yard and settle in the trees for a while before disappearing. A fat, fluffed out pigeon has been waddling around on the ground under the feeders. Himself has suffered no real ill effects from the vaccine apart from a slightly sore arm. This was not mae any better by my absentmindedly touching the very spot! 

I can highly recommend the Richard Osman novel. I am about half way through and can confirm it is a real page turner – one of those books that you don’t want to put down and want to read on but which you will sorry you have finished the moment you have. For anybody ut there who s interested I have noticed that a second Thursday Murder Club book is due out in September this year. 

Vaccination Day Adventure

Vaccination day adventure

Today has been little short of unpleasant weather wise. Wet and windy and a damp chill with uniform dirty grey skies sapping the colour from everything and lying like a soggy blanket clinging to the earth. Last night, as on the previous night, I went to sleep to the sound of the wind rampaging around the house, beating a tattoo on the windows, and rattling the bare tree branches. 

This morning, however, was greeted with a certain expectation, for today was ‘vaccination’ day for Himself. Up with the lark, well not exactly the lark but rather earlier than usual, rather like a child that is slightly over excited. Dressed in a short sleeve shirt so that it will be easier for the vaccinators and me equipped with a couple of two finger Kit Kats in case I was sitting in the car for some while. Of we set, far too early, but rather too early than too late. As predicted we reached the Airport car park with plenty of time to spare – actually about 30 minutes to spare! As I had driven along the Romney Road towards Lydd I had been followed by a stream of cars and fondly thought they were all occupied by the over 80s all heading for vaccination. When I turned off onto the Airport road this proved to be entirely wrong – only one of the seven or eight cars followed me.  Those who said the Airport road was long were not wrong. Twisting and turning, past a rather tumble down farm yard, across a bridge over a ditch full of murky water and still wending our way across the fields into the the great ‘beyond’ or the middle of nowhere as some might think of it. Past a hanger and a high chain link fence that displayed a sign announcing that this was the home of the Search and Rescue Helicopter, then past a covey of light aircraft all lined up neatly on the tarmac. Spread in front of me an expanse of Tarmac that was clearly the car park and at the far side of it a longish, low, white, flat roof building probably put up in the 1950s. Like some private air field as seen in a second rate espionage movie the Departures sat squat and scruffy looking facing the elements of wind and driving rain that roared across the wide open space from the sea shore across the fields. God forsaken, exposed, uninviting and bleak were all descriptions that came to mind. A lone man walked his dog across the ragged grass. At first glance the car park appeared to be fairly full and if that was an indication of how many people were in the building for the vaccination it struck me that we might be waiting some long time. Because of the inclement weather I was determined to park as close to the building as I could. Ignoring many spaces I drove to the very front of the building and there found several parking bays. Into one right opposite the doors and then to sit for a fair while before Himself walked the short distance to the entrance. Elderly people came and went and about ten minutes before his appointed time Himself set forth to his latest ‘adventure’. Sometimes he takes a stick with him but today that had been rejected out of hand and with firm stride he strode in through the double doors. I sat waiting, irritated with myself because I hadn’t brought a book to read and resigned to a long wait with only people watching to occupy my time as I waited. Every now and then a person that I surmised might be a volunteer or a member of the work force came out of the doors and stood in the lea of the building to smoke or wandered to the parked cars and disappeared. A steady flow of those who had been vaccinated wandered, staggered, shuffled or were pushed in wheel chairs back to waiting cars. Rather unexpectedly and rather suddenly a 4×4 police vehicle swept across the car park, drove through the ‘drop off’ area directly in front of the Departures doors, hesitated for a moment and then continued to the front edge of the car park and parked up. Had they arrived in the expectation of being needed to break up a pensioner riot, brawl or rave? Did they think it all might turn nasty and that wheel chairs, walking frames and sticks might be used as weapons to access the front of the queue? That elderly ladies, who had shuffled slowly into the building would reveal themselves to be as agile as a teenager and attack others with knitting needles secreted in their capacious bags? Bored with waiting and having nothing to do all of these scenarios fleetingly crossed my mind. Apparently none of these possibilities had brought them to the Airport because they never got out of the nice warm car and after a while silently disappeared.

After about fifteen minutes Himself re emerged. He had nothing but praise for the whole process and the army of volunteers who were considerate, kindly and unfailingly courteous in their solicitous help and reassurance. So quick and easy was the actual vaccination that he hadn’t realised it had been administered until he was told to put his jacket back on. As a “treat” we came back home the ‘long’ way round. Feeling slightly naughty because we were legitimately out but perhaps in the spirit of lockdown we should take the short way home we still kicked over the traces and went to Lydd and Dungeness. Down the long road to the Ness, driving between the gravel pits full of water rippling with never ending waves, eventually out on to the coast road. Today it was bleak and wind swept but nevertheless the land and seascape had a unique and special atmosphere that draws one in. As we drove we discussed the merits of living so close to the beach and the sea. I felt that on a stormy winter night I might find it somewhat threatening but could certainly see the attraction of this wide open space. A lone boat was drawn up on the beach and I couldn’t resist the chance to take a quick picture. I remembered that many years ago when I had come along this road – it was much less built up then in the 1960s or 70s – there had been one particular house that I had always really liked and admired. Unlike all the others it was brick built, tall and very traditional with an old fashioned air. Then there it was. Still as handsome as ever, but rather out of place in some ways among the bungalows and modern houses. Like a grand vestige of a bygone age. It probably isn’t as I envisage it inside and maybe it is better to live with the fantasy than know the reality, who knows? Then on home to a cup of frothy coffee and the question of what to have for lunch. The adventure was over! I was left with the, perhaps, foolish dream of what it would be like if I could afford to buy a small house right by the shore. 

Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night.

Today began with rain – not heavy showers but just enough to leave pearls of water on the window panes and leave the garden paths dark with dampness. Last night I went to sleep with the sound of the wind sloughing and sighing as it whirled around the house. When I woke in the night it had taken on a more aggressive stance with gusting roars that faded only to return with another barrage. The wind has dropped now to a slight breeze and it has stopped raining, at least for the moment, although the darkening grey skies threaten more to come. 

Today started, well not exactly first thing, with an incident with the bins. Today was recycle bins day and usually the bin men come at around eleven thirty leaving me plenty of time to pop any odds and ends out in the morning. Today was no exception. I should explain why. Himself is assiduous to a fault in locking the door as soon as it gets dark. I have no idea why but imagine that he has decided that an intruder, individual with ill intent or whatever, will only assail our home once darkness has fallen. He may of course be right. Anyway this means that any recycling that is generated by my preparation of supper is kept inside until the morning. Today it was just a couple of plastic fruit containers and a tin that had held peanuts. I love peanuts but feel I must ration myself so a tin of them last a long time! To get back to this morning – I carried said items out to the bins that had been part of yesterday’s ceremony of the bins and now resided at the end of the drive. I was fully expecting that they would still be standing ready to be emptied. Not so. They stood in the middle of the drive, black box for newspapers and cardboard slung across the drive with its lid some way away. More annoying and irritating, but sadly possibly predictable, was the fact that although both bins had been emptied the black piping that came from the old garden arch lay strewn across much of the drive entrance. I had had my doubts about putting the pieces in the recycle bin but had reasoned that they were metal and therefore were presumably recyclable. Not unreasonable I thought. Clearly totally unreasonable. I had to collect them up and take them back to the area behind the garage and they will have to now await the resumption of tip opening when I will be able to take a boot load of stuff for dumping. The bins have been brought in and order has been restored. Almost more annoying was the fact that Himself, when told of this eventuality, reminded me that “I told you so”. 

Preparation for what has been designated ‘vaccination day’ here have begun to be put into train. A reminder was sent to my mobile this morning and Himself is calculating how long he thinks it will take us, or more accurately me, to drive to Lydd Airport. We will be there far too soon and have to wait, bored, in the car until we are somewhere near the appropriate time. Himself is sure that there will be queues of eager over eighties, and he may well be right. Questions about mask wearing, how will it work, will we have to wait etc? My big question – not voiced out loud – is should I take some food and something to drink? The clothing issue has also arisen. A shirt that can easily have its sleeve rolled up and a ‘top coat’ that is easy to remove would seem to be the most sensible way to go. 

I am at this moment totally enraged not to say angry beyond belief. Why? I have just had a call on my mobile – not a number I recognised and probably I shouldn’t have answered – in fact now I know who it was and what it was about I certainly shouldn’t have answered. The caller, a woman, began by using my first name and asking how I was. I began my answer by refusing to confirm my name and asking who the woman was. She told me there was “Nothing to worry about” and that she was ringing as a representative of a funeral company and asked if would I like to discuss funerals. She got no further. I slammed the phone down shouting that I was thoroughly disgusted by her impertinence and crass behaviour, finishing by shouting “how dare you”. Bearing in mind the news of so many deaths over the last few months such calls, unsolicited in any way, and quite probably made to many people who have not been as fortunate as us, are little short of down right disgraceful and demonstrate that some in our society have sunk to even lower depths in their money grabbing than I would ever have thought possible. While we see every day that the pandemic has brought out the very best in humanity clearly it has also achieved the opposite in some people. Although by no means in the same league I also get infuriated by those calls that come from what I believe are called “ambulance chasers” – legal firms who ring on the off chance that you have had a car accident and might want to claim some spurious compensation for some injury that can’t be proven. They always begin by referencing a so called car accident that might or might not have actually happened. My answers to them have become more extreme over the years. Now, as a fully paid up grumpy old woman, I deny that I have ever had any form of car accident and how dare they suggest I have. They invariably respond with an apology for disturbing me. Another tactic that I employ when in a more mischievous mood is to pretend I can’t understand them or that I am slightly deaf and have mis heard. My answers bear no relevance to their enquiries. They usually begin by asking if I am who they think I am. My response is “Who dear? He isn’t here at the moment dear.” Followed by “next Tuesday, no I don’t think I can.” Then “Is it Wednesday?”. In variably the caller puts the phone down!

I have written my poem for the Poetry Group on the theme of Red. Not my finest work I think it is fair to say but here is a copy for those of you who might want to read it. 

Red Sky

Red sky in the morning 

Shepherd’s warning. 

Dawning day breaks dreary.

Leaden heavy, bruised pewter,

Canopy of cloud oppresses the land.

Gashed, rent, torn and shredded

By blood orange wounds flaming,

Dripping, weeping and seeping,

Cutting a swathe of light across each

Field and hedgerow.

Skeletal, crow black branches

Reaching aloft, scratching, stabbing,

Piercing, until the cloaking gloom

Conquers all and the rains come.

Eventide silently creeps on

With the slow dying of the light.

Redds stand sentinel, feathered

Against darkened land, reddened sky.

Domed mackerel skies pearlescent calm.

Clouds streaked tawny, glowing

Embers scarlet bright.

Reflected rose gold rimmed

Horizon ablaze as the glowing orb 

Slowly sinks, swallowed by the land.

Red sky at night

Shepherd’s delight.

Spring is Coming

Spring is coming!

Another dry day today – not as sunny and wispy cloud is obscuring the blue. The early morning frost silvered the sheep field as fingers of light stretched across the marsh from the sea wall. Puddles and standing water stood solid and firm beneath a sheet of patterned marble, while the bird bath was glazed and smooth, the pebbles beneath shining and clean. 

The usual visitors came to feed at the bird feeders but the supply of food is very much diminished such that only a few fragments of the fat balls remain for the most persistent and tenacious of customers. The Robin has been singing his heart out from the yard and the Hellibores in the bed in front of the kitchen window are in bud with a couple in full flower. They aren’t any special type – just some that I was given as small plants some years ago. They spread and seeded and most of the flowers are a slightly muddy pink or in some cases an almost blackish maroon with a centre of the palest lemon, creamy, yellow. Whatever their colour they are truly harbingers of Spring. Once I saw the buds I went outside to cut away the old big umbrella leaves so that I can see the full glory of the flowers once they are in full bloom. Typically, once I started cutting the leaves away and had more or less finished I noticed other plants that could do with a bit of a tidy up. Some catnip had sprawled its way across the primroses and jonquils that were beginning to peep through the soil. I needed to cut the growth back so that this years would be more compact and neat and today seemed a good time to do that, then I moved on to a few other shrubby plants that were, likewise, obscuring the spring growth of smaller plants. The Buddleia is badly in need of cutting down but there is a workman doing some work on the back of next door’s garage that backs on to the bed in which it is growing and it seems rather rude to cause  any upset to his work so the Buddleia shall wait for another day. The cuttings have been cleared away and the plants look all the better for the work. There are plenty more jobs that need doing but they shall wait for another day. Perhaps not tomorrow as the builder tells me that we can expect rain again tomorrow and it is out of the question to do much on the ground because it is so wet at the moment. 

Rather more exciting is the arrival of a new book. I read the reviews in the weekend papers and went on a mini spending spree on books. The one I am most eager to start on is the novel by Richard Osman of ‘Pointless’ fame. A crime novel that is set in a Care home for the elderly somewhere near the south east coast. I have cheated and read a little bit and if that is anything to go by it should be entertaining. I suspect one of those books that is often called a page turner.  

Today I received a newsletter from an academic group that I have contributed to occasionally. Interesting articles and attached a call for papers for a symposium/conference in the summer. The closing date is 1st February and I really can’t decide if I want to submit a suggestion for a paper. The topics are related to landscape in Kent and bouncing back and forth in my mind is the topic of Romney Marsh in Literature – depictions of same, spirit of place etc. I guess I shan’t know if it is a suitable topic unless I submit a suggestion. If I do and it is accepted am I up for doing the work to work the topic up into a suitably academic piece? Yes I know – only I can answer that. More thought needed I fear! The real problem is that I fear once I get started the material will be so extensive that I will not want to chop it down to a presentation of only 20 minutes. I know now that I could go on for some very long time – hours in fact. I could always restrict myself to talking about Sheila Kaye-Smith’s novels that feature Romney Marsh I guess. That might be more manageable. 

The perpetual and ever present question of what to eat for supper has arisen yet again. Strangely I appear to have ordered a couple of curries from Waitrose. I don’t remember doing so but one of them would be easy but part of me wants to leave them in the freezer for a time when I really can’t be bothered to cook anything from scratch.There are a few bits in the fridge that need using up – could I combine some lentils, salmon and vegetables to make a sort of stir fry/ kedgeree? I have got plenty of rice and a little chilli sauce might add a bit of extra flavour. I used to always cook a pudding of some sort but now we have reverted to having fruit unless I really want to push the boat out. I guess it is far healthier and above all else it takes little or no time to prepare – a supreme irony really when I have plenty of time on my hands and nothing better to do. 

 

Sunny Day and a Walk

Sunny Day and a Walk.

Today’s weather has been little short of splendid when compared to the days that have preceded it. Dry and bright, lovely blue skies with only a few distant clouds, a slight breeze that brings a seasonal chill to the air but if one is a little sheltered by hedgerow or trees then it is very pleasant indeed. Underfoot is entirely a different matter. 

This afternoon I have been for a walk down the lane and across the fields – a little farther than I have been for a while not least because this is the first day for nearly a week when I felt it was worth venturing outside. I am very much a fair weather walker but today was much to my liking. Wrapped up in ski jacket, bobble hat (not all that flattering) trusty stick in hand and gloves pushed into my pocket, and of course my phone, and much to the surprise, I suspect, of one of my readers, totally suitable footwear in the shape of walking boots. Sure that I would not see anyone I began to stride out down the lane. The first thing I noticed was that the sheep are back in the ‘pond’ field. I had only been walking a short while, not yet reached the pond, when I was passed by a van. The lane is so narrow that this necessitated me standing on the grassy, slippery verge. Then onwards, stick tapping out my walking rhythm, until I reached the pond. The water is even higher and not only has it reached out into the field across the grassy meadow but it is now lapping on to the verge, through the sheep wire fence and over the coarse weeds and tussocks. The water, today, was constantly moving. Tiny waves rippled their way from the field to the lane, where they caught the sunlight a crescent of white but in the dips of these constantly moving furrows of water the black depths asserted themselves. The logs and branches that had been washed to the road side of the pond now lurk deep in the darkness with only a thin curved neck of bleached wood raised above the surface. Across the road the small field ditch is murky and ochre washed in its muddiness. Beyond it, strangely, the makings of a second field ditch equally replete with mucky water, each ditch with twigs and branches floating in a desultory fashion going nowhere but held firm in their watery grave. The ditches that have appeared where once there were no ditches have grown and now reach along their ancient course the length of the field edge, filling the grassy dips and trenches in the land and marking out the field boundaries that were long lost. Onwards down the lane and the silence is broken by the sound of children’s voices, rather querulous and complaining. Soon I saw them, with their mother, chatting to the man in the van. The children had bicycles and rode through the puddles, tried to splash each other while the mother continued to chat. I took to the verge and ploughed on passing the time of day and exchanging pleasantries with the mother of the children. The castle on the distant hill stood clear and resplendent, lording it over the houses and hillside, looking forever across to the sea as it has since before the knights that murdered Becket took their rest there. 

Through the small gate into the first field. I noticed that the frayed piece of baler twine that had been holding the gate shut has been replaced with a sturdy length of plastic strapping – once used for holding building materials of some kind if the writing printed on it is to be believed. I applaud such recycling – it will be a very long time before it wears out and it is bright and gaudy enough for even the most unobservant walker to notice. I wondered why the fastener had been replaced and decided that probably the sheep were back, and indeed they were but down in the far corner under the trees. The grass across this short piece of ‘platt’ is well trodden but not treacherous. Through the big field gate, over the ditch, and into the large expanse of the ground that has been left until it can be cultivated for this year’s crops. He path here is wet and squelchy, slippery and easy to slide over on. Past the back of the farm house and on out into the marsh. All was silent save for the gentle rustling and rasping of the trees and the whispering of the reeds. Once I had left the shelter of the hedgerow and the farm buildings the reeds incessant sigh was counterpointed by the trickle of water splashing into the ditch from the field drains. Like the reeds the sound was perpetual and never-ending. On I strode, down to the ditch crossing and back up the field to the farm yard. The grass here was less muddy and the path easier to walk as a result. Across the farm yard, past the grain sheds and machinery parked up in the open fronted ‘lodge’ and out into the lane again. A curious sheep watched me pass until I had reached the corner and turned towards home. All was silent, an occasional bird flew high above, carving the air with black crescent wings. Past the cottage and the two young boys were playing football with their father on the small field. I was somewhat amused by the fact that the father appeared to be taking the game far more seriously than the boys. Not least in his mode of dress. Where they were wearing trousers, top and trainers, he had shorts, football boots and a proper football top. His kicking at goal also had a competitive edge that was entirely lacking in the two boys. Back past the pond that was still endlessly rippling with the breeze ruffling its surface, much slower now in my tread, the knee that sometimes plays me up having decided that the cold and the damp didn’t suit it. Into the house as the sun was beginning to fade and take on a weak and watery aspect. 

As many of my stalwart readers, those that have been with me on this Covid journey since March, be aware I never have been very keen on cleaning. Yes I do do it because it has to be done but it is far from my favourite pastime. This morning I was shamed into getting out the polish. A table top caught the sunshine and much to my shame and some horror I saw that I could have written my name in the dust! Now all is shiny and bright – not a speck of dust to be seen. When I lifted up the photograph of my parents to dust the surface I did hear an echo of my mother’s voice saying, “not often this happens is it”, “a bit of a red letter day”.  Not to be perfectly honest that she was what she derided in others – overly and excessively house proud and always polishing and dusting. 

Raining – Just Raining

Raining – Just Raining

Today it is raining. The rain hangs in the air, falls silently and persistently with never a break. The skies are that pale grey of over washed cloth that has seen better days. The puddles on the drive are back and slowly but surely expanding across the gravel, threatening to join up in shallow rivulets that twist and turn flowing sluggishly into the borders. Across the fields the shallow standing water is expanding into a series of lakes as more and more grass disappears. The tractor ruts are parallel waterways traversing the field that in the summer was replete with golden corn. All is soggy, all is dripping. Window panes run with runnels that form tiny streams, distorting the trees and bushes in the outside world, fracturing and bending the twigs and branches, droplets mass to form tiny minuscule reflective watery mirrors each duplicating a part of the wet world that lies outside. Perhaps we are luck because I think some parts of Kent are threatened with snow today. It is strange that when one is younger you welcome the news that snow might come, the prospect of time off school, sledging and snowballing all beckon and are welcomed with considerable enthusiasm. Now, in the recent times and at my present time of life, the prospect of snow is much less welcome. Yes it will look very picturesque and I can go out and take some good pictures but the inconvenience, not that I have anywhere to go, far outweighs the prettiness of it all. It is cold enough at the moment – I don’t want it to get any colder.

In other news, and news that is most welcome here, Himself has been able to book an appointment for his Covid vaccination and it will take place next Wednesday. It appears that now arrangements have been made the system is more efficient that we might have expected. It is a great relief and I am sure will be to all those on the Marsh who will be able to have their vaccinations next week. 

The poem is still not written and time is of the essence now but as with all things I find difficult or challenging I am trying my utmost to find other things to do. It would be an untruth to say the ironing looks welcoming but I have considered it! The bird feeders are very depleted now and only a few ‘frequent fliers’ have been in attendance today. A few Sparrows, a couple of Blue Tits a solitary Blackbird and the ever present Robin. A minor triumph this morning was achieved when I managed to do the giant crossword in The Times and only had to look up a couple. More or less a first I think. 

On my garage there is a weather vane that is in the shape of an oast cowl. It was made by my father many years ago and it needs to be taken down and given a real ‘spruce’ up. The paint is peeling and I suspect some of the wood is less than sound. The problem is getting it down. It is quite heavy as the cowl is mounted on a short length of iron piping and is mounted on the apex of the garage roof. I probably could lift it out of its bracket but, and it is a very big but, I am absolutely terrified of heights. You might be thinking that surely isn’t very high, how can she be counting the roof of a garage as “heights”. Believe you me “heights” for me is constituted by two ladder rungs above the earth. Now you can see my problem.  I should have asked my friendly builder, before Christmas, to get it down for me then I could have been working on it in the garage but no I didn’t have the foresight. I only mention the cowl because I have just noticed that the wind direction seems to have changed since yesterday. 

From the study window I get a panoramic view into the tree grown yard and I have begun to notice the trees and bushes in greater detail. The silver birches that stand tall and straight, white trunked today with regular thin, delicate branches of a dark almost purple brown. Farther along an interlaced thicket of blood red twigs twist and reach towards the light to form a crazy lace pattern that overlays the vertical framework of the sycamore trunks. They are from a corpus plant that must have escaped from the garden. Deep into the yard ivy clings to walls and the remains of a Second World War Pillbox – each year the ivy grows more resplendent, gathering size until it has begun to slowly strangle any unwary saplings that have grown close by. It is spreading by stealth until one wonders if one day the whole yard will be enveloped in the cloak of shining green, winter and summer alike. Closer to the two single storey lean-to barns the dominant species is the Bramble. They too have been allowed to run riot and have formed impenetrable barriers to any incursion from man although I am almost sure they have not offered the same difficulty for foxes and badgers let alone other smaller species of mammal. Underfoot it would be treacherous because strewn across the compacted chalk flooring there are piles of logs, old fence stakes, loosely rolled reels of sheep fencing wire, probably the odd roll of barbed wire and sundry bits of old gates etc. Nevertheless I do sometimes wish I could get in there to explore. I can’t because the old iron metal gate is too heavy for me to lift, is held in place by a rusting chain of great weight and if I could get past that barrier I would be torn to pieces by the enormous barrier of bramble and thorn. 

Today is a Waitrose delivery day. I have reverted to the delivery system for awhile, reasoning that having a delivery and travelling as little as possible is as inline with the spirit of the regulations as I could be. As usual I am not too sure what I have ordered and have a nagging feeling that something that might be wanted has been forgotten. Only time will tell!