Today marks the day that I will write my last daily diary entry – there will no doubt be many more through the coming weeks but not one each day. I have promised at least one a week but realistically I will probably write rather more than the one. I have got into a routine and it will seem odd to not be writing each day, and besides in some ways I probably won’t be able to help myself and therefore if you are a regular reader you can look forward to several pieces in the future.
Today dawned bright and sunny but as the day has progressed the sky has become rather more overcast. There is a strong gusty wind at times that has kept the temperature down a little. My meeting this morning has now finished and I have returned home for a late lunch before starting this diary entry.
As I drove down the lane to the main road I was surprised to see how the various crops had grown. Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised because several months have passed since I last drove along this particular road. In one field there is what appears to be a fine crop of peas. The vines are dotted with lily white flowers like random polka dots on a sheet of jade green. It reminded me that my peas – the first row anyway – are coming to an end now and need to be picked clean before I remove the plants. The second row are coming up but are sporadic in their germination and are not promising anything like a reasonable crop. The roads were much more populated with cars and vans etc and appeared to be well on their way back to the traffic quantity that I remember from pre lockdown. I, of course, was contributing to this.
I have finished my book on darkness and the night sky and the others I have ordered have not yet arrived. In vain I have searched high and low for my copy of “A Month in the Country”, finding in my search that I have two copies of several books, not least “The Go-Between”. Eventually my eyes alighted on a copy of “Hodge and His Masters” by Richard Jefferies. A remember buying it some while ago and dipping into it but never actually reading it. Jefferies wrote this particular work in 1880 and he gives the reader a clear and detailed picture of the rural environment and its occupants at that time. I have read a little and it has taken me back to that time in a rural community – much like the one that my grandfathers and great grandfathers lived in. In one section Jefferies talks about the attitudes of the farming community to money and work, and the relationship between them. More especially he talks about the saving of small amounts of money and the husbanding of these people’s resources. Those who were careful and reasonably frugal and careful could amass a modicum of wealth that they could pass on to their heirs. It reminded me of a saying of my mother’s – she was discussing a particular family where the head of that family had died and her opinion of his heir was a little less than flattering. She maintained that in terms of generations and the acquiring or otherwise of wealth, it was always one generation who made it, the next that used it and the third that lost it. Bearing in mind that in our families, and in many others as well in that region of Sussex, the wealth acquired/earnt by one generation was traditionally divided among the children of the next generation rather than going to a single heir there is much sense in her saying. In the case of my paternal family I have copies of Wills that go back several generations to my three times great grandfather and his death 1847. In each successive Will the property and money is divided up among the surviving children- not necessarily, and in most cases, not in equal shares. Not surprisingly daughters did not have the same proportion as sons. There is, however a discernible ‘fairness’ about the distribution. Some of these heirs used their legacies wisely and created more wealth for their heirs, whilst others died in penury. In one case the wife of the legatee, when widowed, was described as a pauper who was living on the parish. Her brother in law, living in the same village, ran two public houses, a builder’s business and was a farmer. Likewise at least one of his sons was able to leave to his heirs a reasonable legacy and in his case he never differentiated between his sons and daughters. He was in a unique position, perhaps, because his wife was, by all accounts, a lovely woman but one who was far more liberal in her thinking than many of her generation. It was said that, although she was born in 1856 and therefore very much a Victorian, she would never countenance the spanking of a child under any circumstances. In photographs she looks a gentle, kindly soul, and this is borne out in the remembrances of her that were recounted by my father and his brother.
My picture today is of a favourite part of the marsh, just down the lane from my house.