Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spring, Stings, and Gentlemen.

We had a day to honour the very name of Spring today – warm and sunny with hardly a breath of breeze to remind us that winter might still have a sting in its tail. In celebration I took a packed lunch and walked the mile or so to the mediaeval church of St Mary and St Barlok, there to assume my accustomed position in the lea of the south wall and eat it (the lunch, that is, not the wall.)

The serenity of the occasion was disturbed only once, by a pair of cyclists come to sightsee, and who were probably foreign since they smiled but didn’t speak. And while I was there I made two discoveries.

The first was that the sloping area of ground beyond the north wall gives way to a wide ledge which would normally be all but impassable in the summer months, being choked with undergrowth that would require the assistance of a machete to negotiate. This early in the year, however, there are but a few straggly branches of rhododendron and sundry roots to trip me up, and only one of them did. And the reward for making the trek among the old trees occupying this fledgling wilderness was a high view of the river and the landscape beyond. Fortunately, the cyclists didn’t follow me.

The other was in the church itself (where the cyclists did follow me.) Standing diffidently in a stone base at the far western end of the nave is part of a Saxon cross, about three feet tall and apparently one of two that were discovered when the north wall was being underpinned. The accompanying notice said that it had been dated to around 900AD. I’d never known it was there before, and it was odd to trace the carving with my fingers, knowing that it had been made by a Saxon hand over a thousand years ago. I did have to question the date, however. If my reading of history is correct, where I live now would have been part of Danelaw in 900. Would they have been making Saxon crosses in Danelaw? I don’t know; it’s something I’d like to ask a historian.

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Signs of spring were evident in other places, too. The embankment beneath the Stone House no longer has a daffodil in bloom, it has an army of them (well, something between a platoon and a company at least.) And there are crocuses springing up in yellow and purple livery in many a garden. And my lawn has its first daisies. And I saw both a butterfly and a bumblebee. And – best of all, though slightly worrying – I confirmed this evening that my friend the bat has, indeed, woken from his winter sleep. He was hunting over the garden at twilight, apparently in fine fettle. I just hope that winter isn’t preparing a sting to bring us down to earth, and the bat into a hasty re-hibernation.

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I’m still keeping the fireside warm at night, though, and tonight I discovered that Charles Smithson Esq – the hero of The French Lieutenant’s Woman – continues to resemble a younger version of me. So noticing of the right sort of young lady, and so respectful of their finer feelings.

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