…and a Return to Home
This past week I have been on a little holiday. I travelled through Sussex, into the Weald of Kent.
We flow from chalk-crested Downs to drift in the shallows, gentle pasture and tawny fallows, fat fertile clays and sands, draining through seeping wounds; ditches marked by white Willows. Weather board, shiplap, hung tile, oast cap. Broad brown backs of cattle, heritage tracks, work horses on weather vanes with front foot prancing, grasshopper fiddlers and oxeyes dancing.
Tenterden town provided my base for the week, with visits to the famous gardens at Sissinghurst Castle and Great Dixter. I wont tell you all about it here; I enjoyed it and have brought home much inspiration and a lighter heart, and that is what matters. It was a week filled with flowers and sunshine, relaxation and motivation. Many stories were told of past visits to the town by both present and past generations of family, curious histories were explored, and beauty absorbed.
The gull’s cry reminds us that here the coast is near, and here the fish is fresh (sweet lamb and cheeses fed the rest).
Weatherboard and shiplap, hung-tile and oast-cap. All knew the hop and the apple core, the cherry stone and bounty
(wool to clothe country and county).
Auntie Bessie and bread-and-butter, stories recounted by rose-eyed mother. Brambleberries by the broken gate.
(Time for tea, the rest of life and the world can wait.)
I sometimes think one of the sweetest parts of a holiday is the returning home. I am pleased to see the house martins are still here. I’m not sure exactly where they are nesting, but their presence in the July sky is one of the joys of this place that would be easy to overlook. I am sitting now at my desk beside the front window. Its good to be back here, feels right. Looking out now I can see a couple of swifts have joined the martins, hawking over the tree tops. Blue tits and great tits have been busy at the peanut feeder on the front garden this morning, and I have heard the woodpecker call from the orchard trees but he is yet to make his daily visit. A white butterfly is quartering back and forth past the window, it keeps catching my eye with movement.
There is a muted under-song of birds; the song thrush is still giving it a good effort and is the main voice I can identify from indoors. The season has matured in the week I have been away; summer here just a county’s width distance, seems older, dustier; that high summer dullness when the tree leaves have lost their spring lustre. Where the grasses are left long at the edge of the green, they are topped with tassels of seeds, golden heads. The wild chicory is in flower, a curious wayside bloom, it mingles with the hogweed in the back meadow, its powder-blue petals seeming to change hue to lilac or pink in differing lights. Bindweed trumpets proclaim their triumph from the top of the hedge where they’ve scrambled up the brambles. Even at this distance I can see the apples on the tree are larger and blushing russet-red.
– oh, there he is! (Or her, its hard to tell in juvenile plumage.) The woodpecker; look, on the peanut feeder there! If I sit very still and just slowly turn my head a little to the right, I can watch him. A bright red cap, two white patches down a black back – badger striped. Cream feathered front with gripping feet, a sharp little dagger-like beak. Tap-tap-tap, tail propped as a balancing wedge. Eyes like shining beads catch sight of me. Swoop and flick; feeder swings.