This was one of my favourite views back where I used to live in Manchester; and this photo of it was taken this time last year. Coming home through Chorlton Park, I would look through trees to little rows of little houses running down to allotments and the park.
For a few seconds home looked like part of somewhere greener, smaller, without the surrounding acres of buildings, cars and people.
More photos taken back in December 2012 are on the Facebook page.
Now home is marked by the church tower seen across flat fields, sometimes from miles away. It is very strange to read my first post, written one year ago today, written when we were making ready to move but had no idea what the new place would be like.
It was a planned move, a long-desired move, but a step into the unknown for all that.
I stepped into a new life and found myself at home.
I love swimming outdoors. I am a bit of a wimp though, about the fish, weed, mud that may lurk in rivers and lakes – not a wild swimmer at all. So what I really, really love is an outdoor pool. Through many years of family holidays in France, I always found us a campsite with a pool. Every morning I would be there, ploughing up and down in the water, amid birdsong, pine trees, scents of rosemary and lavender.
So imagine my delight when I found found that Heckington has its own tiny, outdoor, community swimming pool. At the Ladies Swim yesterday evening I watched rays of the setting sun fall on tree tops and the church tower; I heard birds singing and was transported back to a favourite Provençal hillside with lavender and views of vineyards.
Walking home in the twilight I felt contented beyond measure. Today I have been thinking about moments of joy in my old life back in Manchester, moments of sunlight through trees and the company of lovely friends. I used to feel anxious even as I felt happy, afraid of the joy passing and the gloom returning.
Here in this new life, in this still-new-to-us village, there is plenty to worry about (money, work, family… all the usual things), but something else is different. When a brilliant moment comes, I no longer fear its passing; I know another one will be along in a while.
Last Ladies Swim of the season next Monday. Looking forward to it already. I like it here.
As said in the previous post, my mum and I spent a day seeing gardens in Norfolk, of which my favourite parts were, as they always are, the kitchen gardens. Those pictured above were are Houghton Hall where we also saw a collection of paintings which once belonged to Robert Walpole but have been living in Russia since his heirs sold them to Catherine the Great.
The Rembrandts, Van Dycks and the like filled me with wonder; the octagonal fruit cage pictured above aroused instead a childish covetousness. I don’t think we’ll have room for one quite that big…
To Suffolk on Tuesday to see aunt and cousins. Enjoyed the three hour journey in campervan through a rural landscape that moved from pancake-flat fenland to low, rolling Norfolk hills. And now am on my way home again. Here was my coffee stop, somewhere near Thetford – noticed the field colours like the ones in my last post, the picture taken by friend on Star Fen. So great to see so much green at last. I love all these fields, trees, hedgerow, cow parsley, reminding me of childhood summers.
I’ve mentioned before (Heckington, Grantham, Doncaster, Manchester) how the train from Manchester to Sheffield passes through lovely Derbyshire scenery. I captured a swift peek (no pun intended…) through the train window on my way home from sweet day with daughter and grandbabies. More rural England, but with bumps.
I’ve lost what little tolerance I once had for Manchester traffic. Out on a walk I was so happy once off the streets of Gorton and onto the Fallowfield Loop cycle track, surrounded by trees and birdsong instead of cars. It’s a pity there are so many disused railway lines, but lovely when, as with this one, they have become peaceful green corridors for bikes, dogs, grandmothers and toddlers.
And now I’m at Nottingham, safely on the little train to Heckington. Feels like home already; even though part of my heart is left behind, over the Pennines, in the smoke.
The estate agent’s details for the house we have moved to showed a picture of the garden looking lovely with a rainbow over the garage (an older and more picturesque building than the house itself). This prompted many quips by friends along the lines of did the rainbow come with the house.
Tonight I was just sitting down to eat my supper when I saw a perfect rainbow over the garden and the garage roof, just like in the agent’s photo. I rushed out with my iPad in camera mode to take a picture for the blog.
Then I stood outside for a few more moments as the sky darkened (and my soup cooled sadly in the conservatory). There is a rookery not far from us, a noisy place during the daytime. As I stood watching the lovely sky, a group of rooks flew over from their main hangout to roost in a tall tree in the garden next to us.
The rainbow came out a bit faint in the photos. And I like this picture better, even though I know it’s a fairly rubbish portrayal of rooks in a tree. I hope you can use your imagination and share a little of the magic of my garden at twilight tonight, with the rooks, silent for once, falling through a violet sky on their way to bed
I’m not sure if I have ever read the whole poem before. It is so familiar that it’s hard to read it without being tripped up by famous phrases. But I was struck by the last two lines (see above) and the image of the poet remembering the beauty of the mass of flowers after the event.
It has left me thinking about how, when so many of us lead such indoor lives, we hold on to that lift of the spirits that being outside in nature can give us.
There are two parts of this for me. The first is remembering how good the outdoors, open space and nature are for me, so I remember to spend more time there and not let myself get trapped in the house. And the second, perhaps more challenging, is how to bring the daffodils, the trees and waves back inside with us, keeping the dance and the freedom in our hearts even when we cannot see the light.
The sun has been shining for the past couple of days, but it is still very cold. The equinox has been and gone and British Summer Time is with us. We have the light but not the warmth; this spring is too long coming.
Daughter and grandbabies have been here for a few days. Pictures here are from a walk after seeing them off on the train yesterday. I tried a new route out of the village, via a footpath which implausibly crosses the busy A17 and then over to Star Fen. The winter colouring is still beautiful – bare black branches against a duck-egg-blue sky – but we need more green, more life, more seeds sown and food growing.
Heading back to Heckington down Littleworth Drove, I passed the field where I saw some particularly fetching sheep in winter stubble on my last walk up here (see A walk on Star Fen). I felt sad, as I do listening to the lambs bleating from the dog field, reminded of all the sheep and lambs dead in snowdrifts on hill-farms around the country.
There has been some good coverage of the crisis facing British farmers (see this recent Observer article), but I can’t help feeling that farming stories in the mainstream papers often read like those on disasters happening to other people in a far off place. Yesterday the snowstorms and the dead lambs were front page news, being hailed as the worst disaster to hit hill farmers in 60 years; I have a slight sense of shock when I cannot find a single paragraph on them in this morning’s paper.
But in the meantime, the sun is out and along with farmers and gardeners all over the country I am crossing my fingers that it stays out. Spring: bring it on, please.
St. Paul’s was striking nine o’clock as I walked down from the Millennium Bridge after taking these photos, hands too cold to hold the iPad anymore; it made me think how much I like the church bells telling the time back in Heckington.
This same weekend last year the sun was shining for my birthday walk and lunch in London; this year, in the wintry weather, only three of us were hardy enough for a short walk.
Lovely friends and family all gone home now after lunch, chat and birthday cake lasting the afternoon. We ate the Spiced Salt Beef that I got the beef for from Bassingthorpe Beef (see A lumpy thing but mine own or At the farmers’ market). The recipe is in Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen, perhaps my most-used Elizabeth David cookbook – and her least well-known.
Guests today aged between two and eighty-one, but in the middle a number of my exact contemporaries; people I have known since early childhood or teens or student days, back when we were busy growing into ourselves; people I did all that talking with (see Grantchester reprise).
Very sweet to have these connections still, after so many years.
Along with pictures of St Paul’s and Millennium Bridge, in the gallery above, are the tower of Tate Modern and some of the many silver birches planted in front of it. I always think these look like the Hattifatteners in Finn Family Moomintroll, a favourite childhood book recently revisited.
Or perhaps that should read, jam in a few years time…
I planted a plum tree and a greengage yesterday. The one in the picture is the plum, a variety called Czar which is early and supposed to be good for cold climates. The gage is called Ingalls Grimoldby Greengage, named after a Lincolnshire village called Grimoldby, near Louth, and William Ingall, who had a market garden there in the nineteenth century. He raised five varieties of apples there, along with the greengage. I had ruled out having greengages before I found this one, thinking that we are too far north. The helpful man at the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, from whom I bought the trees, told me that Lincolnshire was the furthest north they were generally grown, and Cambridgeshire the furthest north that they were grown commercially in the past.
I like the idea of keeping old varieties of fruit that were developed in my newly-adopted county.
I should have waited until the autumn when we’d had time to make a proper plan about fruit trees, but I didn’t. Oh well. Other fruit likely to be grown against fences – perhaps even an apricot one day, on the back, south-facing wall of the garage (see picture in Leeks past and present post).
I have been reading about Norse and Saxon place-names in the county, and England in general (of which more some other time). Grimoldby looks like a good Norse name; Heckington is squarely Saxon. For some reason things being Saxon gives me a sense of age and continuity while Viking names conjure up something wilder, more exotic, with a sea breeze and salty tang in it; a bit irrational, I know.