Tuesday 12 January

I think my most local National Trust place is Chartwell, formerly the home of Sir Winston Churchill. It has very pretty gardens, and even in winter there is always something to see, so to that end, Barbara and I arranged to meet there at 10.00 for a socially distanced wander. There were about 5 cars there, and I think we saw 4 other people as we made our way round. There were more gardeners and other staff than visitors. It was just beautiful to see the hellebores, aconites and a few snowdrops coming into bloom. Very positive in every way.

We also had a short jaunt around Mariners Hill, slow going because of mud, but wonderful houses to admire, many with spectacular views over the downs.

Churchill’s studio at Chartwell also has a very fine weather vane.

The family excitement today was that Rod has taken delivery of a new(er) car. Well there is precious little in diversionary tactics during lockdown, so getting a new set of wheels is quite a good idea. We went for a little local drive this afternoon. It seems to tick all the boxes so now awaits conversion to the angling auto.

I had a long conversation with an Austrian friend this afternoon. They are just as locked down as we are. I think England, in particular London, is getting a very bad press over there, and she kindly wanted to ascertain that we are OK. Her youngest daughter who is in the equivalent of the Sixth Form, has not been in school since mid October except to take one exam. Online schooling is also not always easy, as if you live in the mountains, you won’t get any internet signal. One problem we do not generally have.

I have found a poem which echoes some of my experience today in the countryside, except we had a robin not a thrush. I like Thomas Hardy’s poems, we read quite a few in school and although I think he is remembered predominantly as a novelist, I feel his poetry should not be overlooked. He derives such optimism from the natural world: we need this.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

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