Day 8 of lockdown and we wake again to a changed world. People are talking of a “New Normal”, which is a fair description, although some of us have been living with a New Normal for a while now. What has clearly changed – coincidentally with the restrictions on movement – has been the weather. This morning was bright and still, with a dusting of frost on the newly dug veg bed. It was the sort of morning we had yearned for all winter as the rain kept falling. Today feels like a crisp winter’s morning as I set out with my ever-keen Labrador for my allocated exercise.
There are many issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic which anger me and, like many people, Mrs B and I try to ration the amount of news we take in as the Goverment hide behind “the science” to pretend they have a well-prepared plan which they are implementing with intelligence and honesty. The daily walk is a time for reflection and re-charging of emotional stability.
As I walk down the lane Tim passes me: a doctor on his way to man the front line at YDH. I clap him as he passes and he replies with a suitable gesture. Although it is reassuring that we appreciate “our” NHS, it feels, in some respects, a little patronising to be doing it now. After all, some of us have been grateful for the professionalism of our doctors and nurses for years. This morning Mrs B and I were marvelling at the amount of medication I have acquired and take on a daily basis, addressing my various physical infirmities. I feel perfectly fit, and to all intents and purposes I am (if I keep taking the tablets), but as I head out on my walk, an ironic thought crosses my mind that if I did fall victim to this virus I could quite easily be noted as a “57-year-old man with underlying health problems”. So no big deal.
And with that happy thought in my head I continue on my way to take a look at Josh’s Tree. Our good friends in the village purchased it in his memory and it now stands alongside one of the footpaths that are used by an increasing number of villagers these days. On the advice of Richard, we selected a Tulip Tree: Liriodendron tulipifera. I haven’t mastered the pronuncation as Richard has. Too many r’s and l’s. It will grow tall and slim, like our boy, so we thought it apt. It also has the most stunning flowers (tulip-like, would you believe) when it reaches a certain age, which is perhaps less apt. But we were drawn to the thought that in decades to come it will stand tall and proud and people may wonder at why such a stunning tree was placed there. Some will know. Some will not. Perhaps they will have to dredge up this blog to know the story.
After I have paid my respects, Ella and I continue. Despite the frost, it feels as if spring has sprung. Chiffchaffs call, the woodpeckers continue to drum, and the rooks sit in the tree tops cawing noisily next to their partially constructed nests. In the garden we have blackbirds searching for a ‘des res’ in the honeysuckle and the starlings are attacking the chicken wire, put there last year to prevent them nesting under the tiles. I was surprised to see a Jay in the garden the other day. It’s a handsome bird, if a little blousy, but it has a reputation for stealing nestlings of other birds – such as our house-hunting blackbirds. So it might not be too welcome.
Around the lanes the wild garlic is looking grand and the horse chestnuts are coming out. As a child I remember getting hold of the early buds – ‘sticky buds’ we called them. I’m not sure what we did with them, but the tackiness was probably something you could terrorise your friends with.
We have not seen any deer recently but on the last part of the walk I spot a couple grazing at one of their favourite spots facing the morning sun. Ella sees them too, and is preparing to make a frontal attack – from a distance of over two hundred yards, across open ground. Like the Light Brigade, she does not understand the futility of such an effort, although at least the deer are not armed with cannons. The charge is cancelled.
Only as we are about to move on do I notice that there are four deer. Two others are lying down, blending in with the vegetation. We leave them in peace and return home, enriched with the sense of being at one with the world and the spirits that inhabit it.