Sweet Peas and Shakespeare

The cut glass tankard contains sweet pea flowers. The July sun shines on them. In the garden, yellow hollyhocks lean to catch the light.  Here, in our sitting room, it gleams on a vase of carnations, pink and beginning to fade a little. The brightness  is reflected on a small sculpture, a bequest to us from a lifelong friend which looks out into the room. It is a bronze bust of William Shakespeare.

The sweet peas are red, pink and white. Their radiance is that of a still life painting. Mrs Llew grows these flowers in a patch beside our pond, and at this time of year she harvests them daily. The birds like to drink from a perch on an upturned flower pot at the pond’s rim. Sometimes the young ones fall in. Mrs Llew rescued one the other day…

In the morning I am usually up first and I make her breakfast. After all, I haven’t washed or ironed a shirt for 49 years and this is the least I can do. I take it to her in  bed.  The room with the flowers is very still at this time. Still, indeed with the stillness of a still life. Books line one wall where a picture hangs. It is a print of the Oxford High and a view of Magdalen College Tower and a Morris Oxford car in the near-empty road. It recalls the time she was an undergraduate.

Between making my wife’s toast and brewing her coffee I think of putting on the radio. I decide not to switch it on.  In this deep silence I am indeed listening: not for words or sounds but for a prompting from the world within it.

And then I turn on the radio and begin the day. Maybe I’ll smile when I look at William Shakespeare, and think of our old friend, a lover of musical comedy and a composer and playwright himself, who left it to us. And  a daughter whose Godfather he was.  He added to the sum of human happiness in so many ways, including contributing a crossword to the family newsletter, Fanshawe Flyer, from its start. A digest of this merry publication, edited and created by Mrs Llew, can be found on http://www.fanshawe-flyer.co.uk/

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