The tall tree has shed all its leaves. Its highest branches are full of birds. They are silent. Beneath this tree last December, snow and ice were piled high. A nearby tree also has its company of birds. They’re motionless. As, in an an old Western film, native Americans stand silent on a ridge.
Now and again one of the birds flies in a lone circle from its branch and then returns. If the snow piles up again this year, these creatures won’t suffer. I think they’re swallows and books say they will be in Africa. With their mysterious rituals, they’re getting ready to migrate.
Every year, as I drive into the winter car park I’m intrigued by a tangle of vegetation which hangs from one bough. It’s not part of the tree and its not ivy. I try to point it out to Mrs Llew and ask: ‘Is that mistletoe?’
She tells me firmly to watch the road, not the mistletoe: and the moment is gone. Because she’s watching the road too she can’t agree or not, as to the identity of the plant.
She’s not driving but she might just as well be doing so. And I love that. Perhaps I’ll walk out of the car park one day and take a closer look, before the ice and snow come again and elderly limbs slither and stumble. In the shop, Hallowe’en plastic, orange and black and on cheap offer, has already given way to Christmas crackers.
Over the way, beyond the roundabout, and beneath the church tower, the town cricket field – Church Meadow – slumbers: months now until the next season.Beyond the church there is a path down to the river and its low-lying meadows, which flooded and froze over in previous winters.
The river borders the grounds and buildings of a 13th Century monastic community.
In a few months, after the floods, the willows by the river will be greening again. There will be a scent of cut grass on the cricket field – where another battered willow stands. I’ve mentioned that before. It stands exactly at mid-on, depending on which way the batsman faces.