High Summer

The May blossom is fading: another year. There are many years to recall by now. Mrs Llew and I have been reading her diaries. She has kept diaries all her life. As we read, I remember other May times: other years when, returning from my work as a journalist, I walked home, late in the evening, while the elder trees in bloom scented the dusk.

That was 30 years ago. Here, today, in the market town where we live, the elder in some old hedges which have survived many changes over the years, is beginning to come into flower again.

High summer is approaching. Another high summer. The diaries record daily life over more than 50 years: endlessly busy, always dealing with the present moment, hopes, makings – and failings. Sadness too.

Again a year has passed. There is meaning to our lives, I’m sure, but it’s not an aggregate: a profit and loss account but is in every moment, every present moment. Whatever that leads to is not in an accounts sheet. There is another dimension to every moment of our lives, a point of intersection of the timeless with time, as T.S. Eliot said.

Maybe it could be seen, symbolically as a Cross: in which I hope we are all healed. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Last Week In May

Another Maytime and the hawthorn blossom covers the wild ground, said to conceal a World War Two bunker at the end of my road.

Crush a few feathery blooms of cow parsley and the herb scent lingers on my palms. The dense brambles, in their Springtime green, bar my entry to the thicket and bird sanctuary just across the racing road.

Another year. The Feast of Corpus Christi today. In Church Meadow, last Sunday beneath the tower, youngsters in whites took part in a cricket match. The pollarded willow quite near the wicket, will grow again. A year or two back this field came close to being flooded, when the river by the old Rectory burst its banks.

Now, this afternoon, I’m thankful for my garden sanctuary, very aware that across the Middle East there is no sanctuary for thousands.

There is a blue butterfly around the rose bushes which are just coming into bud.

And the sky is blue, to the North East. In the hedges a few buds of elderflower begin to bloom

The 1939-45 War: the refugees of today.

For so many, this place, my garden with the traffic passing a few yards away, would be Paradise.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

War Time

If this were a portrait only a fifth of it would show the land and the hills beyond. The rest would be sky: shades of pale blue, and white clouds tinted with blue. There is a raised thicket by the roundabout on the bypass. It is dense with hawthorn blossom. Impenetrably, amidst the May trees, the brambles are spreading. They’ll have a crop of blackberries in three months’ time.

As a small boy I would have burrowed into that little wilderness, making camps, scenting Spring. Can’t do that now. Last time I tried to explore I fell over and a passing driver rescued me. But the scent of this year’s, feathery, fragrant Queen Anne’s Lace, brings back those memories. Local legend has it that beneath this beautiful wilderness there is a bunker from the 1939-45 War.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve an icon on the wall of my study. Perhaps it contains a blessing. I bought it 45 years ago, when Mrs Llew and I moved, full of hope and maybe a sense of achievement, into a rambling, Edwardian house in North London. It came from an art shop in what was part of the ancient village, then encircled by a hundred years of suburb. The icon has no attribution. It is on wood, a picture of the Virgin and Child.

Our children were very young when I bought that icon. It watched over their piano practice, in a high ceilinged room,  and where the tall sash windows rattled in the wind – and at one stage honeysuckle crept through the gaps.

Tonight it’s looking at me. It gives me warmth and hope.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer Rain

It’s not summer yet but we’ve had summer rain today: warm, drenching but not violent. All the plants and the earth respond with a scent of freshness, fragrant, bringing with it distant fields; and memories, and the longings which those remembered experiences evoked: then, and now as they return in the dusk. They tease with a hint of something not here. Yet now.

Summer rain, in May. Aches and pains remain. But there is a certainty in the yearning. In the summer rain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of Ours

Overhead, quite low, an aircraft flew. I did not see it (I was driving) but in that moment I was back in the 1940s. ‘It’s one of ours, my grandma said.’ She would have been right had she really been with me today. German bombers throbbed and pulsed. This aircraft had a steady roar, unwavering and rich. And yes, it was an aircraft from that era, a Dakota, flying over us as part of a ceremony in which the local RAF station received the freedom of our town. I was able to catch a glimpse of it as it circled above us.

But, this is strange: it was a comforting sound. It would have been so, 70 years ago. I am reading the diary of someone who fought in that war, from before the beginning, until he was involved in sorting out all the problems which the so-welcome peace brought with it. What that aircraft represented could surely not be the subject of nostalgia.

But it was. The old pubs in my town used to have old black and white pictures of aircrews from the local wartime RAF stations posted on their walls. They came here to relax. I haven’t checked recently. But they came here to enjoy a few pints of mild and bitter.

And as their successors marched proudly to the music of the RAF band, through our high street today,  they would have recognised many of its sights, its buildings, the town hall, the half-timbered houses.

And they would see, on the meadow below the parish church tower, another generation, of youngsters, in whites, getting ready, on the immaculate cricket square, preparing for a match, their families in light, summer colourful clothes, preparing to watch the game. In the sun.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blue Gold Sea

Silence. Sun. A huge bumble bee gorges on the dandelions. There is traffic going by, beyond a few garden fences. It does not disturb my peace. I’m recovering from a heavy cold but I pick up the scents in the air. Here is a boat, the faint fragrance of its paintwork under the sun:  leading me where?

I’m miles inland, nowhere near the wide blue, gold sea.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maytime and Spiders

May time again and again I’m thankful to live in it. There are about fifty acres of bright yellow oilseed flowers at the end of my road. I’ve watched the plants grow through the winter. Next year these fields will produce wheat. All the farms round here seem to alternate these two crops.

A couple of miles away I watch a hot air balloon descend, with dignity, into one of the many fields of gold. These balloons are another sign of the changing season as they appear each year, in the lighter, evening skies. They’re another welcome sight, not so much for themselves but for what they represent: longer days.

You can’t capture the seasons any more than you can a racing spider as you chase it into the corner of a room. They do not stay, any more than does ‘time’s winged chariot’.  I’ve had 80 May times in my life, and I thank God for them as they come – and also as yet another ends.

People complain about the oilseed plant but it leaves me a clear view of the lovely, distant hills covered in beech trees. I’m happy if it keeps the farmer in business.

You can’t capture the moment, entrap it, mummify it. If you capture the spider it will die.

But I try constantly to live – in the moment.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Church Clock

There’s a church in a village long swallowed up by Greater London. It came powerfully to mind tonight as I looked out across fields of oilseed flowers to a lovely range of hills which now separate me from that place – and time. After rain and an unseasonably cold wind, the sky was blue here. It felt quite warm, and the drifts of white cloud were infused by the gold of the evening sun.  Blue and gold.

For 13 years I climbed the spiral staircase of the tower of that church three times a week, often in the winter, in the dark. There were no lights, but my feet knew how to go. No-one except me ever went up there. Why were the steps so worn?

My regular duties were to keep the tower clock wound by hand.  I loved it. I loved the place. I loved its great mechanism.

It didn’t occur to me to wonder why the steps were so worn. The clock was fairly recent, only about 90 years old. The steps I climbed, I now realise, were put there about 500 years ago. No wonder they were worn. I received messages from people living nearby that they loved to hear the clock strike: the hours and the quarters. It was company. It was reassurance.

The face of the clock was blue. Its detail in gold.

Blue and gold. Like tonight’s sky.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jack By The Hedge

Declining powers, one must live with them. But is there a concentration of meaning in experience which is ever-more restricted? I remember once glimpsing the distant sea through the gap in a high hedge in a Devon lane: a lovely image. That was as near as I could get, to the sea. But in the deep lane, bordered by the high hedge on each side, the springs of water, as they fell among the ferns and all the green abundance of herbs, kept everything new: and young. Through the gap in the hedge I glimpsed the distant blue ocean. I did not long for it, in this deep, fragrant hollow.
Now, as I potter along by a dusty roadside I spot a lone plant growing from a gap in the concrete. It’s called ‘Jack by the Hedge.’ No hedge here. But I’m back in that deep lane.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments