Frustrated, annoyed, miserable, grumpy. It’s a job I hate. I’m just finishing reading the proofs of my 22nd book, Hungry Heart Roaming: An Odyssey of Sorts. I’m at the stage when I am deeply dissatisfied with what I’ve written, but it can’t now be changed. Even looking out of the study window at the garden I’ve made over the years doesn’t improve my mood.
2020: this spring will always be remembered as the Coronavirus Spring, and as I write this the outcome is wholly unknown and beyond guessing, whatever temporarily powerful politicians say. But what is certain, and obvious, is that like all things it will come to an end.
We are so lucky here: we have a garden, and an empty countryside, and can get exercise and light and air when eyes get tired of reading. And a book to write (of which more in another blog).
Paradoxical Pleasure & Pain – the puzzle of place.
My wife was only yesterday sticking needles in me, for the second time this week. Be re-assured: this is not anything reprehensible: I allowed her, nay, encouraged her, for she has no evil intent. Far from it: I have benefited from what she does before, and this time the crisis was a back so badly pulled that I had difficulty sitting or lying or driving and yelped involuntarily when I had to move unexpectedly. Her acupuncture – she is a very skilled and experienced acupuncturist – has helped many people over many years, and I first experienced its effects when in a matter of hours she cleared up a troublesome tickly cough that had bothered me for weeks.
A couple of weeks ago (before everyone decided it was spring …), sharp, bright, with a hard frost, we had a day off. We woke later than usual, which, conscience quiet, gave a sense of holiday. We decided we would walk down to the washes of the Cam, for when I had driven past at sunset a few days before the water they hold in winter was covered with flocks of migrant waterfowl – pintail, pochard, tufted duck, widgeon, and the geese I love. (I have reservations about the aggressive and invasive Canadas, to be sure, but the pinkfeets and the greylags are always welcome visitors back from the far, far north.) I stopped the engine, and the quiet sunset was filled with the whistle of widgeon, the indignation of mallard, and the parleying of geese. Worth coming back to listen and see properly, I thought.
Those who know me say my mind works oddly. I suppose so. Come inside for a minute.
I suppose it was going last week to the Anglo Saxon exhibition at the British Library that did it, but I have been unable to get Beowulf out of my head for the last few days. You could pick up an earphone and hear those so well-known lines as you looked at that manuscript miraculously preserved, though singed, from the disastrous fire in Sir Robert Cotton’s Library in 1731. What else was lost from that salvage job on what had already escaped the carnage wrought by Reformation, neglect and ignorance? Was Beowulf not the only great epic poem reaching back to the dawn of the England we take for granted, perhaps not even the best? We shall never now know. But hearing those lines gave me a feeling once more (and never forgotten since it first happened decades ago) of something stirring in the deep past, something that somehow I knew, shared. The sound of the speech sits easy on my ear, the pattern of verse comes naturally to the rhythm of my tongue.
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