MY CLEMATIS DIARY
Let's start the month as usual with our quiz.
In the twelve clematis to be named six of them are double. Can you identify the six "doubles"? The twelve clematis are:
C. alpina 'White Moth'; C. alpina 'Constance'; C. macropetala; 'Nelly Moser'; C. montana 'Broughton Star'; 'Star of India'; 'Duchess of Edinburgh'; 'W E Gladstone'; 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'; C. montana 'Mayleen'; C. jackmani 'Alba'; 'Golden Tiara'.
We now need to look at the tasks to be undertaken with our clematis, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, in November.
In the northern hemisphere clematis need attention as follows:
Planting of new clematis can continue when the weather is favourable.
Prune the Late Large Flowered clematis and the Viticella clematis if they appear unsightly. As described last month, they are pruned to about 3ft (1m) from the ground, tied together and discreetly put aside.
If not already done bring tender clematis into the greenhouse or conservatory.
Seedheads on your cultivated or wild clematis can be collected for floral arrangements.
The watering programme can be discontinued.
In my garden as a whole, I am well ahead with the total tidy-up of the garden. We start on the right hand side of the garden gate and move systematically around the garden until we come back, months hence, on the left hand side of that gate. The whole garden is re-considered, re-shaped, re-structured and re-planned as necessary. We break off, of course, at intervals to deal with the tasks that are urgent.
In the southern hemisphere it is late spring. The alpinas and the macropetalas and the evergreen group will have finished flowering. The montanas are coming into bloom.
If not already done so, apply a manure or fertiliser around your plants.
Continue the watering programme as required.
As the clematis grow, fix them to their supports with ties.
Look out for slugs and snails and take measures against them.
On one's return from a spell abroad, in some excitement, one goes around the garden noting changes.
A few clematis are still in bloom. Possibly the most impressive is 'Huldine' climbing into yellow winter jasmine. The latter is early in flower this year. They make a fine combination. 'W E Gladstone' on a north facing wall has one enormous bloom. As usual this is of a large size. The colour this time of the year is rather less vivid than in the summer. 'Lady Betty Balfour', traditionally regarded as a very late bloomer, is indeed displaying some blooms. The glory in the garden at the moment is 'Terniflora'. The whole of the top of a pergola, together with its sides, are covered in thousands of white blooms. They give off a wondrous scent.
The swallows have gone. This always strikes a sad note. After all they are inhabitants of the house. They have reared a family, or maybe two or three families, here during their sojourn. It is almost as if part of the family have decided to abandon one for the winter. It is a true reminder that winter is coming.
'Plucky', the pheasant is not with us. Some unhappy fate, I suspect, has befallen him. The life of a pheasant is one of danger. He has been replaced by two young, suave, pheasants. They have been reared this year for a shoot coming off shortly nearby. They spend the time confronting one another. They move towards one another, then they peck thin air. This goes on for a few minutes. One then moves away for a short distance. The other then quickly catches up and another mock fight ensues. Now and then there is the usual screeching call.
The peacocks, of course, are hale and hearty. The three youngsters are almost the size of their mother. They tend to be attracted by any window near the ground. They see images of themselves and peck away at them, depositing guano as they go. Perhaps some use should be made of their capacity to produce guano. Maybe they should be put in a dark plastic container or something like the Black Hole of Calcutta. Thus they would become a guano machine. This would bring some profit to the garden.
As this is an old house you have to live with the creatures that also live here. This is the moment of the year when the rats try to move in for the warmth in winter. You occasionally hear them climbing up the wall to get to the rafters. They are discouraged by cutting the highest parts of the creepers on the walls of the house. The top 3ft (1m) of creepers are pruned off this time of the year.
From Orwell's book 1984 we seem to have developed a fear of rats. My feelings got a jolt some years ago. I was visiting a laboratory where they were experimenting on rats. Around the room there were hundreds of male rats. In the middle of the room, in a large cage, lived a female rat. She lived in a flower pot. As we came into the room she leapt to the top of her house and danced there on tip-toe, not only demanding attention but asking to be picked up. The laboratory assistant put his hand out and she immediately leapt onto it, ran up his arm, tweaked one ear, ran round the other side and tweaked the other ear. We were all invited to greet this charming creature. For each of us she tweaked our ears. What a delightful creature!
A little while ago each of my granddaughters had a rat as a pet. These were the white rats. The eldest had a rat first and found it so delightful that the two sisters each had a rat also. Each rat seemed to become very attached to the owner. More than this, when released from the cage, they would climb up and down their owners body, but never left that figure. Due to a long holiday they had to give up their rats and found a new home for them. This was with an elderly woman who had hundreds of pet rats, some sharing her bed.
So my view of rats has changed to one of more understanding. Not long ago I caught a rat in a rabbit trap. He had worked out that if he could move the lever that came down then he could be free. He tugged away at it but he had not the strength to release it. Such talent deserved release. For the other side of the coin one has to remember the plagues that came from the rats in the past. In a number of instances of epidemics the population of England was reduced by a third on a number of occasions. It was, of course, the fleas on the rats that carried the plague.
We now have the answer to the quiz. The double clematis were C. alpina 'White Moth'; C. jackmani 'Alba'; C. macropetala; 'Duchess of Edinburgh'; 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'; C. montana 'Broughton Star'
Today came a request for support from the Salvation Army. I have the greatest regard for that organisation. However great the degradation, the Army never lets go. Its support is unstinting and continuous. The other organisation which often in dire circumstances gives much welfare support to the community are the police. There help is often unacknowledged and unseen.
The care of deprived children is far from being what it should be in this country. Two organisations, Barnardo's and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, are almost a part of the local authority child care system. Those two organisations should have remained free and been competitors to the state system. As it is, the state has a monopoly on child care and we know how bad monopolies can be in any endeavour.
In the spring one looks to the maples, for colour in the trees. In the autumn, we have colour from a number of trees. The smoke-tree, Cotinus, has put on a brave show. But Parrotia persica gives a larger display of glowing colours. But even it is outdone by the sumach rhus. Gleditsia 'Sunburst', of which I have four, have made a good display but the wind has caused the leaves to disappear rather quickly. Sweet gum 'Liquidambar' is just coming on. For outstanding colour, and the pick of the bunch, is Robinia pseudo-acacia 'Frisia'. But the finest burst of colour in this area is the copper beech on the village green.
Garrya elliptica is already showing the development of silky catkins. However, it won't be at its best until late winter. Nevertheless it can be regarded as a herald of spring.
The swallows are not gone! Today I saw four together on a telegraph wire. They were probably young birds from a late brood, maybe a third brood. They were presumably fattening up before undertaking their remarkable flight to the Mediterranean and beyond. The garden seemed full of loud bird calls today. Pigeon couples were calling to one another everywhere. The pheasants were screeching in the meadow. The most exciting call was the hooting of an owl. I am sure this is a barn owl which has moved to this area. A most welcome visitor and, hopefully, a resident. From the valley came the honking of Canada geese.
We have three horse-chestnut trees and these are now showering us with sweet chestnuts. The grandchildren love gathering the nuts. They eat one or two then fill bulging pockets. They are meant to be kept for Christmas. But the most ardent collectors are the grey squirrels. They presumably go into their winter larder. Squirrels are seen in the garden everyday. We have never yet seen a red squirrel. Their path takes them into the Ginkgo tree, then into an herbaceous border. They stop as they come out of the border and glance ahead. They then take the open ground past the Robinia tree, ready to jump into it if necessary. Up the hill they go, near to the Continus. Having stopped to look ahead they then clear the open lawn as quickly as possible and, in a flash, are in the oak tree. The only variation from this routine comes with the young squirrels. They are yet to learn the path and tend to wander away from it for short distances. This time of the year the squirrels are busy collecting the acorns from the oak tree. Sometimes they bury them in the lawn, to be collected later.
I secured a second-hand book today. Inside I saw the name of the previous owner - Anthony Huxley. A member of the famous Huxley family, he was a prominent writer and editor of gardening books. It is a privilege to have one of his books and yet, sad to think how one's goods are dispersed on one's death.
The book is on the Chelsea Physic Garden. It is full of interest and a reminder of the big part this botanic garden has played in the horticultural and botanic world. Just one reminder of the importance of collecting plants comes from the information that American cotton came from the Chelsea botanic garden. Philip Miller, the Curator in 1732 sent a package of cotton seed to the new colonies of the United States. From this came all the cotton of the United States.
Rain has brought flooding in the valley. This is a welcome sight in as much as it makes clear that the underground water in this area has been restored by the rain. Instead of the water sinking below ground and disappearing, the water is now able to collect on the surface. Were we wise in this country each winter we would be collecting this water into reservoirs. The advice to grow tropical plants for the summer here can be disregarded. We want a plentiful supply of water in the summer so that we can grow our own English plants. Water companies in the United Kingdom run out of water at precisely the time it would be easiest to sell the water. What a remarkable disorganisation!
I motored down to see the flood. Along the edges of the water were hundreds of gulls. I suspect that, as the ground near the lake is sodden, inhabitants of the soil move nearer the surface and are quickly gobbled up by the gulls. Nearby was a flock of Canada geese also enjoying the new phenomena.
Gulls are remarkably quick to spot an opportunity to feed. I recalled that some time ago, in our previous garden, we witnessed an extraordinary phenomena one evening. My attention was caught by the calling of hundreds of gulls flying just over the garden. Below them was a cloud of what appeared to be large bees, almost the size of a small bird. The bees were coming in to roost in the Scots pine. The gulls had noticed the phenomena and had moved in for an evening meal.
Having some surplus furniture to give away I reminded myself today of the hazards of such an operation. Usually a friend will oblige by taking it away. They do this to be helpful and also because they abhor waste. The material then collects in their household in awkward places with the family falling over it repeatedly. After a particularly heavy fall the material is handed on to another helpful friend, another abhorer of waste. One imagines that this process goes on into time until, ultimately, the material becomes an antique and finds its way into an emporium.
Moving some sacking in the greenhouse today I was surprised to see a snake coiled there. It was an adder. It is perhaps best for an adder and my grandchildren not to meet. I was considering what I should do when, in a flash, the snake woke and was gone. There was no need for action but I was left to contemplate snakes.
Grass snakes, up to 2 or 3 feet, (up to 1 metre) visit the garden periodically from a nearby meadow. They look fearsome but are, in fact, quite harmless. I have talked to the grandchildren about the need to leave them alone. Slow worms, which are not snakes, are the most common visitors.
Attitude towards snakes seem to be changing as quite a number of people now acquire them as pets. They often appear at children's parties. I suppose one must apply common sense. I heard of a man with three children who kept a large python in this basement. It escaped one day and succeeded in killing and eating the alsation dog next door. One did wonder about the safety of the children.
Some time ago one of the so-called 'wild children' was discovered in a remote part of Spain. He had been kidnapped at an early age and taken into a remote area to look after goats. He was only visited once a year when the owners came to collect the kids. Thus he had no language. He lived largely on the milk from the goats. One evening a large snake appeared and began lapping at the milk. He came repeatedly, and in no time at all the boy and the snake became companions. Then the snake moved in to his very simple habitation where he already had a friend, a mouse. The snake never touched the mouse. The snake and he became constant companions, even to swimming together in a nearby pond. The snake appeared to be very sensitive to changes in the weather and warned his companion of impending storms, etc. One day there was an army exercise in the area and the troops found the boy. They brought him back to civilisation. Having no language he was of great interest to researchers. He was asked the obvious question "which life did he prefer - his primitive life or the new life in civilisation?" He was adamant in his choice of the new life. But he had one great regret. He missed his companion the snake. Furthermore, he felt that he had abandoned the snake.
I was looking at the Ginkgo tree (maidenhair tree) today to see if it was changing colour yet. It is changing from green to yellow. The leaves are fan shaped; the Chinese say they are like duck's feet. This is probably the rarest tree in our garden. It is the oldest known tree and is said to be over 250 million years old and was to be found at the time of the dinosaurs. The trees are either male or female and can live up to 300 years.
Nearby, but outside the garden, is another unusual tree, the Californian Redwood. It is not as massive as trees I have seen in their native California. They are readily identified from other trees by the simple act of hitting them with a fist, the bark is so thick that with this tree, and with this tree alone, you can get away without damaging your hand. In California these trees are often seen in the wet mist that hangs over the coast of California up to some miles from the coast. This must give them an excellent source of moisture. I noticed that when the redwood tree was cut down, a number of small trees would sprout from the base.
Today I had a chat with a robin in the White Bed. As usual he was a bit noisy and challenging at first, but soon became quiet when I began my gentle whistling. In no time he was at arms length. The White Bed has a history. A previous lady owner here soon developed a companionship with an equally elderly retired neighbour. As a tribute to his lady he made a white border. They were both charming people and we keep our link with them alive by maintaining the white border. It has a number of 'Iceberg' roses, white yucca blooms, potentillas, a white prunus, winter-sweet, Chimonanthus praecox. And, of course, C. montana 'Alba'.
One of my granddaughters is of an age when she is having to decide on a career and to select an appropriate university. Her sister will be on this quest next year. With each I have been going through the very large number of possible careers. We thought that the thing to do was to eliminate whole fields and thus narrow down the quest. This granddaughter clearly wishes to go into one of the helping professions. That still leaves a number of possibilities.
Adolescence calls for much sensitivity in adults. At 15 many of them have the mental age of an adult and yet, so often, they find themselves treated as children. It is much better to err on the side of giving them too much responsibility rather than too little. In the last two Great Wars 18-year-olds could find themselves leading a platoon of men in the most dangerous of situations. What they think their parents think of them is of great importance in a happy image of themselves. Equally important is what they think their peers think of them. In some research I did some years ago I found that even at the age of 8 years the paramount influence on a child seemed to be peer influence even more than parent influence. Their image of themselves must be continually fostered by the adult. Adolescents and children can be remarkably worldly-wise at an early age. I am reminded of my granddaughter, Georgina, at the age of 8. She had a boyfriend. He drifted off to another young lady. She found an opportunity to accost him on the following day and told him "you should be careful, you know. Just think what your children are going to look like".
Despite the cold weather I am surprised at the number of mosquitos still to be seen - both occasionally in the house, and outside. They positively teem around the security lights at night. Surely, the increasingly cold weather must curb their activities very shortly. It does remind one that malaria was at one time rife in Britain. It was termed the 'ague'. Although our present mosquitos could carry malaria there aren't the infected people around to give them a source of infection. Horticulture has played an important part in the control of malaria. The wife of a Spanish Viceroy in Peru brought back the bark of the cinchona tree that grew on the Andes. She brought it back to Spain. So powdered bark became available in Europe; this contained quinine, an agent against malaria. Indeed Charles II had the ague cured with it. Ultimately, in 1862, a Sir Clements Markham succeeded in bringing plants from the Andes to India, Ceylon and Burma. Thereafter quinine was within the reach of all. Daniel Defoe in his Tour through the Eastern Counties in 1772 referred to the scourge of the ague. It has even been said the increasing weakness of Rome and Greece was due to the increasing power of the malaria mosquito.
The big project in my garden this winter are the paths. These were laid down about 1875 and have only been altered slightly here and there. Much man-power goes into controlling the weeds on these paths during the growing season. So I am going to experiment with putting down black fabric through which rain can travel but through which weeds cannot penetrate. These will then be covered with shingle. It's going to be quite a large enterprise. When these paths were laid down the trade in clematis during the nineteenth century was at its height. Jackman's of Woking had hybridised Clematis 'Jackmani'. Such an impact was made that it provoked an enormous increase of hybridising in Europe. However, lying in wait was the fungus of stem-rot (clematis wilt). By 1880 the nurseries were at their wits end and the trade declined.
There is a link, oddly enough, between tea and clematis. The link lies through Robert Fortune. He, it was, who brought Clematis lanuginosa back from China. This clematis was then crossed with an English hybrid and produced the spectacular Clematis 'Jackmani'. So Fortune was an important element in bringing clematis before us. On his return from his second voyage Fortune was made Curator of the Chelsea Botanic Garden, but then he was approached to help found tea plantations in India. It was he who set forth to China and persuaded the Chinese to release their best plants to him. In 1851 Robert Fortune introduced no less than 2,000 tea plants and 17,000 sprouting seeds into north-west India. This, he was able to do due to the invention of the Wardian cases by Dr Nathaniel Ward. This device revolutionised the transportation of plants. Essentially it was a small greenhouse but without any exposed areas. Thus the case worked very much like a plastic bag, which is used nowadays, enveloping a potted plant to maintain the moisture within the bag. Once watered the plants could go for weeks unwatered and in fact happily growing in their soil. Such an impact did the importation of tea plants make on the Indian economy that devotees of Fortune have argued that he should have had a statue in a prominent place, rather than the politicians, viceroys and generals.
Two Scots pines make the boundary of the garden directly in front of the house. The trees being tall are a great vantage point for birds. Passing birds drop in, have a look round, and go off again. Almost permanently there are couples of wood pigeons in residence.
Clematis 'Jackmani' still has a few flowers on the plant. They look a bit weary and, of course, insects have damaged the blooms. The original Clematis 'Jackmani' is confused with 'Jackmani Superba'. Both have dark mauve petals but in 'Superba' the petals are broader and there is less gap between the petals. Both have a light, creamy-green, centre. They are often confused with 'Gipsy Queen' and as 'Gipsy Queen' is difficult to propagate, 'Gipsy Queen' often appears with a 'Jackmani' label. In 'Gipsy Queen' the petals are, again, dark mauve but the centre is also dark mauve. 'Gipsy Queen' is a fine plant; so robust that it layers easy.
"Who was Ernest Markham?" I am asked.
Ernest Markham was head gardener to the redoubtable William Robinson at Gravetye Manor, Sussex, UK. Robinson was given a number of seedlings by the French hybridist and nurseryman, Morrel. Amongst them was a texensis seedling, later named 'Gravetye Beauty' by Robinson. After the death of Robinson the seedlings passed to Markham and after his death to Jackman's of Woking. In 1937 Jackman's named the red flowered seedling after Ernest Markham. In 1912 Robinson wrote The Virgin's Bower. In 1935 Ernest Markham wrote a larger, more useful, book called Clematis. This had an introduction by William Robinson and chapters by J E Spingarn and G R Jackman.
The clematis 'Ernest Markham' has six petals with beige stamens. The petals are magenta-red. It is a vigorous plant which likes the sun. It flowers in late summer. It is regarded as one of the best red clematis.
There are fine gardens all over the world, both in the northern and southern hemisphere. There is an immense concentration of fine gardens in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. Which is the finest garden one has ever seen?
No two gardeners would give the same answer to the above question. I have a tendency to like gardens that are bordering on natures own garden, a wild garden. One might term my type of garden as a wild garden improved by man. One might remember, after all, that homo sapiens is also a part of nature, and every act he commits is a natural act. But there is an appeal towards the garden which has been nurtured by nature for hundreds of years. Even then, due to mishap, these gardens can be less than perfect. It is here that man can step in and tidy it up. Here and there he can add what is required, or maybe take away what is not required. He may establish colour for every month of the year. He may produce a vista where there is none.
The garden that comes closest to my image is that of the Villa Balbianello on a promontory jutting into Lake Como in northern Italy. Every element in the garden is a shade of green. Everything in the garden is reflected in the lake around the garden. The colour green is all invasive. Care has been taken not to introduce splashes of colour and so influence the harmony of the greens. I have been in the garden in all weathers, including a storm with rain. It never fails to appeal. I could walk in it every day forever.
I am impressed by the wisdom expressed by Drewitt in his book called The Romance of the Apothecary's Garden at Chelsea. He has this to say of autocrats.
"Autocracy would be an excellent form of government if autocrats were
always wise. It is unfortunate that the possession of uncontrolled power should corrupt its possessor; and that the unopposed despot should slide so easily down the smooth road to Avernus" (he is mentioning the lake linked to the Underworld).
Our lovely cat, Frosty, is no more. Some five years ago she had an operation. More recently it was clear she had developed secondaries. The vet, quite rightly, did not advise another operation. She bore her increasing ill health with fortitude, but last night she cried. So, urgently we took her to the vet. A gentle, sensitive, able, young lady vet mercifully put her into a long sleep. She is now buried in the White border and the little robin is her custodian.
Ola fed Frosty, groomed her, and saw to her every want with a lot of special treats so, that in a way, her life was one long treat. She regarded me as her "Gaffer", if you could say that a cat is obedient to anyone. She also regarded me as her security figure at times of fright or distress. She was loved without exception by all eight grandchildren. They cuddled her and she responded to them. It is important for children to have pets so that they learn to care for animals. Also it helps them to handle the phenomena of death.
As a neurologist, psychiatrist, and with some training in theology, I am sometimes asked to differentiate between brain, mind and soul.
The brain, of course, is physical and resides in our skull. It can be likened to a computer. It handles all our physical activities including speech and gesture, which allows us to communicate with other people. As in computers, brains are of varying power. Most have a brain of an average power. Some are fortunate in having above average power, while a few are unfortunate in having below average power.
The mind is made up of all the impressions that come into our brain, probably starting within the uterus. These impressions are based upon our experiences. As the experience of no two people is the same, it follows that the mind of each person is different from the next. Thus there is a tremendous variety of personality. Man suffers enormously from the distressing experiences that come into the mind from outside. The understanding of this is known as psycho-pathology. Having spent a life-time trying to unravel psycho-pathology I know that there is a great distance to go yet in our understanding of it. It is immensely important to our well-being and yet it is an area where we have invested very little effort. To bring knowledge here is the largest task before science.
The soul could be regarded as the essence, or the imprint, of the individual. It is said to survive the experience of death. The Pope has made it clear that there is no physical heaven and that the soul moves to the "presence" of God. How this could come about precipitates a thousand questions. Do we meet loved ones again? Are the animals, too, in the "presence"? How does the journey take place? Is there room for everyone? What is the point of it? In trying to answer these questions we must, of course, remind ourselves of our likely ignorance. If we can think back to a thousand years ago we can acknowledge that there is an immense amount that they didn't know then. Their ideas of heaven and hell, God, life, etc, were rudimentary. A thousand years hence, they will be looking back at us and realising that we had a great deal to understand. Possibilities and systems will have emerged then, which are here today, but of which we are not aware.
It is going to be a good year for holly berries on the holly trees. Our big tree is just covered with berries. 'Nelly Moser' is still in lovely bloom. Remarkably C. alpina 'Constance' has three delightful bells; it's about four months ahead of its time.
We have had a sojourn in an old hotel about 20 miles away. We have known it for 50 years. The food and the ambience has changed up and down over those years. Having had a recent refurbishment it is now in an "up" phase. Having been continually changed over centuries it is a rabbit-warren of a hotel with a constant feature of lovely oak beams. In a refurbishment 40 years ago the hotel was given a delightful garden. It is a gem, full of interesting features. On this occasion the shrub that caught my eye was the gorse - and in bloom. What an inspiration to have planted this wild shrub amongst the others. It is said that Linnaeus, when he came to England, to the Chelsea Physic Garden, was very taken with the gorse here. He crossed a wooden bridge from Fulham to Putney Common, what is now Putney High Street. It was the gorse that caught his eye.
As we travelled through undulating countryside we were struck by the great quantities of Clematis vitalba in our hedges. Now, of course, the flowers are all in seed.
Sudbury was the object of our exploration today. In particular the gallery devoted to Gainsborough's paintings. He was born in this house. At first he devoted a lot of his painting to landscape. But when he moved to Bath he discovered that you can make much more money painting the celebrities there. Later still he moved to London and did the same there. While the gallery is full of interest for the background material on the painter, his really great paintings are elsewhere, scattered through the great galleries of the world. There is a gorgeous example in the delightful Frick Collection of Fifth Avenue in New York. Also in that gallery there is an item of horticultural interest. This is the splendid magnolia to be seen in bloom right on Fifth Avenue in the spring. The garden of the Gainsborough museum in Sudbury also has an item of great horticultural interest. This is an enormous black mulberry bush, said to have been planted in 1610. I paced this enormous tree and found it to have a diameter of 12 yards (11m).
Today took us to the village of Cavendish and the small town of Clare in west Suffolk. Cavendish holds the museum of the Sue Ryder Foundation. After the Second World War, in Eastern Europe there had been great upheaval of populations. People began to settle old scores in the new situation. It was a time of immense suffering for people. The world concentrated on the armed conflict and the situation left behind was largely forgotten in the elation of victory. It was into this situation that this remarkable little lady, Sue Ryder, moved. She asked no questions about causes. If someone was in need then her aim was to meet that need. She particularly concentrated on Poland and Czechoslovakia. From all this came an enormous European movement, the Sue Ryder Foundation, which still continues its fine work today. Sue Ryder died today as I write. The museum is almost too painful to endure. There is degradation, distress, and hatred all around you. It is the saddest of all sad places. It competes with the holocaust museum in Jerusalem. A contrast between the beautiful village of Cavendish in the sunlight and what we had witnessed left one numbed. A shocking exhibition of Man's inhumanity to man.
The flooding has struck Britain. We are on a hill and can breathe easily. But the valley below is flooded as we have never seen it flooded. The rain reminds me of a little experience one Christmas. At times of extremity, impossible circumstances, profound perplexity, I have been known to use the expletive 'bloody'. I was to learn that my little granddaughter had noticed this
We were enjoying Christmas with our son in London. On Christmas morning he suggested that we should take a walk on Wimbledon Common. This would give an edge to our appetite for the coming Christmas lunch.
When we reached the common it was raining heavily. We set off. I held little Verity's hand. She was four years old. We trudged on through the rain. Suddenly Verity said "Grandpa".
To which I said "Yes, Verity?"
To which she said "Grandpa, it's wet".
To this I responded by saying "Well, you must remember, Verity, what daddy said. We are going to enjoy this walk so much despite the rain, that we are later going to enjoy our lunch so much".
We trudged on through the rain. Pools were collecting.
Suddenly Verity said "Grandpa".
Verity said "Itís very wet, Grandpa".
I responded by pointing out that pools were collecting and if you looked into these pools you would be able to see the reflection of the moving clouds, and this was delightful.
We trudged on with larger and greater pools collecting. Then Verity said "Grandpa!". To which I said "Yes, Verity?" "It's very, very, wet, Grandpa."
To which I responded by pointing out that I had a trickle of rain down my spine. She admitted to having one too. I said "Isn't that delightful? If you look at it in the right way, it really is rather pleasant."
"Yes, Grandpa" said Verity.
Onwards we trudged, through darkening clouds and heavy rain, and lakes. And then Verity said "Grandpa!"
I responded "Yes? Verity."
"Grandpa! It's bloody wet!"
At that point we turned back.
It has been a day of storms with rain and wind. Beneath the oak tree there is a great amount of wood that has fallen from the tree. You can regard this as a gift from God to keep the fires burning through the winter. This massive oak is getting old and you wonder how many storms it can endure. At least no large branch has come down. It is a great joy to have this tree in the middle of the lawn, but in the slightest wind one has to warn people not to walk under it. Even a small branch of oak falling from a height could kill the person underneath.
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