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Prelude



Ben

This blog starts with a prelude to great things.

We went to Bridport early on Saturday morning. The market was quiet but Charlie and I came away with a haul of goodies from the famous £1 china lady (everything on the stand £1).

Followed by breakfast at Soulshine. If you want to find me and Charlie, it’s a fairly good bet that we’ll be the first people through the door at Soulshine if it’s a Saturday when we’re in Dorset.

And then back home via our friend Caddy, where we had coffee that rolled into lunch, and could have fairly easily lasted until supper, with her, and Martha, her daughter.

Caddy handed over the equivalent of gold, or of rare bulbs at the height of the Tulipomania craze of the 1630s. She has received (from a very secret source) a pair of seeds from the largest pumpkin ever grown in the UK.  One is for her, and the other for Charlie.

A second packet contained two seeds from a slightly smaller giant pumpkin. 

I think I’ll bring out those little photos at the end of the year, and we can see where things got to.

_ _ _

This morning, Charlie and Mavis and I got up early and went on a trip. In the interests of the ‘new things every week’ directive, we thought we’d do a trip over to Lulworth and Durdle Door, which I haven’t been to since a child, and not in all these long years that I’ve been living down in Dorset. I think it’s one of those things that is just too touristy to possibly consider in the height of summer. So a beautiful, crisp, early Sunday morning in the third week of January was about the perfect moment to make a trip.

The sun was rising as we made our way.

The roads were empty and beautiful.  Mist hung thick in the valleys.

As we neared the coast, the air took on a haze that could have belonged to a heavy, warm summers’ evening in July…

… And when we began walking, for a moment I felt as if we were watching sundown on a small Greek island in the intense heat of summer.  It’s funny how light can play tricks on the mind.

For people like me, who like the Faces in Things folks, you’ll like the rocks below:

(See what I mean?).

Lulworth cove is serene and sheltered; the rising sun again played those tricks of the eye.

We walked to the coastguard cottages, with their huge chimneys,

and past a Regency cottage orne, making one think that Lulworth must have been a very beautiful place at the beginning of the 19th century. The 19th and 20th centuries have not worn so well here, but the bones of the place remain.

We walked up the cliff to Durdle Door. The path was deserted.  I can’t imagine quite what it would be like here on a hot August weekend.

The great coastline of Dorset stretched out before us, away to Weymouth bay in the distance…

…Where splendid Georgian terraces gleamed through the haze, ten miles down the coast, looking like a convoy of ships floating on a distant horizon.

The Durdle Door caravan park loomed on the skyline.  It’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t be here, but I liked it, really.

The sea was an astonishing colour, and beautifully clear.  I had that same flashback to Mediterranean summers.

Durdle Door was simple and majestic.

Mavis and I getting vertigo.

A beautiful start to the day. We drove home in time for church in the village, with cake baked by Charlie and coffee afterwards, and everyone was mildly shocked by the rather smug way in which we announced we had been for a long walk over the coastal cliffs already.

But what’s the most amazing thing about this weekend?  Suddenly, today, after a lovely long lunch with neighbours in the village, and walking home, you think to yourself:

It’s 5 o’ clock, it’s still daylight, and the birds are singing loudly in the woodland.  We glimpsed our first snowdrops this weekend, too, and spring feels on the brink of bursting.  Warm days in January are always a false dawn of course, and foolish is the gardener who doesn’t consider cold blasts of icy winter in March, or April, even, but there is something about the daylight lengthening that even an arctic blast cannot deny. Rebirth is around the corner.

How can Charlie and I thank everyone enough for the many, many comments about little Percy?  Strange how a week flies by so quickly, and yet simultaneously seems so distant.  We still miss Percy like crazy, but we’re not so bitterly sad. Time is a healer.

E P I L O G U E

It seems strange writing about a walk on the cliffs, or daylight lengthening, at precisely the moment when many readers of this blog will, I suspect, be in depths of despair about the Presidential Inauguration on Friday. It’s hard to pick up a newspaper without being plummeted into a sense of gloom.

Amongst all the despair, the one glimmer of hope I find, myself, is that at last a politician is speaking about places and conditions that I think have, honestly, been forgotten about, for a long time; in this country, as well as in US. I can’t be the only one who feels queasily uncomfortable when someone refers, disparagingly, to the ‘flyover states’.  Of course I’m not sure the President has the answers, and maybe the complexities of office will come crashing down his shoulders sooner than we imagine. But I am glad that the question is being raised.  I hope that in quiet moments among the howl of despair, from almost everyone I know, people will consider how we got here, and at least wish this country well in her task of reconstruction, a reconstruction to which the current President may be the prelude (or even the cause) rather than the main act.

I adore America; I’ve loved America ever since I lived there, and not just the America of the refined coasts (or of the supremely elegant and intelligent and timeless President Obama).  I’m fascinated by this country and all the extraordinary paradoxes she represents. But can I be the only person who is amazed, and not a little horrified to see how, in the richest country on earth, so much seems to be falling apart.  But I believe that the glue exists to keep this great country together, and true to her principles.

I have the same feelings. from time to time, about so much of Britain, where extraordinary gentleness, humour and profound beauty sits directly alongside so much decay and helplessness. Maybe these problems are after all insoluble, but I’d like to think about ways in which the building blocks can be put back together again.

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