There's much yet to celebrate

by James Hamilton

Day 1, 24 March, 2020.

   For a few years now I have made a morning walk — this morning, the momentous first morning of the lockdown, I went as usual at about 8 o'clock, down Church Street, left at the war memorial and into the field beyond the cemetery path. This cemetery is full, so no chance of a berth there unless long booked.

   The cherry on the stile is in glorious blossom. It was devastated by gales three years ago, shattered and broken, its orangey wood-flesh stark in the hedgerow. But now it has grown back; its wound has darkened and sealed itself, and although it grows at a drunken angle it shoots out shoots and flowers with flowers as if there is still something to celebrate. There is of course.

   The green spikes coming up between the plough lines know it, the skylarks waltzing upwards know it, so do the clumps of dock and alkanet, grass tuffets, daffs, the worms and beetles. I get the impression that there are far more birds about now, and they are perfectly content. Well, it's spring.

   Along the footpath that we all have to create again after every ploughing, and through the hedgegap to the top of the slope, I can see Bletchington Hill in the distance. It has still, and has always had, one rogue Scots Pine higher than the rest making a blob above the main mass. It comes into all the pictures I have painted of that view, becoming gradually more and more abstract. Unique about Bletchingdon is this: nobody knows how to spell it, so at one end of the village the sign announces Bletchington, at the other it's Bletchingdon.

   The January/February floods are gone now. The huge St Mary's Field is dry, as are the lower parts of the fields around it. During the floods - this year and in 2014 - it was a lake with seagulls, swans and ducks. In May it will be a lake of buttercups.

   I go as far as the Wight Bridge beside the River Cherwell's wight, a small island or blockage that makes the river part and flow round it. Then back along the causeway towards "Our Lady's Needle", the tallest parish church spire in the country, past the east end of the churchyard now dotted with primroses, past the almshouses and home for breakfast.

   This may be the first of many reports during these strange times; it may be the only one, who knows?

SEE ALSO by James Hamilton:
One Last Job
A Year Locked Down in Kidlington
In Praise of Cow Parsley
An Extraordinary Journey
Blossom Fortnight
Pavements and Lids
There's Much Yet to Celebrate

James Hamilton is a resident of the village of Kidlington, Oxfordshire. He is a curator, writer and lecturer, who entered the University of Manchester 1966 to read Mechanical Engineering, and emerged in 1971 with a degree in History of Art. James is also a biographer and has written on Turner, Faraday, Gainsborough, and Constable.

Visit James' website here.

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