SUTTON HOO

SUTTON HOO

On our recent holiday in Suffolk, we visited Sutton Hoo. We had last been there perhaps 30 years ago. Then we had wandered, with our children, through fields (of maize, I think) until we came upon an archeological dig. From here, presently, the archeologist in charge had emerged and given a lecture on the site which was so erudite and elegant that when he drew his remarks to a close, and invited questions, we were so overwhelmed by his eloquence that nobody could gather their thoughts together fast enough to construct an adequate response. Way down the line a woman whom I had noticed was rather restless raised her hand. “What happened to Mrs Pretty?’ she demanded. Edith Pretty was the owner after the death of her husband and she earned whatever rank she may have wished (but presumably did not wish to become a Duchess? ) she left the entire property to the nation and shook out her cloak

This time there was a proper car park, and an attractive visitor centre and cafe, museum shop etc.

It was (for me) a longish walk through marshy, hilly ground and then you arrive at the burial site.

It is said that Mrs Pretty consulted her deceased husband in a spiritualist session and he had advised her to examine the largest. You did not really require the advice. It was by far the largest mound. The team pressed on, hoping to discover the magnificent treasure which we now know to have been there.

The boat was HUGE. It had been hauled up from the river quite a distance. It had been built of wood and was clinker built. The boat would have held approximately 80 oarsmen and was steered by the helmsman in the rear with a deep rudder. It is thought that the crew had numbered aBOUT 80. They reckoned it had been to sea. It was a lovely object.

And then there were copies of the treasures found within the burial. Of the body, nothing remained. There was a beautiful sword with a jewelled scabbard, arm bracelets with enamel and gold. And the glorious helmet. A horse’s skeleton was also recognisable and its precious metal harness from

In the past I have looked with disapproval at cultures who bury grave goods with the deceased. These products were of tremendous value- a king’s ransom indeed. I used to think sniffily that they must have had poor people or those who were ill or injured and needed support and who could have benefited from the sale of these goods, Just letting my thoughts flow where they will, I suddenly realised that these people genuinely believed in the Afterlife, and therefore it made sense to go into the underworld prepared.

We have an ambivalent attitude to life after death. To any of you who still genuinely believe in Christianity’s legend of the afterlife, I have no wish to offend. I admire your faith and hope you may be right. But mostly we do not, in our secret hearts believe it. We have allowed science to seduce us. We don our blacks and we attend the rituals of burial. We say Amen to the prayers for the soul of the deceased. We find the ancient words a comfort, and we are happy to conform to the burial customs. But for us it is like a piece of theatre. In the main, we do not believe.

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FINE DINING

FINE DINING

We have been on holiday in our caravan for the past fortnight in Suffolk and Essex. There was a great variety of weather – from glorious heart-warming late summer sunshine, to pre-equinoxial gales, but none of the heavier weather happened when we needed fine, and we were warm and snug in our caravan.

We were in the beautiful town of Lavenham one day and decided to have lunch. We ended up in a ‘fine dining’ establishment (simply because we chose the nicest looking restaurant on the square.) I was reflecting on other ‘fine dining’ experiences I have had – in London, in Sandusky, Ohio, in Normandie in France, and came to the conclusion that I do not like FINE DINING.

I like Good Food of course and a nice wine and efficient service but I remind myself that although we are privileged to enjoying this luxury, other people do not have enough to eat.

There were nice things about the restaurant. It had an elegant dining room with comfortable chairs.

It’s menu was interesting. My small glass of Sauvignon Blanc was very good. When we dined in Normandie, the Maitre D’ was all that you would wish but the waitress was very forward; here the waitresses were lovely, with formal but smiling service and kind and sensitive to the needs of disabled customers and the mothers of babies. Whereas the maitre d’ who was comparatively young seemed mostly preoccupied with preserving his dignity. He did not appear to do anything except issue orders and hamper other people in their work.

I had soup which came in a soup bowl which had a few pieces of chicken and vegetables artfully arranged in it, over which she poured, from a jug the creamy liquid of the soup. Was this really necessary I found myself thinking. Then I had sea-bream on a bed of vegetables, and finally I chose a chocolate dessert which consisted of teaspoonfuls of ice-cream, gateau, sauce and other tiny pieces. I found myself regarding it with distaste and wondering how clean were the hands of the person who had fiddled with my dessert. We also had an amuse-bouche and a small portion of another tiny pudding. It was ALL very good but I found myself irritated at its pretentiousness and thinking I would prefer my food to look more like its original state.

Meanwhile there had arrived a young couple with an 8 month old baby boy, It was obviously a celebration, perhaps of the mother’s birthday. She was a pretty woman wearing a glamorous dress. The Boy was dressed in his finest too. He was a lovely child. His parents still had that look about them that first time parents have: triumph, delight – and shock at how much more difficult it all was than they had ever imagined. The boy was delighted to be out, and set about, from his high chair, of engaging with every party in the room. An elderly couple where the man sat in gloomy silence, listening to his wife’s constant flow of mostly malicious gossip about people of their acquaintance, just sighing at the end of some scurrilous tale but no more inclined to take action than a cat facing a crocodile. (I had privately named them as the Bishop and Mrs Proudie.)

When the boy indicated that he would actually be careful and stick to his pram and be a good buy, the ‘Bishop’ (while sufficiently savvy – he was a worldly bishop )– was not deceived.. The mother fed the boy his lunch while they waited for theirs to come. But at this point the child revealed that he wasn’t all sweetness and light. The waitress came with a basket full of bread rolls, giving one to each of the parents but not to the boy. He shouted at her; in his rage the sounds were almost like words. Then he bellowed at his mother for not fixing the problem to his satisfaction. He cried (mumphed to himself really) and then fell asleep in his pram leaving his parents a brief period of calm in which to enjoy their lunch.

He could have told you all about Fine Dining!

ON REACHING SEVENTY

ON APPROACHING SEVENTY

In December, only a few months away, I will (deo volente) reach the age of 70. I’m quite surprised to have arrived at this point. I don’t understand how I got (quite suddenly it seems to me) to be so ‘dwedfully old’ to quote Dana. It has snuck up on me.

We are mortal; only ever one breath away from death and oblivion, yet we live our lives as though we were immortal.

I’m not someone who habitually watches films more than once but recently John and I watched Quartet for the 5th or 6th tme and I still found it enjoyable. The star studded cast, the humour, the music and the incomparable Billy Connelly make this a very watchable film. This is a good thing because we are not very good at acknowledging the pain and losses that come with old age.

Looking back on my life, I do not think I have recognised how fortunate I was. Although my childhood could be described as ‘difficult’ and certainly was neither standard nor conventional, it was happy. Our parents spent time and energy on educating us. My father was very intelligent and well read, and was knowledgable about many thing – all things natural, the history of Scotland, religion (as proscribed by him), woodwork (I could recognise any tool, no matter how obscure) and so on. He kept bees amd grew most of our food. He was also shrewd and cunning and a master of strategy in which he freely instructed me. He could speak the vernacular, which I never managed but he could also speak the Queen’s English and he was a powerful speaker who could raise a rabble before you could see his intent, He was a dictator of course, but I had inherited his genes sufficiently that when I became a teenager, I could deal with him. He had abandoned all his and my mother’s relatives apart from we three; but we stuck with him to the end.

My mother spoke the Queen’s English and she made sure that we did too and with an acceptable middle class accent. She ensured that I had middle class manners and knew how to entertain, run a house, deal with employees, knew how to seat people according to rank, how to cook and sew. She taught me how to dress well on little money. I had an easy rapport with men, and once I was a wife and mother I got on well with other women.

And in Eugene I had an intelligent companion, one who understood (and still does) where I was coming from. I therefore was rarely what people expected and one or two peope made catastrophic errors of judgement in relation to me (and I have to say that I was never in the least forgiving about these.)

I was fortunate in my husband and children, and I had the luxury of being able to bring up my children myself. I was also rich in friends.

In reaching 70, I feel that I have had a good portion. Life does not owe me anything. I have lived life free, comfortable, relatively healthy (I have no complaints) and. I hope and believe, have been well loved. I have been blessed with son and daughters and with many grandchildren of both sexes. I have travelled and seen many places.

I hope to live a longer portion still, but if the call came for me now, I would go without complaint. God has always been good to me, and it certainly is not because I have deserved it.

JOAN OF ARC

We were watching a programme the other night on Joan of Arc and I reflected that it is very rare for me to entirely espouse the English point of view. Then I figured out why I was so hostile to her. It’s the God question.

Joan of Arc, whether you admire her or not, was an extraordinary person, who as a teenage girl declared that God had sent her with a message for the king of France. She was sent to take charge of his army and to fight the English. God would be on their side; she would drive the English out of France, and he then the Dauphin, would duly be crowned king of France in their traditional place for coronations which was Rheims Cathedral. He had been unable to be crowned at Rheims (the French equivalent of Scone (pronounced Scoon) in Scotland as it was in the hands of the English.)

God knows the English have a habit of going where they have no business, and the fact that I share their view of Joan does not imply any sympathy for their cause in France.

But I have the greatest suspicion of people to whom God has entrusted a mission, (allegedly, generally by themselves) especially one which requires other people to carry out this mission as well. I think such people are either deluded or charlatans. I think personally that Joan of Arc made it all up – that she was both attention seeking and delusional. Why should she (or indeed anyone) have a hot line to God? Why should she be in charge of the army when she had no military experience? France (at that time) was partly under English occupation. Her visions were proved to be in error and she (God’s own woman of high destiny according to her) fell into the hands of the English and was burnt at the stake as an heretic, the English not being magnanimous in victory.   She certainly had ‘bottle’ but she lacked the guile ad strategic planning and caution necessary to be a military success.   Her chief talent seemed to be in self publicity.   She was a celebrity in her day

Incidentally in these cases where the Virgin Mary has allegedly appeared to some peasant girl, she never has anything in the least novel, or interesting or news-worthy to say, but just repeats such platitudes as might occur to an uneducated person. I am not so unspiritual as to deny that mystical experiences do exist. However, I firmly believe that these experiences are for the see-er of the vision alone, and he should not attempt to subvert other people to his vision. Neither do I agree with the medical profession which tends to the view that these experiences represent a brain malfunction, an aspect of disease (though they may do in some cases.) Every person who dreams a dream, or sees a vision, has to integrate that experience into their psyche, however best they can, or dismiss it as of no account. But it’s a problem for them alone.

I completely disapprove of the habit of mankind of declaring people to be saints. Who are we to say? Our own behaviour falls so far short that I doubt if we could recognise a saint (supposing such a thing exists.)

The whole thing reminds me of the woman who in a dream was being chased by her psychiatrist. She kept running and running in increasing terror until eventually she was backed into a corner and in despair said over her shoulder to her pursuer: What are you going to do to me? Lady, he replied. It’s your dream.

new words

PROROGATION

I love it when a new word arrives in our language. Well, the word I have in mind is not exactly new. Genuinely new words are generally born of modern technology, and here I have to confess that even when given an easy words explanation suitable for persons of low intellect, I have only a very vague idea of what it actually means.

Let’s take SatNav for example. I know it’s a shortened form of Satellite Navigation. This is, I would suggest, A Good Thing. I don’t know how we’d find our way about London without it. You put in your desired destination and it produces a map with yourself on it, and you follow your route on the map on the real road and it gets you to where you want to go. (Sometimes.) Ours once led us onto a dirt track in the middle of a field of cabbages, with a rusting shed nearby and announced, You have reached your destination. John (and Rory) are extremely reliable on the time and place of a meeting. If they say they will be, let us say at 98 Clontarf Road, Dublin on 26 August at 3 pm, then they will be sliding silently into place at 2. 59 pm. The downside of this is extreme stress if they are going to be late. John is also extremely reluctant to ask for directions. He seems to regard it as a point of honour that he shouldn’t. However, here there was no alternative. We quit the cabbage field and enquired in the next village. He came back all smiles. We were in Portugal, not Spain, and it was an hour earlier than we had thought, and the hotel where we were meeting Anne Hall and her mother was just down the road, on the right.

However, I digress. Returning to the word SatNav; I don’t know whether I’m rendering it correctly; if it should be hyphenated, or spelt differently. But who cares, it’s not a ‘real’ word.

The word that is new to me (and should you be familiar with it, I bow low before your superior education) is PROROGUE. It’s apparently how Boris is going to emasculate parliament so he can get a No Deal Exit.

We were in a potting shed in Nyman’s gardens where they sell second hand books for £1 each. I spotted a book by one Adrian Room entitled Dictionary of Confusing Words and Meanings and fell on it with geeky pleasure.

Here on the first page is prorogation, along with abolition and dissolution. Abolition is the strongest and was applied to things generally held to be wrong, such as slavery and hanging. Dissolution was the taking apart of something (permanently) so a dissolution of parliament, or Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Prorogation is the discontinuing of parliamentary sittings without an actual dissolution. It is a perilous undertaking; persons who have attempted it in the past include Charles I, and Cromwell with his wonderful quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider ye might be mistaken. They didn’t think so then and they don’t now. When Jo Swinton, latest leader of the Lib-dems and as annoying a wee gynaff as you could hope to see – we’re going to get mighty sick of the sound of her voice – says she’ll fight with everything she’s got (I don’t think we need worry – it’s not a lot!) to prevent us from leaving Europe, I wonder how she’s got the nerve to call herself a democrat.

Perhaps she thinks (another useful entry in the book) she has refuted the arguments against following the referendum’s vote. But she hasn’t of course. She has only rebutted them.

Lots of fascinating things we can consider and discuss. What do you mean, you’d rather be in parliament​?,

PROROGATION

I love it when a new word arrives in our language. Well, the word I have in mind is not exactly new. Genuinely new words are generally born of modern technology, and here I have to confess that even when given an easy words explanation suitable for persons of low intellect, I have only a very vague idea of what it actually means.

Let’s take SatNav for example. I know it’s a shortened form of Satellite Navigation. This is, I would suggest, A Good Thing. I don’t know how we’d find our way about London without it. You put in your desired destination and it produces a map with yourself on it, and you follow your route on the map on the real road and it gets you to where you want to go. (Sometimes.) Ours once led us onto a dirt track in the middle of a field of cabbages, with a rusting shed nearby and announced, You have reached your destination. John (and Rory) are extremely reliable on the time and place of a meeting. If they say they will be, let us say at 98 Clontarf Road, Dublin on 26 August at 3 pm, then they will be sliding silently into place at 2. 59 pm. The downside of this is extreme stress if they are going to be late. John is also extremely reluctant to ask for directions. He seems to regard it as a point of honour that he shouldn’t. However, here there was no alternative. We quit the cabbage field and enquired in the next village. He came back all smiles. We were in Portugal, not Spain, and it was an hour earlier than we had thought, and the hotel where we were meeting Anne Hall and her mother was just down the road, on the right.

However, I digress. Returning to the word SatNav; I don’t know whether I’m rendering it correctly; if it should be hyphenated, or spelt differently. But who cares, it’s not a ‘real’ word.

The word that is new to me (and should you be familiar with it, I bow low before your superior education) is PROROGUE. It’s apparently how Boris is going to emasculate parliament so he can get a No Deal Exit.

We were in a potting shed in Nyman’s gardens where they sell second hand books for £1 each. I spotted a book by one Adrian Room entitled Dictionary of Confusing Words and Meanings and fell on it with geeky pleasure.

Here on the first page is prorogation, along with abolition and dissolution. Abolition is the strongest and was applied to things generally held to be wrong, such as slavery and hanging. Dissolution was the taking apart of something (permanently) so a dissolution of parliament, or Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Prorogation is the discontinuing of parliamentary sittings without an actual dissolution. It is a perilous undertaking; persons who have attempted it in the past include Charles I, and Cromwell with his wonderful quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider ye might be mistaken. They didn’t think so then and they don’t now. When Jo Swinton, latest leader of the Lib-dems and as annoying a wee gynaff as you could hope to see – we’re going to get mighty sick of the sound of her voice – says she’ll fight with everything she’s got (I don’t think we need worry – it’s not a lot!) to prevent us from leaving Europe, I wonder how she’s got the nerve to call herself a democrat.

Perhaps she thinks (another useful entry in the book) she has refuted the arguments against following the referendum’s vote. But she hasn’t of course. She has only rebutted them.

Lots of fascinating things we can consider and discuss. What do you mean, you’d rather be in parliament​?,

PROROGATION

I love it when a new word arrives in our language. Well, the word I have in mind is not exactly new. Genuinely new words are generally born of modern technology, and here I have to confess that even when given an easy words explanation suitable for persons of low intellect, I have only a very vague idea of what it actually means.

Let’s take SatNav for example. I know it’s a shortened form of Satellite Navigation. This is, I would suggest, A Good Thing. I don’t know how we’d find our way about London without it. You put in your desired destination and it produces a map with yourself on it, and you follow your route on the map on the real road and it gets you to where you want to go. (Sometimes.) Ours once led us onto a dirt track in the middle of a field of cabbages, with a rusting shed nearby and announced, You have reached your destination. John (and Rory) are extremely reliable on the time and place of a meeting. If they say they will be, let us say at 98 Clontarf Road, Dublin on 26 August at 3 pm, then they will be sliding silently into place at 2. 59 pm. The downside of this is extreme stress if they are going to be late. John is also extremely reluctant to ask for directions. He seems to regard it as a point of honour that he shouldn’t. However, here there was no alternative. We quit the cabbage field and enquired in the next village. He came back all smiles. We were in Portugal, not Spain, and it was an hour earlier than we had thought, and the hotel where we were meeting Anne Hall and her mother was just down the road, on the right.

However, I digress. Returning to the word SatNav; I don’t know whether I’m rendering it correctly; if it should be hyphenated, or spelt differently. But who cares, it’s not a ‘real’ word.

The word that is new to me (and should you be familiar with it, I bow low before your superior education) is PROROGUE. It’s apparently how Boris is going to emasculate parliament so he can get a No Deal Exit.

We were in a potting shed in Nyman’s gardens where they sell second hand books for £1 each. I spotted a book by one Adrian Room entitled Dictionary of Confusing Words and Meanings and fell on it with geeky pleasure.

Here on the first page is prorogation, along with abolition and dissolution. Abolition is the strongest and was applied to things generally held to be wrong, such as slavery and hanging. Dissolution was the taking apart of something (permanently) so a dissolution of parliament, or Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Prorogation is the discontinuing of parliamentary sittings without an actual dissolution. It is a perilous undertaking; persons who have attempted it in the past include Charles I, and Cromwell with his wonderful quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider ye might be mistaken. They didn’t think so then and they don’t now. When Jo Swinton, latest leader of the Lib-dems and as annoying a wee gynaff as you could hope to see – we’re going to get mighty sick of the sound of her voice – says she’ll fight with everything she’s got (I don’t think we need worry – it’s not a lot!) to prevent us from leaving Europe, I wonder how she’s got the nerve to call herself a democrat.

Perhaps she thinks (another useful entry in the book) she has refuted the arguments against following the referendum’s vote. But she hasn’t of course. She has only rebutted them.

Lots of fascinating things we can consider and discuss. What do you mean, you’d rather be in parliament​?,

PROROGATION

I love it when a new word arrives in our language. Well, the word I have in mind is not exactly new. Genuinely new words are generally born of modern technology, and here I have to confess that even when given an easy words explanation suitable for persons of low intellect, I have only a very vague idea of what it actually means.

Let’s take SatNav for example. I know it’s a shortened form of Satellite Navigation. This is, I would suggest, A Good Thing. I don’t know how we’d find our way about London without it. You put in your desired destination and it produces a map with yourself on it, and you follow your route on the map on the real road and it gets you to where you want to go. (Sometimes.) Ours once led us onto a dirt track in the middle of a field of cabbages, with a rusting shed nearby and announced, You have reached your destination. John (and Rory) are extremely reliable on the time and place of a meeting. If they say they will be, let us say at 98 Clontarf Road, Dublin on 26 August at 3 pm, then they will be sliding silently into place at 2. 59 pm. The downside of this is extreme stress if they are going to be late. John is also extremely reluctant to ask for directions. He seems to regard it as a point of honour that he shouldn’t. However, here there was no alternative. We quit the cabbage field and enquired in the next village. He came back all smiles. We were in Portugal, not Spain, and it was an hour earlier than we had thought, and the hotel where we were meeting Anne Hall and her mother was just down the road, on the right.

However, I digress. Returning to the word SatNav; I don’t know whether I’m rendering it correctly; if it should be hyphenated, or spelt differently. But who cares, it’s not a ‘real’ word.

The word that is new to me (and should you be familiar with it, I bow low before your superior education) is PROROGUE. It’s apparently how Boris is going to emasculate parliament so he can get a No Deal Exit.

We were in a potting shed in Nyman’s gardens where they sell second hand books for £1 each. I spotted a book by one Adrian Room entitled Dictionary of Confusing Words and Meanings and fell on it with geeky pleasure.

Here on the first page is prorogation, along with abolition and dissolution. Abolition is the strongest and was applied to things generally held to be wrong, such as slavery and hanging. Dissolution was the taking apart of something (permanently) so a dissolution of parliament, or Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Prorogation is the discontinuing of parliamentary sittings without an actual dissolution. It is a perilous undertaking; persons who have attempted it in the past include Charles I, and Cromwell with his wonderful quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider ye might be mistaken. They didn’t think so then and they don’t now. When Jo Swinton, latest leader of the Lib-dems and as annoying a wee gynaff as you could hope to see – we’re going to get mighty sick of the sound of her voice – says she’ll fight with everything she’s got (I don’t think we need worry – it’s not a lot!) to prevent us from leaving Europe, I wonder how she’s got the nerve to call herself a democrat.

Perhaps she thinks (another useful entry in the book) she has refuted the arguments against following the referendum’s vote. But she hasn’t of course. She has only rebutted them.

Lots of fascinating things we can consider and discuss. What do you mean, you’d rather be in parliament​?,

IS BORIS OUR MAN?

IS BORIS OUR MAN?

There is generally a honeymoon period between an incoming Prime Minister and the country, even for one who has bypassed the proper entry process (Boris, Gordon Brown, Theresa May.) They have arrived at the doors of No.10 by whatever method, and we wish them good fortune. This halcyon period does not last very long.

I find Boris interesting but quite difficult to understand. His obvious cleverness in his speech and wit is underwritten by a strategic cunning. In the recent ‘election’ he did not play to us, the country – which he would have to do to win a general election – but then he didn’t have to. He made his appeal to the Tory supporters, who were the only people voting – and this strategy paid off. I don’t understand why he plays the fool so much. We know he isn’t one; so who is he setting out to deceive?

I find myself surprisingly tolerant of Boris’s lapses from grace. He will not be brought down by irregularities in his personal life: we don’t expect anything else. (Whenever John Major dons the mantle of wise elder statesman and pontificates on some issue or other, I remind myself that this is the man who was stupid enough to have an affair with Edwina Curry, and the lack of taste displayed thereby.)

Boris has written a book on Winston Churchill and is known to be an admirer, which I find rather worrying. Churchill was wrong about absolutely everything – except for the one thing that really mattered. He was steadfast in his implacable opposition to Hitler and used his considerable powers of persuasion to steady the nerves of the British (we will fight them on the beaches; we will never surrender; etc.). For his unstinting service to our cause, and for his capacity to go on believing we would ultimately prevail, and to speak that part in his lion’s roar] we forgave him all his faults and took him for our hero. It really did seem to be a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man.

So here we stand, on our beaches, looking towards Europe. The hour has come upon us, but I am by no means certain Boris is our man. However, this a national emergency, so some sacrifices are required.

And so I wish Boris, the Prime Minister every success.

HOW MANY SWALLOWS MAKE A SUMMER

HOW MANY SWALLOWS MAKE A SUMMER?

I have always loved the swallow. It is such a beautiful bird – not showy but elegant with the navy blue sheen of its back, its creamy white belly and its red throat.

I grew up in country places, and in the late spring we would watch anxiously for their return. When eventually they would arrive, they would swoop and hover about the outbuildings, calling to one another (and to us, it seemed) their delight that things were much as they had left them.

I have many lovely memories of them. When we lived beside the Forth, there was a track behind our house that after rain would have watery puddles and I came out early one morning and a swarm of swallows rose up around the dog and me from where they had been gathering mud from these puddles to make their nests. One of the years when I had a nursing baby, I would rise abut 6 am to feed the baby. In that year only, swallows nested under the roof of our house, and my opening the curtain would arouse the baby birds who would cry for food too. I would sit by the window and feed my baby and watch the parents fly in to their nest and count myself blessed; that my house pullulated with life.

Then we would watch the baby birds being fed, and eventually fledge. There was usually one last little one left solitary in the by now disintegrating nest who had to be encouraged by the parents who would hover near him, their beaks full of insects but would not deliver them to him until in desperation he leaned out too far – and flew!

Eventually the senior birds would start to congregate on the telephone wires and you would know that another summer was over. One day you would go out and they would just be gone. I never saw them leave. Then there would just be that season’s fledglings, fattening up for their long journey, and we would eventually be saying to them, You must leave us now; and they in turn would be gone.

When we later flew to Africa – and it is a very long way even with the assistance of an aeroplane, – we were thrilled to see ‘our’ swallows there.

But this year, I have seen no swallows. Not in Sussex, nor in Surrey, nor in the Cotswolds. It can’t be England without swallows. Week after week passes and I grow despondent.   Who cares if we lose Europe? But swallows matter.

Later:   Then we come on holiday to the CotswoldS, and we go to Lechlade, glorious, lovely, magical Lechlade, (may it prosper) standing at the source of the Thames (allegedly). I sit by myself watching the river go by while John undertakes some errand. I love rivers. If you sit beside them long enough, everything eventually passes by. I am watching a flotilla of swans, some 40 or 50 strong, with only one small family of 4 cygnets swimming in a straight line between their parents. Then a mother duck comes into view surrounded by 9 tiny day old ducklings. Finally a tall woman in a wet suit walks to the riverside. With her long red hair hanging down her back she could model for Boudicca. She launches what appears to be a wooden log onto the water, nimbly climbs on it, stands up and with the aid of one paddle she glides away, for all the world as if she walked on water. A shadow passes over her. Then another. Then I hear a chattering. These shadows are swallows! It is a joyous moment.

When we get to the campsite, there is a nest with 5 alert little faces nesting above a light at the door to the cafe. They fledge while we are there. And when we get home, we find a whole colony under the roof at Wakehurst, which has been there for about 400 years and has probably hosted swallows for all of that time.

But never the less, it is my impression that there are fewer than there used to be. It only needs swallows to be absent for a couple of seasons and you have lost them, for they return to where they were born.

Losing Europe would not be good, but it could be endured, whereas losing our swallows would be a grievous calamity.