Tag Archive: Northamptonshire


I imagine John Clare as a young man walking around the Northamptonshire countryside letting his mind wander and wonder at the same time. He sees the untidiness (what today we might call ‘fractal’) and beauty of nature on the one hand. On the other, seeing a field full of poppies, seeded by nature not by a human farmer, he imagines an army marching “in all the grand array of pomp and power”. He associates the red poppies with the colour of the uniform of the British army. These days I have a different association with red poppies. For all their beauty, it is not with the marching soldiers but toward the fallen ones that my mind leans.

Pleasant Spots

There is a wild and beautiful neglect
About the fields that so delights and cheers
Where nature her own feelings to effect
Is left at her own silent work for years
The simplest thing thrown in our way delights
From the wild careless feature that it wears
The very road that wanders out of sight
Crooked and free is pleasant to behold
And such the very weeds left free to flower
Corn poppys red and carlock gleaming gold
That makes the cornfields shine in summer’s hour
Like painted skys – and fancy’s distant eye
May well imagine armys marching bye
In all the grand array of pomp and power

John Clare (1793-1864)

PS a note on the spelling. I have left it as I found it in “John Clare, selected poems”. Mr Clare was not conventional in either spelling, punctuation or grammar. Great sport is to be had by academics in deciding what to “correct” or not.

“Love lives beyond …

“Love lives beyond, the tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew”

These are lines from one of John Clare’s poems and one of my favourites. He lived the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the anniversary of his birth is 13th July.

Harvest in Northamptonshire

Just one field in mid-October. We thought the maize was for animal feed but the crop is chopped up into little bits even as it is harvested – stalk, leaves and all. Does all that go in? Alternatively this could go for bio-fuel, we suppose.

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A prayer from “Common Worship”

Creator God, you made the goodness of the land, the riches of the sea and the rhythm of the seasons. As we thank you for the harvest, may we cherish and respect this planet and its peoples, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (for Harvest Thanksgiving)

Just a few photos to share. We saw at first hand MAF’s latest aircraft (and it was so small, less room inside than our family car – but then they fly to hard-to-reach places). A highlight for us was the flight simulator. Nothing overly complicated but modesty forbids me to elaborate my delight at not actually crashing the ‘plane on my turn trying to land at a remote airstrip.

I expect we’ll follow this up at church. In the meantime, a few photos:

So the sun actually shone for another Bank Holiday weekend. We pottered around in the garden in the morning – earthing up potatoes and tackling some of the bracken. What to do in the afternoon? Well a local magazine advertised “Festival of County Life – Lamport Hall” so we decided to give it a go; children under 11 admitted free was a bonus.

Basically, what we found was a medium-sized country fair in the grounds of Lamport Hall. There were a variety of displays, entertainment, local food, craft stalls and the like: enough to occupy us for most of the afternoon. Highlights for us included the falconry display, the shire horses, “99” ice cream (that’s an ice cream with a chocolate flake), “bunnies ears” (ice cream with two flakes), the rural life museum and a stall which sold “proper” fudge.

For some people the main attraction was the chance to see various vintage vehicles and steam engines. Among them was a “Green Goddess” – so-called because of its colour. That was the nick-name given to army fire engines including the old one we saw. Meanwhile, in the Rural Life Museum,  they ran some early examples of mechanised farm machinery. These days we tend to cover up moving parts (presumably for health and safety reasons) so it was a novelty to see how they worked.

I don’t usually give machines a second thought but one of my companions remarked on the fact that they required some work and ingenuity to make and to get working. That is a fair point. If we see the end product of someone’s work it is all too easy to take it for granted. This is true of the machines and gadgets we use as well of the food and produce we buy. If you “grow your own” you might get some sense of the time and effort it takes just to grow a few potatoes, for instance; and maybe we’ll spare a thought for the potato farmers next time we buy a bag. I’m a townie so the countryside is a place I visit rather than one that I inhabit. It is as well to remember that “the countryside” is more than a tourist destination but a place where people work hard to produce things we all need and rely on.

Meanwhile, we had a pleasant afternoon and here are a few photos of it:

Irchester Country Park

The good news was that the gloomy cloudy days had gone, it was not foggy or rainy, and now the sun shone in a blue sky. The downside was that it had turned much colder with a bitter North wind and frosts were forecast. However,  our trip to Irchester Country Park benefitted from the sun and the respite from the wet rain. Some of our group went on the adventure climbing course  (zip-wires, ropes and the like) for about an hour but we also enjoyed a walk and the play area was an added attraction. I can’t vouch for the restaurant but the hot chocolate was OK.

Some photos of our morning:

leaves beginning to change, sky beginning to cloud over

“Eat, drink, rest”

I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. The wind did not want to co-operate and the auto-focus favoured the background. Yet we got the shot we wanted eventually.

Hawthorn berries

And finally a reminder that we are never far away from human artefacts in our countryside:

Elections here and there

Someone suggested that the “right candidate” had won the election for President of the United States of America. I suggested that surely the “left candidate” won. I have yet to read her reply…

Today I discovered that Puerto Rico voted by a very slim margin for statehood within the USA. The referendum is not binding, which is just as well since the pro-statehood candidate has lost to the status quo candidate in the Governorship election. I did wonder why independence, or statehood at least, were not a given for citizens of the colony. Is dependence to be preferred to independence or (with statehood) to inter-dependence? Thinking about it, I realise that working as equals can be harder (though much more rewarding) emotionally that in a dependent-independent relationship. To put it another way: taking turns is harder than playing follow-my-leader. Working as an equal means taking more responsibility (and more blame when things go wrong) than being a dependent relying on the generosity of a stronger partner. I don’t know what economic, tax and subsidy issues are at work here but I understand that one of the drivers for change is to be able to have a vote in US Presidential elections since whoever is elected is their president also.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom some uncertainty surrounds the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections. PCCs are a recent innovation and there is a certain amount of scepticism about as well as a real danger of low turn out. For myself, I am not sure I want a crime commissioner – the title implies that they will commission crime, like commissioning a piece of art or a book, say. I know that is not what it means but it is symptomatic of the confusion some feel. To complicate matters further, in Northamptonshire, one of the candidates has had to withdraw because of a “minor offence” (whatever that is) from 22 years ago. Unfortunately, the ballot papers had not only been printed but were being sent out to those with a postal ballot and it was too late to change. You can still vote for him and he could still win the election – it’s just that he could not take office afterwards. Given that he represents one of the two largest political parties I suspect that he will still pick up lots of votes – especially if people vote along party lines. And that for an office that is meant to be non-party political. My guess is that whatever happens someone is likely to cry “foul”.

It all goes to show that even with the best will in the world, we never get perfect leaders and we often don’t even get our preferred ones. So what are we to do? As a Christian, one obvious answer is to pray for our leaders. Even the most moral will get it wrong sometimes and few, if any at all, of them will be morally pure and it is unrealistic of us to expect them to be so. But I think it is realistic for us to expect them to aspire to the great values of leadership: integrity, honesty, fairness in dealing with others. As a local leader I know that it is not easy – tiring at times – and I make no claim whatsoever to be a paragon, but I do aspire to those things.

I think it also an important leadership quality to understand that you are under authority – you are not the source of it – and that yours is not the only word on every matter even if occasionally it happens to be the last. For leaders who call themselves Christian, that means understanding that you are under Christ’s authority. That is, under the authority of one who chose to die rather than call in the armies of heaven to enforce his will. That is to be under the authority of one who calls us to high standards but also exercised compassion. It is a call to protect the vulnerable from the powerful – that is the only favouritism expected here.

And that is true whether one is President of a powerful nation or a holder of a significant local Office.

We were among the throng who waited to see the Olympic Torch relay run through our town. To be on the safe side we went in early and had breakfast in a cafe in town and then allowed plenty of time to find a spot near the end of the route. My instinct was right because the crowds were thinner and we had the added bonus of sheltering under a tree from the rain which arrived in town pretty much at the same time that the flame did. It helped that we listened to the local radio so we could be up-to-date with its progress – uncertainty is often the hardest thing about waiting; much easier to wait when you have an idea of how long, even if it is a long wait. Having one earpiece each did have some disadvantages though. If either of us moved too far or too suddenly then one or both of the ear pieces fell out.

Meanwhile the torch was a case of “Blink and you miss it”. There was plenty of warning: police motorcyclists, sponsors’ lorries, official Olympic vehicles heralded its approach. However, many of the runners ran and that meant that many of us spectators only had a quick glimpse as they passed. A commentator on the radio advised them to walk or jog slowly – partly so that they could relish their three hundred yards, and partly so that family, friends, supporters and general public could do so too.

The upshot for us is that a photo of the actual flame was nearly impossible to take – the best view, I’m told, is on the internet!

I know that not everyone is getting excited about the Olympics – not a great sports fan myself – so if you wish to ignore it, go away, watch/do something else, that is OK by me. However, it saddens me that, beyond a certain good-humoured grumbling, some people seem to be wishing the whole thing will fail or express cynicism that is not much different from ill-will. For myself, I hope people will be blessed by the Olympics and if the symbolism of thousands of ordinary heroes handing on a flame of international amity leaves you cold that’s your prerogative. As for me, substitute “saints” for “ordinary heroes” and “spirit of the gospel” for “flame of international amity”, and there is a deeper meaning worth celebrating too.

Here are some of our photos:

two hours to go an hour to gopolice outridershere it comesand afterwards in the rain

Firework display

Just a little bit of innocent fun here. We found this site where you can design a simple firework display (online) and e-mail it to a friend: The Great British Rocket Rush. I hope it still works – we first found it a couple of years ago – and had a go at making a “display” this afternoon. Since then the website seems to have become somewhat slow to respond.

The “firework display” is not the same as the real thing, of course, but safe and not so weather-dependent.

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