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.
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, 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.
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.
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:
Modesty forbids …
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:
water pump at Rural Life museum
Rural Life museum – petrol driven and a bit smelly
“Green Goddess” fire engine. AFS = auxiliary fire service
Fred and Mary – working horses
Northampton countryside as seen from the car 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.
And finally a reminder that we are never far away from human artefacts in our countryside:
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:
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.