Wednesday 29 April 2020

Rain at Last

After around 5-6 weeks of rain-less days, when almost every day seemed to be cloudless, sunny and very warm in the afternoons, leading to the comments in my last couple of posts about almost drought conditions, things changed dramatically yesterday.
After a very warm Monday afternoon when people were as usual, out walking in their summer clothes, shorts and T shirts even, we got up yesterday to dark skies, steady rain and a big drop in temperature. That remained the case for most of the day and at times even, a burst of the central heating was needed to take the chill off of the house. Lawns and flower beds that had been rock hard and cracking up begun to ooze water by the evening. Garden water butts re-filled and over-flowed and the poor Blackbirds, that had been struggling for a few weeks to get any worms out of the ground for their chicks, suddenly looked rejuvenated.
Early this Wednesday morning as I write this, we still have dark skies, light rain and cold temperatures, with heavier rain forecast during the day. Unfortunately this year's weather seems to be coming in binges - we had the endless and record wet winter, followed by this recent endless dry spell, hopefully it won't mean that this current wet weather isn't set in for a month or so now.

What it does mean is that the farmer close to the reserve, who last week was sowing peas into dust dry ground, causing me to comment on how does he expect them to germinate, will no doubt be feeling quite smug today. On the reserve itself, one piece of concern will be for any newly hatched Lapwing chicks. A cold and rainy day is not good for those small balls of fluff, if they remain wet and cold for long periods of time they will often die.
I'm just about to set off for the reserve and wellie boots and a coat were the last thing on my mind this time last week.

Wednesday 15 April 2020

The Sweet Dreams of Youth

"Now as I was young and easy" as Dylan Thomas so eloquently began his poem "Fern Hill" - as I was young and easy in my late teens in the 1960's, I discovered Dylan Thomas.
In 1965, in my 18th year, I was introduced to Bob Dylan for the first time by a friend'd suggestion that I watch him on a television programme. In doing that a light bulb came on, the Stones and the Beatles were relegated to second and third places of interest. A life time of devotion to Bob Dylan, his poetry and his music had begun.
Later, after a few months of sating myself on all things Bob Dylan, my interest also began to lean towards the man that Bob Dylan allegedly took his surname from - Dylan Thomas. I bought Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems, read and loved "Under Milk Wood" and begun collecting various autobiographies about both Dylan and his wife Caitlin. It soon became clear to me here was a man that wrote poetry brilliantly and in a style that I many times, badly tried to copy. Not only that, being in my late teens, I was ripe for idolising somebody that was also a rogue, a reprobate and somebody that regularly pissed people off. When you're that age nice people are only seen as boring, people bucking the system are always the ones most interesting. I also read that Dylan Thomas had often said to people that he didn't want to live past 40 and went on to die aged 39 at the height of his fame. He achieved that by going out one night in New York and after claiming to have drunk eighteen whiskies, against doctors orders, collapsed in a coma before dying in a hospital bed a week or so later, well I thought - way to go, who wants to get old. A few years later that thought was once again resurrected when in 1970 Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix all died young from drug overdoses.
So with that thought in the back of my mind, I moved further into adult life and marriage and work and buying houses and headed towards that magical cut off point, 40 years of age. Clearly, as I'm writing this aged 72, the romantic thought of dying at 40 like my heroes, was never full filled, life may have took some dark turns along the way but there was always a bright light shining up ahead.

Mind you, as I approach my 73rd birthday, that bright light seems to be flickering somewhat. We are in the depths of the Corvid-19 pandemic and people are dying by the thousands in this country and the normal feeling of safety and comfort from being in hospital is all of a sudden a scary prospect. It's really unsettling to wake up on a fine and sunny morning, with a good day in prospect, to suddenly have that dark cloud of remembering Corvid-19 descend upon you and will today be my turn to get it.
It's changing a lot of people's lives, possibly forever, and has brought about a lot of challenging restrictions to our daily life, which many of us interpret in different ways. For me, the only real restriction is not being able to visit my partner who lives 80 miles away in Surrey whenever I like. We remain separated by the government ruling that travel by car is only allowed for essential reasons and an 80 mile journey there and back would see me probably fined if caught doing it. It's even more frustrating watching some of my neighbours being visited by friends and relatives, visits that include going in their houses.

Other than that, the one topic in vogue at the moment among people that are gardeners or farmers, is how dry the ground has become. To be not that far away from one of the wettest winters on record and now in almost drought conditions, is hard to comprehend. In the gardens, flower borders are cracking up and lawns beginning to go yellow. On the marsh the water levels have dropped almost two feet in places and the field surfaces becoming rock hard, and I watched tractors drilling spring crops the other day, being followed by large dust clouds.
It's becoming a mad, mad world.