Monday, 28 September 2009

Andrew Motion, poetry, harvest festival and pastoral heaven

I’m in a very bucolic frame of mind. Yesterday was so beautiful weather wise that it was a joy to be in the great outdoors.

This northern part of Kent is known as The Garden of England and for a very good reason. The land doesn’t lend itself to large fields of cereals and nor does the soil. But it is suited to orchards and nut plats.

The nuts have all been harvested – those that escaped the wily squirrels – but the branches of the apple trees hang heavy with red rosy fruit. These orchards are tucked away amongst rolling hills, small fields and narrow lanes, bordered by native hedgerows. Trees frame every view.

The colours of these are beginning to turn, from darkest green to soft butter yellow, ruby red, lime green. From a distance the landscape looks as if it’s still the ancient forest that existed when the Jutes invaded – long before the Romans – obscuring small hamlets and cottages.

Lunching with friends in their garden yesterday the scene was about as perfect as it can get. We walked up through their fields, between the trees, through the gate and there spread before us was an incomparable view.

Ah me! Why do I moan about British weather; what a traitor I am to rush off to sunnier climes and foreign lands when we have such temperate weather and gorgeous countryside.

The sun has lost its stridency and yesterday it bathed the landscape in such a soft golden light that it seemed to glow. Across the valley was a scene from a picture book: roads and towns were obscured, traffic was absent and all around us was such a bounty of produce that it felt like a paradise.

I think Friday night put me in the right frame of mind to really appreciate the simple things of life. Firstly, I went to a poetry reading my Andrew Motion – the ex-poet laureate. The tone was right: his poetry is not in your face, he’s a man who reads softly and speaks hesitantly.

A poem about his mother’s horse being shod during his childhood conjured up memories of my own. His description of the place, the dog, the blacksmith and lane were evocative. I was back in Hardy country - in Mayor of Casterbridge mode - unspoilt rural England.

Afterwards I had to collect Best Beloved from the harvest festival. And this event always fills me with pleasure: if a large group of unrelated folk can meet in an old agricultural barn, sit on spiky bales of straw, eat the simplest of home made fare off bare trestle tables and have a great time then there can’t be much wrong with village life.

Tomorrow it may be raining and I shall be as grumpy as usual about our weather but for now I’m not complaining about the summer being over. Instead I’m looking forward to harvesting fat leathery pumpkins from the veg patch and collecting apples to crush into the freshest juice.

I’ll collect shiny mahogany conkers for the little boys up the road and have promised a friend our golden quince and mushy medlars for her conserves so I shan’t be consumed by guilt for leaving them to waste. Come on, roll on Autumn, I’m ready.


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