On a drowsy Sunday morning the birds were our main focus of attention. Wagtails are always on the lawns, but in recent days, attracted by the mealworms, they have ventured onto the feeder, much to the chagrin of the robins, who are quite vicious in their suggestion that this is their territory. The visitors’ tail feathers are ever at the ready for take-off. These timid newcomers to the feeder spend so little time there that I was unable to photograph them until Matthew stood in hiding to the right of the window, watching a wagtail crossing the lawn in flight to the mealworm tray and warning me of its approach. I stood poised on the other side, and just managed to take the photograph. At least one robin regularly scuttles under the box hedge. To a nest, perhaps. Nuthatches and various tits took their turns to feed. Visible high above the distant forest trees, a buzzard glided overhead. Over lunch, a wren, wings fanning like a hummingbird, seemed to be stripping moss from the underside of the balcony above, no doubt for home building.
The day remained dull and heavy, yet cold. As I waited until our son and Oddie left for his home, after a very relaxing and enjoyable time with us, it was late in the afternoon before I walked the ford loop via the footpath to All Saints church. At the stream opposite the Study Centre I met a black labrador with its owner on a lead. I wondered why the owner, Sarah, was wearing Wellies, and soon found out the answer as the dog dragged her into the water to investigate a couple of apple cores. As I stepped down to engage the woman in conversation, we both noticed, perched on the dried mud bank, a Bog Arum lily, otherwise known as a Yellow Skunk Cabbage. Neither of us had seen one before. The labrador had to be dissuaded from giving the plant a closer examination.
The lambs in the field by the church path are growing well. This evening they were more interested in feeding with their dams than in frisking and frolicking about.
In the later Newark years I took to using ‘the smoking shed’. This had nothing to do with kippers. My pipe was becoming less popular indoors, so, for a smoke and a session of creativity, I set myself up in a brick-built outhouse. This had electric light and a power point into which I plugged an oil-filled radiator. The roof was of slate. I sat at a long work-bench which sufficed for a desk, and my reference library sat on shelves which had once held tins of screws and nails, and other assorted stuff in jars. The marvellously atmospheric black and white photograph that is number 16 in ‘Derrick through the ages’, was taken through the window by Elizabeth, as I worked on a crossword, in about 2002.
Dining on Jackie’s lamb curry and savoury rice, followed by bread and butter pudding, we reflected on how much and how recently rapidly our world has shrunk since the Portuguese were a world power. Here we were, eating one of this country’s favourite foods, imported from the Indian subcontinent, which is renowned for its use of the chilli, itself transhipped to India from Mexico in the very early sixteenth century by the countrymen of Vasco da Gama. I drank Kingfisher, an Indian lager and Jackie had Hoegaarden, a Belgian beer.