L3(Day 51): Norfolk

Out into the broad expanses of Norfolk north of the city where the land is flat and the rivers are still young, we went. There vast swathes of open land devoid of hedge rows to protect the lanes from cold cross winds.

There are lines of ancient oak trees along some field boundaries, some showing signs of age, some of weakness, but the majority grey, stolid witnesses to the continuing changes in farming practise.

In one field machines were planting potatoes, in another despite the strong wind, spraying was taking place.

Where there was protection from the cold wind, the Sun was able to penetrate the February air and make it pleasantly warm.

At a stop for drinks, I queued behind behind a rotund man who spent nearly £50 on tobacco. Behind me a man had come in to buy lottery tickets. Outside at the chip shop a queue was forming along the village street. Friday for fish and chips?

On the way back a farm has reclaimed an area that had chainlink fencing and large areas of concrete aprons and old runways from the time of the Second World War. The nearby church of St Peter’s, with its round flint tower, had a sign stating that it was a site of Commonwealth War Graves. Here lie the remains of air crew from that conflict.

Passing through Norwich city centre on my way home, I was not surprised to see so many people walking in the bright February sunshine, but I was a little taken aback to see that several people seemed to be walking in groups, rather than alone, or in couples. There seems to have been a relaxation of the physical distancing rules all of a sudden. Have I missed something about Covid-19 not being able to infect people in this city?

I am increasingly aware of people being affected for significant periods of time by the symptoms of Long Covid. I am also aware of an attitude that some people who now having been vaccinated losing interest in what is going on with pandemic. Meanwhile teachers and school staff, police, prison officers and supermarket workers are being asked to work on without being repaid for their year-long public service by early vaccinations.

Teaching staff in the UK have suffered a death rate from Covid-19 of around a quarter more than the general population and still The Great Clown wants to make them wait by age for vaccination. Bad mouthing the teaching unions as he goes. If children’s education is so important, why has he not working with the workers’ unions to get a decent plan? Dead teachers can’t teach.

It is late. I am tired.

~

CLP 26/02/2021

Day 39

The hedgerows are changing. The blackthorn’s fine white petals have thinned out and the dark spikes are being shaded out by greenery, as the hawthorn, the May Tree is dressing up in its finery. Where the plant is a tree, it shines out from copses and hedgerows. In the shade of the hedge, it is emerging shyly. 

It is emerging in specks in the company of medium-sized flowers, apple trees and stray dog roses. The pallet of flowers has extended from yellows and whites to include blues and some pale pinks.

Along the sides of roads there are surprising numbers of white and pink-flecked apple blossoms. These trees have been flailed into shape by the huge, tractor-borne trimming machines of the farmers. These pretty trees are forced to form part of the hedgerows that they were first cast into as apple cores. They endure their cramped conditions merrily, bringing further variety to the lanes in spring. They will add to the boon of berries, wild plums and haws that will ripen over late summer.

The rough flailing arms of the heavy-duty hedge-trimmers are no match for the occasional oak trees that stand by the roads. The northerly winds have made some impression on the general direction of their spread, which often turns slightly inland, but they remain otherwise solid. The sprouting leaves of oak trees about here are unfolding in limey and yellowy greens. They hint at the dull colours they will become after the next equinox. I do not recall them being this colour in spring until the last few years, at least not quite so yellow. They do not look right to me.

Not all the roadside oaks are turning to leaf. One or two are bleaching, becoming skeletons of their former selves. In one there are three swallows waiting, chirruping to the breeze.

Swallows do a surprising amount of sitting around in between their migratory passages. Telegraph wires are being laid underground as cables and wireless technology now fills the atmosphere with digits, forcing swallows to adapt their lifestyles. I see them on the tops of hedges, fences and now on the bony fingers of dying oaks. The golden age for swallows of telegraph wires, railway signal and bowed telephone lines hanging off poles along every avenue is past.

Swallows are not timid birds and it is possible to see them quite close up at now they are returning to lower level resting spots. They will not up and away in an instant if a gentle approach is made. They need their rest, so do not move unless the movement they see is too threatening.

Competition on remaining telephone lines is increased, gold finches are no problem, but crows, pigeons and starlings all seek space to sit. Pigeons pose remarkably firmly, despite their doughy shapes. Starlings are rarely still, twittering and squeaking as they gather, swapping places, shuffling along, squeezing up, changing ends, but generally all lined-up, like children approximately queuing on a school trip, excited to get into the zoo with their good-natured teacher. Goldfinches, always chirpy in song, are temporary at any perch before somewhere else looks as if it might be a better bet. They move from place to place; shoppers testing sofas in a department store.

It is a Saturday. There are many more people about. Cyclists are more prevalent. Motor vehicles are less utilitarian. It is not uncommon to be passed by a cabriolet with its roof down; a retired couple with sun-glasses and peaked hats on a leisure drive; side-by-side; unspeaking. Walkers choose the ancient tracks and byways, so only intersect with the roads when crossing, as they follow the airy directions of wooden finger posts.

I sustain my commitment to being switched off from phone, emails, internet for two days. It gives me gaps to fall into. Time to think. I think of you, trust that all is well. I allow myself to do absolutely nothing and remember what that feels like.

.

Christopher Perry

26th April, 2020 (written 28th April, 2020)