Then the other morning such a shower of blessings fell upon me as to completely restore my sense of the generosity of the universe, to say nothing of other people which are its main, though not exclusive, way of manifesting this, that I am compelled to share something of my joy. I was sitting after breakfast, thinking I wasn't expecting anything in the post, but when our cheerful factrice pulled up in her yellow van, there were three lovely things:
1) A book, from and by David Bick. David is an old friend from Gloucestershire days, who we rather thought we'd lost touch with. He was Tom's friend and counsellor from way back, I didn't know him well but we liked each other instantly when we met, I think (I mean I think he liked me, I knew I liked him, and as he's not someone to dissemble I may have been right). He lives with his wife in a small house on a beautiful hillside under some kind of grace-and-favour arrangement at Prinknash Abbey (the monks there are straight-up RC but David was ordained in the C of E, he's a rev but not a vicar). We've seen him once on a trip back since we've been here, but we've never been in e-mail or other internet contact with him, and he always was a rather reserved person, and is fairly elderly now. Then rather on impulse, Tom sent him a copy a while back of Natalie's The God Interviews. We didn't hear back straight away, and rather thought we wouldn't, but then the book, which we didn't know he'd written, and the accompanying letter which sounded so like his voice, including thoughtful and appreciative observations and reflections on Natalie's book.
2) An obituary, cut from the print version of the Independent, about Heather, from Joe, rather recent and thus rather late, but not at all bad. I only wished I could have taken it round and showed it to her and enjoyed her tutting over the inaccuracies, gossiping at length about the people she knew that were mentioned, and barely concealed preening herself at the praise. Thanks again, Joe.
3) A parcel full of sheepskin off-cuts, from my Lovely Sister, who had ordered them for a creative project of her own, which probably involves microscopically fine and exquisite work of the kind normally done in story books by shoemaking elves or tailoring mice. When the material arrived there was five kilos of it, so she really didn't need it all, and has sent it to me for the soling and heeling of slipper socks.
Along with this came a couple of books of original knitting and crochet patterns from the 1970s which she had unearthed. It is wondrous to me that some who lives in such a state of uncluttered order as she has nevertheless preserved treasures from such a long time ago. They're mostly interesting as simply amusingly retro, but there are a few classic or potentially usable ones, including a kimono-style judo jacket in crochet, I kid you not, done in a rather scary barber's pole red and white but which made up in something silky and shaded and winter-garden-ish would be pretty sumptuous, and take half a lifetime and require a mortgage to pay for... enough, this wasn't going to be a knitting post.
Both of these last items were accompanied by notes on delightful postcards:
A fat Aylesbury duck from Joe,
and an Edward Gorey illustration from Lovely Sister.
Isn't it a fine thing when people know just what will make you smile?
But that wasn't the end of it! While I was just trying to absorb all this joy, there was a strange pattering noise at the French doors. I wondered if it were raining, it was a rather chilly grey morning, but no. I looked twice and there, hanging from the wall beside the door, looking straight at me a few feet away, was our red squirrel.
I rushed to get the camera, which was to hand but by the time I had it he was away to the edge of the terrace, up on a pile of upended paving slabs,
this is a very cropped image, hence the fuzz, and by the time I'd got the zoom on him he was on his way,
and the camera focus on the vegetation behind.
I hadn't seen him at all for some time, and we began to suspect that perhaps we were just feeding mice and voles (I know they need to eat too, but encourage them to feed too large a family and they start eating my vegetables). We'd been putting the nuts out less often, but now, we decided, we would put them on the terrace to try to coax him closer.
Initially he didn't come back, but then the following morning, one nut disappeared early, then just in the time we were having breakfast, the remaining four were quickly dispatched,
and then first thing today, Tom went to the bedroom Velux window and hissed 'He's there!'.
I bruised my legs climbing up onto the radiator in haste to see, and Cyril, as we call him, was up on the slabs again, frozen and listening. We kept as agonisingly still as we could, but another whisper exchanged and he was gone. Those ear tufts are clearly very effective. But he came back again and took some more when we weren't looking, and we have hopes that with time and plenty more nuts, he might grow a little bolder. I kind of have the impression we're being watched, rather more than doing the watching.