Sunday, July 14, 2013

Things of joy

Finding myself wandering away from this activity rather, disinclined much to enter into conversation, happy in a netherworld of pulling weeds, growing vegetables (most particularly leguminous ones), knitting and plodding through The Golden Bowl one Kindle page and one knitting row at a time, possibly the longest it has taken me to get three-quarters of the way through any book, (it was a kind of pledge, I've got a couple of other books on the go too, I really am doing a lot of knitting, and growing veg, and pulling weeds...)

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.

Ah, life!


Roderick Robinson said...

Pulling weeds is now someone else's business; we are enhancing the local economy by paying for a gardener. But suppose one could pay someone to read The Golden Bowl and - somehow - it became one's own legitimate achievement? That the sensations, experience, knowledge and frustrations were all miraculously transferred to one's own cerebellum without the necessity of turning the pages. And that having done this and found one could live comfortably with this unusual form of literary fraud, one could enter into negotiations to regain the time spent unenjoyably reading The Awkward Age. How I would lick my lips.

And you could resolve that Damoclean Sword that has hung over your head for some time regarding the David Lodge book, and read instead (properly) the far more instructive La Lectrice which, I am astonished to find, is written by a fella (Raymond Jean) and not a woman.

Visit Box Elder and discover all kinds of new fantasies.

Tom said...

And apart from putting out the nuts, I can only stand by with a silly smile of wonder on my face.

marja-leena said...

As another gardener with never ending weeds and watering to be done, books are not read as quickly as they should nor is the studio seeing my presence. Why? the heat slows body and brain.

How I love your story telling - the gifts of joy indeed - the marvellous and funny illustration - and the cheeky squirrel - a sweet way to start my Sunday morning!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

An abundance of joys all at once, and we get to share them - what could be better?
It takes real generosity to break away from enjoying the gifts we receive from the universe and inviting others to partake - thanks, Lucy!

Lucy said...

Thanks chaps.

Robbie, that really is a most intriguing idea, and prompts many thoughts and questions which might deserve a post in themselves, about quite what the experience of reading is and what one would actually retain from it. I suppose to some extent audio-books serve a similar function. And yet it seems to me it would be bit like choosing the wool and the pattern then giving my knitting to someone else to do; I'd have the knitted article at the end, possibly better made than I could do it, but it wouldn't be quite the same as having executed the sometimes monotonous and repetitive, often long-winded, work of actually making it.

Tom - so glad you were able to see him at last and prove I wasn't making it up! (And going out and cracking and eating the nuts myself...)

ML - thanks! It's hot here now, I spend quite a bit of the time I'm outdoors under the sumac tree, with a bit of watering activity in the evenings. More garden stuff later I expect.

Natalie - I feel I've been a rather reluctant and stingy blogger of late, without much excuse. But I've more inclination now to just share nice stuff as and when and not worry too much!

Zhoen said...

Seems to be the weekend for furry cuteness. Make sure to visit Crow soon.

Rouchswalwe said...

Cyril, the phantom squirrel, caught on fuzzy film! Delightful!

Catalyst said...

Ha! Steve, an American who lives in Germany, has a blog called "Visitors", in which he solely chronicles with photographs the visits to his balcony by an assortment of squirrels. There's a link to it on my blog page.

zephyr said...

i'm so glad you shared your mail with us, and could report on and show us Cyril. Just what the doc ordered for it has been another discouraging 24 hours here in the states. i needed to be reminded of these very kinds things.

Francesca said...

I love your phrase 'a shower of blessings'- and how varied and lovely the shower was! I also love the squirrel, who is keeping a beady eye on you!

Ellena said...

Lucy, help! How make a short comment on such a long and interesting post.
This thing about getting someone else to knit or read for you makes me think of all the new words I learn reading a handful of posts. If I were to use them, it won't be me writing or would it? Our live-in baby squirrel was named Mischka until it moved out.
Will you review Mr. Bick's book?
How about dreaming of a retreat in the Old Farm that's being renovated to allow women and mixed groups to enjoy the hospitality of the Abbey? Tanks for sharing joy.

Pam said...

That all sounds very satisfactory.

I read "The Golden Bowl" once, a long time ago, and am unlikely to do so again, though I enjoyed it and still have a very vivid image in my head of the bowl, with its crack.

Steve said...


So glad the red squirrel came back. I also have a bowl of water on my balcony and patio for them. Eating nuts is thirsty work.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Z - thanks for the heads up at Crow's, great stuff!

R - we've seen him a couple of times since, doing his amazing feather dances, Tom says Cyril seems a rather banal name for such a beautiful creature. I resist the temptation always to reach for the camera and just enjoy watching.

Bruce - oh I know Steve, he's an inspiration! See below.

Zephyr - discouragement is everywhere. I often feel I am fiddling while Rome burns, of course, but also that I shouldn't let the things I'm lucky enough to have come my way go by unmarked. Glad you enjoyed.

Francesca - I simply thought it was a turn of phrase, but Tom tells me 'shower of blessings' comes from an old Sunday-school-type hymn!

Ellena - Of course it's still yours if you use words you've discovered elsewhere; words are universal property. You are a very conscientious follower of links! I didn't notice the bit about the old farm. Fond though I was of Prinknash as a place to visit - lovely animal park and walks - I wouldn't hold your breath about any RC foundation opening up to a more enlightened purpose, but perhaps that a bit cynical. I'm afraid my days of being interested in such groups and retreats are rather behind me now anyway.

Isabelle - good to hear you enjoyed The Golden Bowl. Much of it I find exasperating and impenetrable, but Joe, who is one of the people who encouraged me to persist with it, suggests that it will stay with me, which what you say confirms, and there are nuggets and poignant elements within it.

Steve - thanks so much, your faithful, careful, long-running, non-egoistical reporting of the lives of your visitors is an inspiration, and also a source of information. We've started putting out water now too.

Lise ( Lysevaine) said...

Quelle chance Lucy d'avoir un écureuil dans ton jardin . Attention aux noisettes cet automne.
Je crois que les écureuils anglais sont gris ? On m'a raconté une très jolie histoire sur vos écureuils qui a ce qu'on dit sont nombreux dans les parcs.
Très beau ton reportage

Lucy said...

Bonjour Lise!

Je me demandait où allaient les noisettes au jardin, maintenant on les achete pour l'écureil! C'est vrai que les écureils en Angleterre sont gris, ils étaient introduits des Etats Unis il y a peut-être cent ans, et ils avaient presque supprimé les rousses, sauf en Écosse et quelques autres coins. Les gris sont très audaces et gourmandes, et, en générale, moins charmants que les rousses comme notre petit Cyril!