Today is the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Second World War for us here in the UK and I can't let the occasion pass without a mention. I was a very small girl but I remember that day vividly, as though it were yesterday. My brother, who was already in the Territorial Army, had been called up several days beforehand. My mother, father and I sat in our living room round our "wireless" (I can see it still - it was a brown bakelite one with a rounded top) and listened to Neville Chamberlaine at eleven o'clock telling us that we were at war with Germany. I was too young to notice the effect this had on my parents (who would well-remember the First World War) but I remember going to the gate and standing there. I remember a warm, still, beautiful Autumn day and in my memory the whole of our little village stood at their gates and time stood still. It stays in my memory like a tableau.
Now to today's post. Somebody in my blog list suggested that we choose a book, turn to page 161 and put the fifth sentence on our blog. Titus had invited them to do this and they were inviting everyone else who wished to participate. When I find out who it was I will acknowledge them but - sorry - we are so busy building here that I can't remember. (Don't anyone dare think it is a sign of my age!!!)
By my chair in the kitchen I have a bookshelf which holds all the books I like to dip into. I closed my eyes, ran my hand along the shelf and picked one out - and I must say it is a treasure. Have you heard of that glorious English eccentric, Roger Deakin? I have two of his books which I dip into daily. One is called "Waterlog", in which he sets out from his moat round his house in Suffolk (and that is another story) and swims through the British Isles. But the book I pulled out was "Wildwood A Journey through Trees". Deakin thought that a writer had to have a strong passion in order to change things and this book was his attempt to get us to see trees as individuals rather than collectively as "trees".
Page 161, sentence five reads:- "We sit and talk of beavers and their natural sculptures of chewed cottonwood stumps outside Chicage, and the rhomboid of seven rows of seven white Himalayan birches Nash planted seven feet apart just down the hill, hoping they would grow precisely forty-nine feet high."
I do urge you to read Roger Deakin in you haven't already done so. Throughout my life I have "collected" eccentrics (you always come across them in the teaching profession and they are almost always inspirational teachers).
Deakin died of a brain tumour in August 2006 very shortly after completing this book. Ronald Blythe, another eccentric and a wonderful writer about nature, was a personal friend and writes in his River Diary about sitting at Deakin's deathbed and reading to him as he lay dying. He chose to read "The Nightingale's Nest" by John Clare - a poet they both loved. This was the poem which Ted Hughes read in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey when the Clare Memorial was unveiled. He says that even as he lay dying Deakin listened carefully to the poem just as carefully as he and Blythe had listened for the nightingales at Tiger Hill in the past.
These writers of Nature have given me such pleasure over the years. If you haven't read Clare's poem, I do urge you to read that too - and enjoy!