It is 3am and I sit at the kitchen table, drinking my mug of weak tea, eating my arrowroot biscuit and waiting for my pain-killers to kick in. I am afraid my still-sore back does not care to lie down all night without a break.
My reading tonight is Borderland (Ronald Blythe) and its entries for April - Eliot's Cruellest of Months. Outside it is cloudy, so no frost tonight, and a little warmer and there is promise of a Spring-like end to the week. About time, I say, as the daffodils line up, all in bud, just waiting for a burst of warmer sun to set the off.
Inside, Tess sleeps through my nightly sojourn; I have been doing this for a few weeks now and catching up on my sleep with an after-lunch nap. She makes a brief, accusatory glance at my arrowroot biscuit, turns round half a dozen times, sighs and settles down to sleep again. I eat the biscuit which turns to sawdust in my mouth with guilt at not giving her a tiny corner.
And, I read. Such diverse topics and so beautifully written.
Firstly an entry about April rain; Blythe talks about how it falls 'vertically' "like glass bead curtains" in a cake shop he knew as a child. Do you remember those bead curtains? How they parted with such a gentle tinkling as you pushed through them. Edwin Morgan talks about bead curtains in Port Said - maybe they still have them in some parts of the world. I wish they still had them here - their sound was so much nicer than the muzak you get in shops these days.
Blythe's next piece is about his travelling by train to Hereford and watching April 'slide by' outside while inside watching people. Well we have all done that, haven't we? He particularly enjoys a story which a Granny is reading to her two grandchildren - and indirectly to him too.
When he arrives in Hereford he talks of walking with friends over "a ferocious battle ground" and how Shakespeare records this in Henry IV - how the Welsh women finished off the dying men on the battle field. Gruesome, although long ago, he finds comfort in celandine 'like gold leaf'.
The last piece I read is about Spring lambs (did you know that Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame said that ' every lamb which is born is born to have its throat cut'.) It is also about dancing hares and about Francis Kilvert, that eager young curate of Clyro in the marches (Kilvert's Diary) in the nineteenth century. I love his diary and read it often - it is such a window on country life at that time - but sad because he died so young.
Kilvert talks about the end of Lent and the coming of Easter Sunday and tells us of how the village women decorated the church for the Easter service with flowers:-
Kilvert enters his church and finds "a round dish full of flowers in water and upon this dish is a pot filled and covered with primroses, violets, wood anemones, wood sorrel, periwinkles, oxlips and a few early bluebells, rising to a gentle pyramid, ferns and larch sprays drooping over the rim, then bands of ivy leaves." I close my eyes, see it, almost smell it, begin to nod off. Time for bed again - but what a rich half hour I have had.
Through the landing window I see the manger full of tete-a-tete daffodils in bloom. Still and colourless in the night I know that when I come downstairs in the morning they will give me a moment's pleasure with their nodding golden heads.