Monday, March 19, 2018

Every man his stony acre

Right now in my kitchen window

I love this time of the day. Seven o'clock in the morning. Snow on the ground, but pink light in the sky indicating that sunshine may be here soon. The branches I picked in the woods on my mother's advice have fully fledged bright green leaves on them, which is as thrilling as you can imagine after such a long, dark, grey winter. Just the merest thought of spring makes me feel like a very buoyant Tiggerrrrr.

The truth is, it lifted*. Everything is looking up. We drove through Swaffham in Norfolk and TWICE there were murmurations of starlings, both there and back. Twice. Now if that isn't a sign! I have googled "Murmurations Swaffham" and I still don't understand why that town possesses such magic.

We stayed in a huge, comfortable, elegant, dog-strewn, messy house in Great Massingham on Friday night, feasted on a supper of venison sausages cooked in red wine, shallots and juniper, and slept in an enormously comfortable Victorian sleigh bed with gorgeous, old, mismatched sheets and pillowcases, surrounded by church windows (we were on the site of a medieval Abbey). In the morning, the wood pigeons perched on our window sills and mournfully called out to Betty. Large blonde dogs invaded the bathroom as I sat in the clawed tub, surrounded by books and Colefax & Fowler wallpaper circa 1986. Oh I love houses that are dressed in the eighties fashion, so Princess Diana in their ruffled collars and, their raw silk, and blazingly loud chintz, their tassled, blousy curtains.

I said, as I do (to be fair, almost wherever I go, like Paul Young who lays his hat) "Let's Live Here!" "You Must Buy It!" said my sister on text, in unison. Norfolk is where I feel at home. And let me explain why: it's in my blood. My father felt like himself there. The bones of my family, for many generations, lay in that earth. And the people are my people. There are bohemians, poets, artists, potters, gardeners, hen lovers, watercress growers, mad horse people ("there are no rules with riding in Norfolk" said my friend Lily who is 15), free spirits. Here in the Chilterns, arguably the most beautiful countryside in the south of England, there are more bodices, more lacing, a tendency to sensible beige footwear and practical cars, to an adherence to an unspoken code, and perhaps a sense of shock, yes SHOCK! at ideas not found in the pages of the venerable, pearl-clutching Daily Mail. "I want to be where the people are," to quote The Little Mermaid. My people.

My darling man has exactly the same level of curiosity as I do, and so driving from little village to hamlet in search of the elusive house-to-move-into was a pleasure. RightMove and GoogleMaps in hand, dogs in the back, eclectic playlist, and the crisp, cold sunny air from the latest blast from the North Pole. We whizzed around happily, stopped for lunch in Stanhoe (The Duck, highly recommended) and ended up in Holt at Old Town for most excellent minimal work clothes.

Charlie & Chris on Peddars Way, Norfolk

Most notable was a walk on Peddars Way, a Roman Road, and now long distance footpath that stretches from Knettishall Heath to Holme Next The Sea, where it connects with the Norfolk Coast Path. (I have just read that it connects to the south, via the Icknield Way to the Ivinghoe Beacon, which is just a mile or two away from where we live now).

Part of the Norfolk Songline project

This we found on the side of the path. We discovered through research that it is a project Norfolk Songline: Walking The Peddars Way by Hugh Lupton and Liz McGowan. "The idea of a songline comes from the Australian Aboriginal belief system, in which each ancient track is the score of a vast, epic song, whose verses tell the stories of how the landscapes and its landmarks came into being." (  But these words!

"From Blackwater Carr to Sea Gate, since the ploughing first broke the bread of land, pightles and pieces, plots and pastures, to every man his stony acre."

To every man his stony acre. How beautiful is that?

"Each ancient track is the score of a vast, epic song." Such a heavenly idea.

(*With thanks to my friends and blog friends and sweet people who reached out during Severe Brown Dog time. It was horrible and I hate to ask for help, but I did, and you came back and offered it, guileless, with love and understanding. Thank you. Yesterday, I was talking to My Darling Man about the idea of love, and particularly parental love, and I think it is, in fact, acceptance, and the idea you are loved and okay as person no matter what you do, or what you struggle with. This community give me that, very separately from my "public life" and I am so, so grateful.)


Anonymous said...

It is beautiful.

Katherine C. James said...

This is a big, interesting, beautiful, heartfelt post. You are a passionate, engaged, complex, lovable person whose interests and sense of wonder dovetail with my own. It is unsurprising you are supported and cared about when you reach out about a low point because you give a lot—poetry, recipes, jokes, books, joy, sadness—when you take the time to try to understand your days and share them. You’ve enriched my life. I care about you. Sending love. Here’s to murmurations of starlings bringing spring. xo.

tedsmum said...

Oh! I'm sad you're thinking of leaving us before you're quite here. I keep expecting to bump into you in the woods or on the common.... Glad you're feeling better though and today it was impossible not to, Spring was literally in the air xxx

Miss Whistle said...

@tedsmum, you are so lovely and supportive. I adore the Chilterns. ADORE them. But it's soooo expensive round here xoxo