Tuesday 5 May 2020

A Visit to the Historical House

Yesterday was what I'm calling a "healthy" day: one in which I take a lunch-break, do some gardening and then, after work, take a walk.

On yesterday's lunch break I sowed cavolo nero kale and rainbow chard and exulted over the appearance of the tiny new radish seedling. My zucchini seedling is flourishing on the windowsill; he seems to be looking up at the morning sun.

The evening walk was much more exciting than I expected, for B.A. suggested we go for a walk to the Historical House. The Historical House has been closed to the public for weeks, but the head gardener has returned, and I think this is what inspired B.A.'s choice. Either that or it was his reaction to yesterday's news that he's been furloughed until the end of June.

What can I say about the Historical House? Too much, so I'll just put up photographs instead. They are mostly of the woods, which are currently full of Scottish bluebells (i.e. harebells) and lily of the valley. Later in the month, these will give way to wood anemones.

There was also a cuckoo somewhere high in the trees. This was unusual.

Meanwhile, there was no damage to the fields and a great improvement to the ha-ha. I learned about ha-has in 18th century literature class, but never thought I'd live in a house that had one. A ha-ha is a trench built to keep sheep and cows in their fields and off the lawn without interrupting the view with a wall.

The dovecot also looked lovely.

The fields were innocent of brush fires and bonfires, and the only sign that people had been where they shouldn't have been was a discarded cigarette pack and, oh, a broken window in the Historical House itself. That last might not have happened had B.A. and I still been living there, but let's not talk about that. It was melancholy enough thinking about all our wonderful al fresco 10 hour  Sunday Lunch parties and remembering us going for tipsy, post-prandial strolls around the fields in our Young Fogey finery.

 And the walls around the house were warm in the sun and the flowers near the stable block looked lovely, too.


I attempted to record  the cuckoo (see above; I got it in the first few seconds). There were birdwatchers with telephoto lenses in the driveway staring intently at the trees for it.

One complained at some length about professional dog-walkers who come to the property with multiple dogs they do not keep under control, and I was very sympathetic. She also complained about people who bring their own badly trained dogs and allow them to jump on people or terrify children and say "He must have a problem with dogs" instead of "I do apologise."

I was very sympathetic to that, too. One of the problems in our community is that dog owners not only love their dogs more than their neighbours, they expect their neighbours to love them more than themselves, too. It's selfish and  irrational, and it was one of the difficulties of life at the Historical Life. That said, responsible dog walkers acted as a kind of informal police force, making it possible for me to walk in the woods by myself in relatively tranquility. (Where I come from, corpses of violated children and women are reported found "in a wooded area.")

Now that I am so community-minded, I may figure out how to petition the local government to adopt more effective measures to protect our landscapes and residents from professional dog-walkers and their ill-disciplined packs.  The inability of ordinary dog walkers to understand that their neighbours don't have to share their unconditional love of their pets is probably not something the government can solve. Perhaps I could interest a rock or rap star in the issue?

So that was the highlight of the day. This morning I began to read Wendell Berry's essay "Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community"and was pleasantly surprised by his view of the Clarence Thomas hearing: "violations of due process and justice", "an attempt to deal publicly with a problem for which there is no public solution," and "a storytelling contest that was not winnable by either participant."

Berry proposes that the "indispensable form that can intervene between public and private interests is that of the community." He believes that it is the community that teaches men and women how to treat each other, children, traditions, work, the natural world, etc., properly.

What is interesting here is that by "community" Berry implies geographical location, not the identitarianism that tends to split physical communities. However, Berry was writing in 1991 before the internet destroyed distance even more effectively than jet propulsion engines. Still, I am relatively sure there was such a thing as a nationwide "black community" in the USA in 1991 (numbered at  31.4 million people in 1992) and they had a special stake in the Clarence Thomas hearing.

We were told by journalists at the time that one of the tragedies of the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas scandal was that they were both African Americans. All I feel competent to say about that is that one of the other issues of the era was the obscenity and misogyny of much popular music by black artists (although not only black artists), and that communities need to solve their own problems as much as they need to resist outside attacks, although admittedly the latter may give rise to or exacerbate the former.

A more personal example: my geographical community has a problem with dog-walkers coming from miles around to take advantage of our parks and less stringent regulations. But at the same time, as I've mentioned, there is the my-dog-is-more-important-than-your-children attitude from which we are not immune.

The traditional Catholic community, by which I mean Catholics who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, abjure contraception, extoll large families, keep both fasts and feasts, has a problem with people (usually clerics, especially prelates) who object to our preferring the TLM and want to force us back to Ordinary Form Masses. But at the same time, we occasionally shoot ourselves in the foot with rude, bullying behaviour to newcomers, especially ones who come to Mass dressed inappropriately, i.e. as they have been going to the Novus Ordo for years. That and other attempts to put other well-meaning Catholics through purity tests are ill-judged.

But that is all I have time to say, for I must now go to work.

Evening update: Planted 6 or 7 begonia bulbs  (half-price at Tesco!) in semi-shade, e.g. in the raised bed and along the fence.

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