Tag Archives: Kent

8 April: Edward Thomas’ Anniversary

The Cherry Trees

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,

On the old road where all that passed are dead,

Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding,

This early May morn when there is none to wed. 

The photograph shows an orchard of new cherry trees at Amery Court, Canterbury. They will spend their spring-times protected from ravages of wind, rain, and birds and squirrels by nets rolled out on frames overhead. Few petals will reach the old road, now part of Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Scotland. But the farmer trusts that the expense of planting these trees will be repaid with many a harvest.

Edward Thomas and so many like him trusted that they were putting their lives on the line to help save England and bring about the end of War…

Also tomorrow we remember the Prince of Peace coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, not a tank or armoured car. And it is still not too late to pray and strive for Peace, starting by sowing a seed of love and peace in our own hearts.

And may Edward Thomas and all who fell in War, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

MMB

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7 April, Shared Table XII: Washing Up is Part of the Meal.

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I’m afraid this posting is well and truly out of sequence! Our Shared Table season will begin at Corpus Christi, June 18 in England, but this follows on from yesterday’s reflection on ‘eat whatever they set before you.’

More than one local miner told me that the men who had been sent down here to Kent to open the new pits were largely the ‘awkward squad’ from mines in Scotland, Wales and Northern England. George was one of the last-named. His reputation lives on, as I discovered maybe twenty years after he left us, when I was working in his village of Aylesham.

George was not awkward for the sake of it. He saw the hardships and injustice his fellow miners endured in the days before the pits were nationalised and did something about it. He often pointed out that landowners whose fields sat over coal measures earned more from selling the concessions than the miners who endured harsh conditions to dig it out. George conquered a stammer to be able to stand up and speak for his fellow workers. He even went back to the mines after spending his War service in the Merchant Navy.

In his ill-health retirement – coal was not always kind to those who worked it – he came to L’Arche from home, working in the garden or the workshop, sharing our meals, and always first at the sink when washing up was to be done. There was always plenty of it, and if George did not cook, he certainly contributed to the meal and to the community in this way.

George was a cheerful giver, and is no doubt cheerful in a happy place now.

MMB.

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14 January: Robin and Angel keeping watch.

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Here is Robin, watching the back door from our old Welsh angel. This stone came from St Tydfil’s churchyard in Wales. I was working on the clearing of this ground some years ago and rescued this slab of forest stone from the bulldozer and the skip.

The angel has guarded our comings and our goings since we moved to this house. If we don’t make a daily conscious prayer of thanks for God’s protection on our home, we once and for all made a concrete prayer when we put the stone on the wall.

And robin is welcome to our protection too, in the shape of a few crumbs but also a dense ivy hedge that offers protection for nesting and for roosting – and a few insects and slugs for food.

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place, and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

MMB

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10 January: Intergalactic Explorations XX: Land of Plenty.

fish-chips-margate1-360x640‘Do you ever’, asked Alfie, gulping another morsel of battered haddock from the fish and chip shop, ‘Do you ever miss the old menu popping through the hatch in the pod? Those six foods and the same old four drinks?’

‘Nothing as tasty as batter, fish and vinegar ever passed my lips in Ossyria’, replied Ajax.

‘Perhaps not’, beamed the Director, known to his human friends as ‘T’, ‘but there is no need to half-choke yourself eating so fast. There’s plenty here for the three of us, and no scientifically controlled portions either.’

‘There was always plenty back home, but scientific protein bangers and extruded bread sticks! If I may say so Boss, everything tasted grey.’

‘Of course it did, but creatures died to feed us here on earth, fish, wheat, potatoes. We cannot escape that, even if we go vegetarian.’

‘Never suggest that again! We have canine appetites along with our canine shapes,’ flashed Ajax.

‘Well I was thinking that come Lent in March next year, I might copy some of these humans and stop eating meat for a few weeks,’ said T, ‘And try to work out why they do it. If you care to join me …’

The chihuahuas made clear that T was on his own for this project. ‘It’s utterly uncanine, it’s unossyrian, it’s unnatural; dogs eat meat,’ asserted Ajax.

‘And sitting in a grey, submarine pod, watching arm-wrestling octopi on the screens, drinking a cocktail of two parts red juice and one of green with warm ice is natural? Come on boys, here in Margate we’re learning that we have appetites and appetites are natural, and all the better for being sharpened.’

‘And some appetites are sharper than others,’ growled Ajax.

Photo by NAIB3

MMB

The appetite for learning is sharpened when the appetite for food is satisfied. You can help Mary’s Meals feed schoolchildren in Africa if you follow this link here.

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5 January: On the way and already there.

 

Saint Francis is known for his Christmas Crib, among many other things. All sorts of additions have been made to the Nativity scene since then, often reflecting the way of life around where a crib is set.

Our family crib too has extras for our delight. The West Highland Terrier is a rescue dog; he has attached himself to the Magi on the way to the stable of Bethlehem in our living room, where he was found wedged under the skirting when the floor was sanded and polished.

As for the little black cat who has taken up residence in the stable already, making friends with the gentle cow: she is another foundling. When our daughters were little I would bring home these tiny toy animals, each in its own tiny bag from a tiny shop in Broadstairs; unwrapping them on Friday evening started the weekend. There was delight when this one was unearthed in the garden; she was gone but not forgotten. In gratitude for those happy days, she will sit in the stable for years to come.

We are on the way to meet the Lord, but we may be surprised to see who is ready to greet us when we get there!

MMB.

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25 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVIII The Galloping Dik-Dik

dik-dik

 

‘T’ and the Chihuahuas continued to listen raptly to bits and pieces of the story of the Lady Domneva and her dik-dik and, in doing so, were transported back to the vanished world of the wild and woolly seventh century.

It seemed that every monastic foundation required a kind of demesne, or endowment; enough land to ensure peace and quiet and also to raise some hard cash for bee’s wax candles, mason’s wages for the carving, and subsequent maintenance, of gargoyles and stone arabesques, lentils for the nun’s soup, ducks for their eggs and down to stuff the duvets in the guest quarters (the nuns themselves, having taken a vow of poverty, did not use duvets), some cattle for Feast days (as well as a sip of wine) and parchment, and, of course, lots and lots of sheep for lamb chops, mutton stew and wool to make their distinctive black habits (not to mention a large quantity of the rare and expensive beetle carapace used to make the dye). Well, let it simply be said that running a large monastic foundation could be expensive. Land was also needed for orchards of apples, pears, and apricots, wild flowers, and the oddly placed fisherman’s cot. In fact, back in the seventh century, as feudalism came into its first virile wind, well, land meant just about everything.

The Kentish king, encamped with his vast court on the site of the future monastery, was both vexed and perplexed. Since the king was new at founding monasteries, he wasn’t quite sure how much land might be required and the Lady Domneva was also of little help since she had only been a nun for a very short time. It was then that one of the scullery people, noticing the frisk of the Lady’s dik-dik on a particularly cold day, came up with an idea that delighted everyone.

‘Why not leave it up to God?’ the young maid said, rather enigmatically. And when all agreed that that must be a fine idea…another question immediately sprang forward – ‘but how?’ It was then that a wizened hermit emerged from a nearby wood and, approaching the diminutive dik-dik, began to stroke the lovely creature while spoon feeding it some black currant jam. In tones of deepest respect, he asked a beaming Lady Domneva if the tiny deer-like creature had a name. ‘Indeed, he does,’ she cooed, ‘Boanerges.’ And at the sound of his name the tiny dik-dik licked a spot of jam from his nose and rolled a triple somersault on the emerald lawn to everyone’s delight. ‘Surely,’ the hermit intoned, ‘God can speak through a Son of Thunder?’ And, so, it came to be.

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The little dik-dik ran and ran…and ran. Throughout the Isle of Thanet from dawn until dusk. The brisk, late-November chill served as both motivation…and inspiration…as the near-magical creature raced the howling east wind. By royal decree, everywhere it traversed would become the endowment of the monastery and, some say, that if it hadn’t been for the watery barrier of the mighty Wansum, well, the dik-dik might have galloped all the way to Scotland.

TJH

 

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24 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVII, A Hagiographical Foray

 

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Though ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas had been all unaware, the day of their visit to the monastery at Minton was the feast of St. Domniva, its foundress. In the course of the various services they attended throughout their stay and by recourse to some fragments of conversation had with a few of the more knowledgeable of the nuns, ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas were able to piece together bits of her fascinating story. It seemed that Domniva (before she became a saint) had been a princess of one of the royal Anglo-Saxon houses and a renowned world traveler. There was a massive amount of (circumstantial) evidence indicating that one of her journeys may have even taken her- along with a sizeable entourage since she was, after all, a princess- to sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that she discovered a rare and wonderful animal in the sprawling market of a nameless and long-vanished city called a dik-dik. Smitten by its elegant grace, the noble Domniva purchased the animal for a magnificent sum and brought it back with her when she returned to the foggy shores of East Kent.

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The dik-dik appeared as a perfectly formed young deer…except that its coat of dense fur was a soft, buff-gray peppered with nearly invisible spots. For all that the magnificent animal resembled a member of any number of herds ranging the length and breadth of the Five Kingdoms, it only stood around six inches tall; a miniature version of its British cousins with ebony hoofs no larger than the tip of its mistress’ forefinger. Used to a much warmer clime in the dense acacia forests of its African homeland, it nevertheless also was able to appreciate the overgrown nature of the English countryside (and nearly all of England was countryside in the late seventh century) and, discovering that a brisk frisk was an excellent way to dodge the chill, it soon began to thrive. Everyone who saw it fell instantly in love. Perhaps, the dik-dik should not be referred to as an ‘it’ since it was a young stag, sporting a full rack of arching antlers, and proudly answered to the name Boanerges, which the Lady Domniva had given it.

At some point in time there was a blood feud, as seemed so common among royalty then and now and, in order to make things right, the king of Kent decided to build a monastery. Fortunately for the king, the Lady Domniva had also become very pious and wished to retire from the tiresome frivolities of life at court. And so it was settled- Domniva would found the monastery and serve as its first abbess. A site was duly chosen on the shore of the mighty Wansum river, which, bisecting a large mass of land, created the Isle of Thanet. It was then that the dik-dik established himself forever in the annals of England and lore of the great southeast.

To be continued

TJH

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21 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XIV, The Sands of the Sea 2

 

earthnasa

One of the things that had early enamoured the delegation’s Director of that strange planet called Earth was the presence of not one, not two, but five major salt water oceans. The Director’s home planet, within the sprawling Ossyrian Confederation, possessed many stunning streams and a few shallow lakes – most of liquefied ammonia but a few world-famous tourist attractions that ran with the mirror-brightness of molten mercury – but these were mainly for aesthetic admiration and nearby inhabitants rarely went in for a paddle or dip. Stunned by the beauty of the opalescent North Sea channel between east Kent and what he reckoned must be northern Belgium, which seemed to change colour with every mood of the capricious sky in an antipodal love affair that would have done justice to any couple – bickering or dewy-eyed – found in the classics of terrestrial literature, he would spend long hours along the shore; hunting for treasures that might litter the sand, or simply staring into the endless blue. And then, while stranded in the sun-drenched daydream called California, he had screwed up his nerve on a particularly sultry day and taken the plunge.

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Oh, yes!!  The memory washed over him like the sloppy kiss of a saucy courtesan with impossible emerald-coloured skin as soft as watered silk and gold dust swirling in her eyes. Though she could dance with abandon and even (when out of sorts) be dangerous, the unselfconsciously beautiful Pacific owned a touch that both soothed and tingled, relaxed yet stimulated, all of his weary senses. The Chihuahuas, safely ensconced in England, either with Mrs. Fox in Cornwall or Will Turnstile’s raucous tribe closer to home in Canterbury, were never forgotten as he floated on the soft swells and then, emboldened, body surfed the crashing waves of blue-green foam. No, not forgotten but perspective was regained. As the mystic said long ago, all would be well, all manner of things would be well.

TJH

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Opening Doors of Mercy

reichstag

It was a joy to visit old friends in Berlin, Oskar and Kristina. Oskar has lived through many changes since his birth in 1944: bombs, occupation, partition; flights to the West and shootings by border guards; the building of the Wall and its demolition. Visiting his family in the East was restricted and only via certain checkpoints. Doors of not much mercy.

The S-bahn and U-bahn (Surface and Underground metros) no longer trundle through ghost stations where lines cut through the East. The united city is growing: buildings like the Reichstag being restored, bright new ones rising around the centre. Oskar and Kristina’s son’s new flat is almost finished; we saw the block from the river tour, itself inconceivable before the Wall was toppled. Oskar showed us a stretch preserved for future generations.

sbahn1

Berlin felt like a city at peace with itself.

Immediately before the wall came down the checkpoints, the doorways between the two sides of the city, were thrown open; the wall became pointless.

What can happen if we open the doors of mercy, the doors of our hearts?

Berlin had to grow up and learn from the past. The Nazi regime tried to rewrite the past, excluding the contributions made by Jewish people and those whose thoughts did not tally with National Socialist policies. Hence the burning of books, a crime against everyone.

This monument is a window into a basement of haunted empty shelves, where those lost books belong.

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empty shelves

In Margate’s Turner Contemporary the bookshelves are full. The British Library by Yinka Shonibare also challenges our memory of who we are. His books are bound in bright West African cloth, and bear the names of ‘foreigners’ who have contributed to Britain as we know it, from Brontë to Disraeli, from Ben Kingsley to Margate’s own Tracey Emin. A sense of peace descended on the party I visited with. All these people, and we ourselves, belong together. Follow this link:

British Library

MMB.

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22 September: Intergalactic Discoveries, X: A Minor Triumph of Ossyrian Thought Transference.

buildersdog.1 (800x670)

The Builder’s Dog

It was Thursday before anything at all exciting happened, although it was clear that Mrs Fox was not quite her usual self, mumbling under her breath, writing lists, washing the dogs’ bedding, buying more treats and wet food packs, and gathering clothes into suitcases. Thursday was a whirlwind of last minute laundry, sandwich making, and packing up the car. Since their things were put in the boot it was clear that they were going somewhere. But where?

On Friday morning they made an early start from Cornwall, retracing their journey back towards Kent. Margate at last? No. But when they woke from a fitful dream they were at a familiar place: Will Turnstone’s House in Canterbury. This was good enough till T got home, though the Builder’s Dog was in residence and barely tolerating these interlopers on ‘his’ territory.

The Builder’s Dog was going home the next day, but neither he nor Ajax and Alfie knew that. BD was not much bigger than a Chihuahua, being a Yorkshire Terrier, though without the Tykish belligerence that usually goes with the breed. He was just stubborn that possession was nine points of the law, and he was here first.

On previous visits to Turnstone Towers, first Alfie and then Ajax had misread the duckweed covered pond and plunged in, Alfie walking out on what seemed to be an extension of the lawn, and Ajax jumping after a frog.

Now they felt they could pull BD down a peg or two. Ajax went around the back of the pond and began digging. ‘Come over here’, he signalled. Alfie ran around, positioning himself so that the easiest way to reach the hole was across the pond. ‘Wow! BD! Look at this!’

BD is one of those dogs that knows when he’s being laughed at. It happens with humans, and is one of the downsides of canine life. He’d never been laughed at by dogs before, and he did not like it.

WT.

 

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