Archive for April, 2012


I think it must take a terrible amount of patience to live in the country.  A patience that is either a natural gift, or a skill learned slowly into the fibres of your working body as it eases through the seasons.  My little hamlet of Acton has often felt lonely and solitary, each person or family tucked away into their own houses, puttering on with their own affairs.  Friendly and lovely they are when you make the effort to go out and knock on the door or stop in for a chat, but I often wonder when it is appropriate to stop in?  When is the time to break into someone’s privacy?  I am surrounded on three sides by neighbors who are retired, who have a whole life’s work and memories and family to keep them company.  And Keith Jones over the way, whom I finally met today after living her for six months, has his menagerie of animals and his childhood mates to keep him company.  Nogbert the sheep, who was raised in the house as a lamb, still remembers, he says, and tries to get back in.  As I chatted with him today, he climbed out of his digger and waved his hand towards the bags of special lime that he uses to restore old buildings and the castle walls of Ludlow, a passion that began when he fixed up his own house, right here in Acton, which had been the cider shed and the grain store.  Next door to him is Mary Jones, whose late husband was born here and died here in Acton.  And then there are the family of farmers (again another family named Jones) – the retired father in one house, and his two sons and their families in other houses on either side.  And lastly, an architect and a teacher and their daughters, nestled into the 14th century thatched house.  And me in my little stable.

But life is quiet here in Acton, and everyone mostly attends to their own business.  And some days, when the air refuses to be warm, and the sky refuses to be bright, I sit in my stables reading my ever growing pile of books about rural life and wonder where the young people are in the country?  Or how people keep from going slightly mad from the isolation and the quiet.  I dig over the vegetable beds for my landlords in the farmhouse across the way, and I wait for a bit of wind or sun to dry the grass enough to mow it.  And with a week of warm weather, I begin to sow seeds in the little glass house in their back garden.

The patience of country life waits for the moments when the sun shines, and all the sudden you notice that the hedges are beginning to bud with green, and the blackthorn is blooming, its snow white blossoms on the bare hedges the first sign that leaves are not far off, and the drab lonely days of winter might really be behind us.  But even the snowy blackthorn blossoms cannot hold off a real snow, which sweeps down from the Welsh hills in the first week of April, and makes you doubt Spring all over again.  The top of the Long Mynd is four inches in snow, and although the farmers are grateful for the water after this dry winter, you know they are worrying about the lambs out in the fields that have just been born. 

And on a sunny day, a warm beautiful day, you may decide to put on your boots and go for a walk, and all the lonely hours in the Stables, all the times that your ill grown and poorly cultivated patience has withered in the countryside you have not yet adjusted to, fades away.  You walk up the green lane, admire the blackthorn blossoms, feel the movement of the air, feel yourself moving along beside the fields of green fields of wheat and yellow rapeseed, and the pastures filled with new lambs, and you feel that the hours of loneliness can be endured.  As one of my friends put it, you feel you can live for the next glorious moment like this one.  Patience can be cultivated.

At the bottom of the old lane sits the old rusting tractor I pass on all my walks, so peaceful in its resting place that lichen have begun to encrust its old tires.

I visit Mary for tea.  And I chat with Keith by his digger and his bags of lime.  The clouds move over and past the sun, and I put my trays sown with winter squash in the sun, hoping they will germinate soon.  The sheep and the lambs bleet in the fields nearby, and the slow patience of Acton carries on.

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