I noticed it a few days ago – already, the dawn is creeping earlier over the parapet, the Sun is setting a little later than it was a week ago. Accustomed, around the Solstice, to full darkness before 4pm, I noticed as I went to settle the stock at Christmas, that there was still some light at about 4.10. And therein lies some hope, I guess. Four minutes more light each day. It doesn’t sound much, but that’s almost half an hour in a week. We country folk tend to notice these things.
The highlight of the festive season was a visit from two very good friends – our former rabbi from London days, and his wife. Being intrepid and interesting souls, they took us out to a couple of local attractions which, being local, we’d never enjoyed.
The first was a drive to Sandringham last Sunday to gawp at the Royals progressing from the church back to the great house after the morning service. Even though we were searched – and had cameras removed – before we could get close, it’s remarkably informal, even in today’s hysterical times. We saw Philip, Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward, Sophie, William and Harry – as handsome a clutch of HRHs as you’ll see anywhere. What struck me most was how tall they all are. I expect it’s because they’re so – well, so Royal – unlike we mortals, that is. Makes one quite believe in their natural superiority over we hoi-polloi.
Conspicuous by her absence was HM, who went from church to house in the Royal Bentley. This was a shame, because our rabbi was denied the chance to say a blessing that comes out only when one sees a head of state. There’s a blessing for every conceivable occasion, and those learned in Torah can become blessing-twitchers. So, if ever you happen to pass HM in the street, you can say
We praise you, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe, for You give of Your glory to flesh and blood.
although in Hebrew. Something then, to be said only in the presence of those who’ve touched the hem of his garment. Or, at any rate, a nice old lady in a cloche hat.
After Sandringham we drove a short way north to Hunstanton, where we looked at the marvelous polychrome cliffs of that resort.
The seeing was crisp and clear. From the top of the cliffs one could see across the Wash, all the way to Lincolnshire, and, on the horizon, the full majesty of a wind farm, out at sea. The weather, however, was a bitter wind from the north, which kept beachfront frolics to a minimum, although the rebbitzin, being a twitcher of another kind, pointed out fulmars squabbling in crevices high on the cliffs.
This is the time of year when one takes stock. It ends, for me, on a muted note. Projects I’ve been involved in are either in remote pre-pre-pre development; are coming to an end; or are never likely to get off the ground to begin with. I’m also having these recurring dreams in which I am ostentatiously undervalued … and also hearing, for the second time in recent memory, of a marriage I’d assumed to have been as solid as a rock, breaking apart. This causes a peculiar kind of distress. I can’t help but wish I could get the couple in front of me and knock their heads together. Marriage can be very hard, but if one makes a promise, one should really do one’s best to keep it, unless the provocation to part is unendurable. But peoples’ inner lives, perhaps, are like the winter weather – chill, and full of shadows. Nevertheless one should, I feel, hang on in there against the certainty that Spring will one day come. For, as a blessing-twitcher can say, every day, even if he never catches a glimpse of HM in his life:
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, whose world is filled with beauty.