….or Puddlemarch; the latter would be apposite for the conditions underfoot which stretch back to a point beyond memory; I say this with the confidence of one who has as much confidence in the stretching back ability of his short term memory as he has in the forecasts of the weather forecaster. I have a deep dislike for January and February; not liking particular months is as pointless an exercise as I can imagine but, as I currently find exercise pointless, I confess that I have always had a lasting and unreasonable dislike for the two of them. I have spent 70 years waiting hopefully ( I have omitted the first 6 years of my life as months didn’t mean much to me until I went to boarding school at 7 years old) and occasionally optimistically, for March which, in my earliest memories, heralded the end of the Easter Term and, in my early teens, the end of the freezing misery of rowing on the swirling, brown river Thames in training for the regattas of summer……my position in the boat was bow which means that my back faced the pointy end of the boat beyond which was nothing but cold water and there was a reason for placing me in this position which did not include careful team selection. My size predicated that I should be a cox and I had indeed been given that responsibility at the outset of my time rowing at school and it was a responsibility that was speedily removed from me subsequent to my steering the boat in my charge into the path of an oncoming motor launch which collision surgically removed the front part of the boat I was steering, instantly transforming 9 men in a boat to 9 men in the Thames ; after the sinking I was introduced to several painful traditions, that I’d rather forget, before I was given the bow seat in a new boat, not in the belief that I would add to the power of the boat but in the hope of a similar accident in which I would be the victim of poetic justice: and that does for the March of Time.
Quick March to the present; the waters are rising and a virus is spreading which leaves me little choice but to ignore everything and make meringues. Living in this tiny hamlet with a population of 10 people, and a great many more sheep and cows, we don’t do a great deal of hand shaking or mwah mwahing. Let me be clear, we could not choose to have better neighbours than those we have here as our ideal good neighbour is a kind and thoughtful person to whom we speak rarely yet trust completely and it would appear that our neighbours’ view of neighbourly behaviour is one and the same. Whatever disappointments that each March offers it cannot prevent the arrival of the light….the wondrous lengthening of the day which eventually culminates in those long, hot, sultry evenings which draw themselves out inexorably giving pleasures twelve months forgotten.
And there is Mad March with battling hares in the fields and memories of Masefield “butting down the Channel in the mad March days” along with a determination to avoid the Ides of March….the acronym IDE, Infectious Disease Epidemic, could not be more fitting to the zeitgeist. I was thinking to myself, as I brought in wood from the courtyard behind the house, how these things are suddenly upon us. The buildings around me, as I worked, had seen men in German uniforms who had the power to kill you at the drop of a hat; they would have seen Republican soldiers, as they swept through the Vendée killing everyone in their path, at the end of XVIII Century and still the buildings look down on me in a kindly way. As I worked my neighbour came out, chatted and then loaded his wheelbarrow with a box of apples to take to our neighbour on the other side of the lane. The day could not have been more normal but it’s not and it won’t be for a while; and then it will be.