Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The poetic murmuring

We’ve just spent a rather magical day in the countryside around Cambridge. Everything’s looking so fresh and beautiful at the moment. The leaves on the trees are a vibrant shade of lime and hundreds of multi-coloured flowers line the country lanes. Cowslips, dandelions, poppies, daffodils, tulips, bluebells and daisies are all blooming at once and the air is sweet with the smell of fresh blossom. We met up with the parents and picnicked in a country park before playing a game which involved launching giant darts at a scoreboard on a molehill.

We then made our way into Cambridge for a sneak preview of the house that my very dear friend Helen is about to move into. She wasn’t there, which was a shame, because my mother seemed very keen to get the tape measure out and advise her on carpets and curtains. We’re all agreed that she’s picked a particularly lovely area of town, which is filled to the brim with alternative shops and cafes. We used to visit this part of Cambridge rather a lot in the early 1980s. There were rows of whole-food shops back then, and places that sold wrap-around skirts and joss sticks, so it was a sort of Mecca for my CND-supporting, bran-tastic mother. It’s also the place where I bought my ‘cello. I still remember the smell of the case and how proud I felt to have my very own instrument. Previously I’d had to make do with a borrowed 'cello which had been thrown together on a production line somewhere in China and sounded like a sitar when I played pizzicato.

We spent the afternoon at the Orchard in Grantchester eating cream teas in a garden filled with apple and cherry blossom. I’m sure if we’d closed our eyes and listened carefully enough, we would have heard the poetic murmurs of Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke carried to us on the soft Cambridge breeze. Their ghosts still haunt these parts, 100 years after they sat under these very trees. It was a delightfully English way to spend an afternoon.

Brook and Woolf: The Ghosts of Grantchester.

Reading Pepys' diary for this date, 350 years ago, I’m amused to discover our hero was also playing a game which involved throwing things. In his case, it was nine-pins, and like me, he won. Unlike me, however, he was playing for money and earned himself a crown from Mr Pickering, who conveniently didn’t have enough money to pay up. After supper Montagu plainly got a bit squiffy, because the evening ended in a riot of music-making on the lower deck.

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