Saturday, November 07, 2020

Gathering colours

I've finished reading Nella Last's War now. It was terrific, and surprisingly gripping. For those of you who have never heard of it, it's the diary of a woman who lived in the northwest shipbuilding town of Barrow-in-Furness during WW2. She began to write it in 1940 as part of the Mass Observation Project.

She was a good writer, and I have found it fascinating to learn how she lived, her daily habits, how she coped, all about her volunteer work and her family. I especially love the detail, such as what she cooked for dinner and for tea. It makes it so immediate. I'm wondering if I should tell you at the end of every blog post what I had for tea the night before.

This week my lovely friend Liz gave me a book I used to have before it got lost in the fire. It's called Frederick. I have always loved it. Having children with a ten year gap in the middle I can't remember which of them I used to read it to, but reading it again was heartening. 

Let me explain. Frederick is a field mouse living with his family. During the summertime they are all busy storing food for the winter ahead, but Frederick doesn't join in. He just sits there.

They ask him why he's not working too and he says: 'I do work. I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.'

They ask him again and he says: 'I gather colours. For winter is grey.'

When they ask him if he's dreaming, he says: 'Oh no. I am gathering words. For the winter days are long and many, and we'll run out of things to say.'

When winter comes and their supplies run out, and it's cold and no-one feels like chatting, they ask Frederick about his supplies. And he says they should shut their eyes while he tells them about the warm sun, and then about the colours.

And when he told them of the blue periwinkles, the red poppies in the yellow wheat, and the green leaves of the berry bush, they saw the colours as clearly as if they had been painted in their minds.

When my readership is relatively small, it's easy to get disheartened and feel I am wasting my time. 

But the story of Frederick makes me think it is all worthwhile, even if I never make it into the bestseller charts.

And I have started to gather words again, such as this conversation I had with Dave on a walk.

Me: 'What are you thinking about?'

Dave: 'Sphincters.'

Me (exploding in laughter): 'What kind of sphincters?'

Dave: 'Bodily sphincters.' 

Me: 'Yours? Mine?'

Dave: 'Mine. Anybody's. Do you think there's an evolutionary advantage in them getting looser as they age?' 

On Wednesday and Thursday nights I had green lentils with roast aubergine for tea, which was surprisingly tasty, and last night it was Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Steak Pie with baked potato and cabbage. Yum.


Kristine said...

Hi Sue,
Please know that you are not wasting your time in writing your blog.
I can always relate to what you are saying, what you are feeling. I too live in a beautiful, country location, have a child who lives with her young family in another country (Denmark for me), despair at the state of the world, the lack of kindness and increasing greed....
It always helps to know that there are others who feel as I do. I enjoy going on walks with you, reading your thoughts on books, enjoy your conversations with Dave and your grandchildren. You remind us that there is a lot of good in the world too and a lot of beauty - we just have to learn, like Dave, to focus on the things that bring us joy and know that to live simply and with integrity is of value.
Stay well, keep writing,
Best wishes,

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you so much for telling me this,Kristine. It’s very encouraging.x