I was doing some clearing out the other day.
In fact I am doing clearing out almost every day at the moment.
Drawers, cupboards, bookshelves, entire rooms, nothing is spared my de-cluttering eye, and I came across a letter from C, an elderly neighbour of years gone by. She had kept in touch with us since moving to Wales with her little dog Spring, leaving the row of terraced cottages in Tavistock where we had been at No 6 and she had been at No 2, and though her writing had become increasingly illegible, and the thoughts very stream of consciousness so quite hard to follow, it was always good to hear from her.
C was a true country woman, born and bred in Cornwall, tall and slender with a bronzed and weather-beaten face, and I have vivid memories of her waving to me as I pegged the nappies out on the line and she would be setting off on her old push bike, with Spring trotting alongside, for day long cycle rides along the lanes and across the Moors. Back she would come with the basket full of 'things' she had picked up along the way, an interesting stone, some flower seed heads, a giant puffball.
We moved here and C eventually moved back to her homeland of Cornwall, and in one of those chance encounters life throws your way we bumped into her down in Truro a couple of years ago celebrating her ninetieth birthday with her family. She didn't really recognise or remember us, even though she still wrote, and we haven't heard in a while so I fear the worst.
But back in 1995 C had written to us, as was her wont, on a piece of scrap paper with a reminder to herself about something crossed out, something else about compassion and cruelty to turkeys scribbled through, and a poem printed on the back. We had been in this house about a year and C had come from her home in Wales to visit that Summer...
Thank you for such a true welcome. It's been a happy reunion.
Do come my way if you can uproot yourselves....
We had taken her for a walk up Rocky's field to the back of the house, though all the extra bits hadn't been built then, but this is the view she would have seen ...
I have done now, and, thanks to C have discovered Ruth Bidgood, a Welsh poet I think I will enjoy and must explore...
Far away, we saw three chimneys in the trees
across the valley, on a little hill
beyond the first hill's shoulder.
Shading our eyes from the sidelong evening sun,
we gazed and guessed till we could almost see
the roofs of the beast-house, stable and barn.
No smoke rose from the chimneys, we said at first,
but soon we swore there was smoke, so alive the house
seemed in the dying sunlight.
And afterwards, alone, I searched on maps
to make the house more mine by knowing its name -
and found there is no farm on the hill,
no house of any kind, not even a ruin.
What trick of the sun and shade put chimneys there
for us to find and talk about?
And is the evening more real than the house?
Now both are gone, it seems a fine distinction
that one was and the other was not.
Remembering, I build the evening again,
the plunging valley and the little hill,
and look! there are chimneys in the trees.