Oh, that caught your eye didn’t it – the Benny Hill double entendre, but that of which I speak is nothing to do with me divesting myself of my upper garments or anyone else, come to that. I am speaking of one of the great loves of my life, my trusty, ancient little MX5 Roadster, Jago ( totally impractical and with a boot the size of a gnome’s knapsack). And, yesterday, for the first time this year, I put the top down and hit the open roads. “Oh, what dust clouds I shall make! What carts I shall fling into the ditch!” said Toad of Toad Hall, and I know exactly how he felt. There truly is something exhilarating about pootling around the highways and byways, especially at this time of the year when the trees are laden with blossomy blossoms and the plants all seem to have overdosed on Viagra. Leaving lovely Thanet behind, we headed for the serpentine back roads around Sandwich, Deal and Canterbury, with ‘the husband’ moaning that we’d better be back in time for the start of the Grand Prix – philistine! Within minutes we were deep in the tranquil heart of the countryside with the sun beating down on our heads and the scent of Mother Nature’s Chanel all around us. You know, there is a wonderful freedom in not having a definite plan or destination, in simply chucking away the map and Sat Navs and following willy nilly the signposts to Pluck’s Gutter or Little Mongeham, purely because you like the name and the visions they conjure up.
Emerging from beneath a cornucopic canopy of trees (somewhere near Ham and Sandwich, I think – someone had nicked the sign again, so I can’t be sure), my mind dug deep for a better way of describing it and came up with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, Pied Beauty. “Glory be to God for dappled things . . . “
A short while later we breasted a rise, stopped the car and stood for a while drinking in a vernal panorama of fields in their various states of growth. I had in my head a vision of the sewing circles of old, where industrious ladies gathered together to create wonderful patchwork quilts. Here, the quilt was green in the main, albeit of every shade and hue, with a couple of more sober patches in browns and duns. But, at some point, the Scarlet O’Hara of the quilting circle had happened along and brazenly thrown her blingy, in-your-face, rape-seed gold into the mix, adding a discordant but irresistible note. Apart from politics, rape fields are the one thing upon which hubby and I violently disagree. He says they are vulgar. I say they are a thing of beauty, most wondrous to behold. He says they stink of cats’ pee. I say they stink of cats’ pee. Okay, we agree on the latter.
We got back in the car and drove on, past scented hedgerows already bustling with insect life, tiny flies with filigree wings, cabbage white butterflies and bees anxious to get on with the business of dunking themselves in nectar. Once, we found ourselves trailing behind an ASBO pheasant who, with no thought for the Green Cross Code, sauntered casually up the centre of the road. It’s fair to say his attitude was definitely of two fingers up in the air variety, but I don’t reckon much to his longevity. Here and there we passed a real-live farm with real-live animals, sheep and cows yawning lazily in their enclosures, grazing desultorily or herding together for a communal kip – all that yawning and grazing will knacker you.
We passed centuries old inns of the Chocolate Box type, The Dog and Duck, The Blazing Donkey, tempted, but staunchly refraining from going in and getting blotto in their enticing courtyard gardens. Here and there, shy bluebells played peek-a-boo from amid clumps of shady woodland. Honestly, it didn’t get much better. Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that I had made the decision to leave the grimy backyard of London for the fertile Garden of England. I was just about to express this thought to my husband, my heart full of poetry, my eyes quite shiny from the emotion of it all, when a very large incontinent rook flew overhead . . .
PS. We did get home for the start of the Grand Prix – but he was washing his hair!