Thursday 9th April
I head into the shed to look for petrol so I can mow the lawn. There’s a little bird flitting about in the shed. Its wings make the most darling beating sound as it flies across and back, clearly very bothered by my entry. I see, to my delight, that it is a little blue tit: it feels magical that I have spent the previous two days drawing and painting them with the kids I teach, only for one to show up in my very own shed. It comes to a halt on a pair of long-handled garden shears and cheeps furiously at me. It does not achieve the intimidating effect it wants: as I look at it shouting crossly all I can think is, “Yes, there’s your dear little blue cap. There’s the dark blue line under your sweet little beak. And you have identical yellow, blue and green feathers to the ones we painted.” I stand aside to let it fly out of the open door, and it’s gone. But it was special. (There was only one small bird, not one small and one giant bird, but I thought I should paint it a big bigger to see its loveliness a bit better. And…I wanted to.)
Liv (15) and I go for a walk, to see if we can find something nice to sketch. As we walk up the road, we remark on how warm and still the evening is. I am always cold in my home place, but not this evening. We walk for about a mile until we come to an overgrown section of the road. Trees grow on either side, which is quite unusual for our road, which is mostly very open. I see this tree and I know I have found my subject. Liv is happy because she can see Drumacoo Abbey, which is just a couple of fields away. I jump up onto the ivy-covered wall and Liv sits beside me, facing the other way. Little Reuben the terrier is on the ground at our feet, but he makes it very clear that he wants to sit beside us on the wall. I hoist him up – it’s quite high for a tiny terrier – and he sits on the thick (and uncomfortable) ivy beside me. He is ecstatic to be part of his beloved mistress’s adventure, and he wags his tail contentedly. He is one of those dogs in whom you can have confidence he won’t act the eejit – we can both concentrate on our sketches, knowing he won’t jump down into the field, which could be tempting for a lad who likes to fool about. Liv finishes her sketch a little before me, and goes across the road to explore. Within thirty seconds she has snapped off a bit of tree. “Oops!” she says, “I hope you weren’t sketching that branch!” Well… She hops easily over the wall with her colt-length legs, and Reuben jumps frantically on his stumpy-length ones, trying to join her. Once more he is unceremoniously hoisted by the harness and off they go to explore. The sun starts to set and it’s soon a pale gold fireball in a sky lined with silver and violet clouds.
Parts of Drumacoo Abbey date back to the 8th century, but not the bit that you can see in Liv’s sketch. That was built as a mausoleum for the St. George family in the 19th century. They owned Tyrone House, the ruined shell of which is a few minutes up the road from our house. There is a poem on a plaque outside the church written especially for the family by Sir John Betjman. It is a beautiful poem and contains something about sheep grazing above us, and I will go and sketch it soon so you can see it. There is a cemetery still in use next to Drumacoo Abbey, and you will not find a more peaceful setting for the eternal repose of a loved one. It is as tranquil as this whole area is: timeless, everlasting, magical.