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I pray for a way through this calamity

The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury ANL-161103-110230001
The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury ANL-161103-110230001

Imagine, if you can, back to life before Brexit. I know it’s difficult. Difficult to leapfrog over the tumultuous week that was, the shock of the referendum result (well, Boris and Michael were shocked, weren’t they?), the disastrous verdict of the Markets, job prospects, 500% increase in hate crime.

Imagine life back to how it used to be, when we took things for granted, a way of life that was a lot more secure than it’s going to be for many of us. When we knew, as a nation, how to be more hospitable to the stranger and those in need. I hope and pray for some way through this calamity, such that we can wake up one morning soon, and it’s all been a terrible nightmare. Whatever the promises, there is no plan. Just uncharted seas.

And so I do imagine back to the end of May, to the Bank Holiday, which I spent in the Deanery garden. No, not preparing for Hidden Gardens (though we might enter one year), but emptying the pond I dug five years ago. It had become so clogged with pond plants, algae and weed that it was little more than a puddle in which the newts and snails struggled to survive. So I bucketed out the water and mud, sieved it through an old colander and rescued the wildlife (30 newts, 80 snails, a few great diving beetles, one or two other bugs). I lifted the root balls – and heavens, they were heavy. I cleaned the liner, and did the stone surround. And filled again with water. The plants (in pots this time) and newts were returned when the water condition was right. And now, six weeks on, it’s a delight. Clear water, no algae. Baby newts abound. Waterboatmen are back. I sit and eat my breakfast, enjoying the drama.

And what drama. The water lily is about to flower. Each day the buds are bigger. The plants are all in flower. But, oh, the snails are suffering. Blackbirds are picking them off – my beautiful black, perfectly-formed water snails. There’s only a few left. Why can’t they eat the millions of snails that are munching the way through the rest of the garden?

Yesterday the drama was intense. A peregrine falcon took out one of the blackbirds. There, on the lawn, it descended, the fastest bird in flight, and snatched. A short struggle in the laurel bush – only short – and off it went, blackbird pinioned in sharp claw.

I tell you, it’s all happening in the deanery garden. A raucous summer, full of surprises, and so it is.

It’s the autumn and winter to follow that worries me.

-- The Very Rev Frances Ward is Dean of St Edmundsbury


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