Dear Prof,

I hope you can persuade Mary to use her time well, while work is slack, learn to use a computer, familiarize and have fun with the critter. I thought I would be fed up with persuading reluctant computer users to give it a go by now, and in a way I am – it’s optional, like using a telephone, reading, writing and arithmetic and being able to make a sandwich and a cup of tea. Using a computer is an essential skill. You don’t have to be very good, or flash, but you do have to do it. At other times and in other cultures, particular skills have been necessary – trimming a wick evenly to get a lamp flame just right and not smoky – being a fast spinner – brewing a good barley beer – stripping the outer bark off the sago palm – plaiting a rag rug to keep the cold off the feet – knowing the smoke signal code – add your own. I bet there were Native Americans who refused to learn the smoke signals as some people refuse to learn to use a computer. Looks a bit silly in retrospect. Bring back the groat, say I.

I fade and am off to bed

Nothing on television tonight unless you’re interested in aspects of the American election, so I’m listening to the Kinks, Johnny Cash and Mississippi John Hurt. The cat is jealously following Mike with green eyes as he bumbles about doing stuff. The cat’s fantasy is to be with Mike on the chair 24/7 so that in his mad little brain the Lap will be eternally and lusciously To Let. If the cat were the size of a tiger he would be implacably baleful. He don’t do badly for his size – it’s like Norwegians, when asked why, with their history of looting and pillaging, they are such mild citizens in this century, they answered, with a ferocious glint of horns, that if there were not only four millions of them, the world may have heard from them more recently, and may yet.
We went to the woods to hunt wild mushrooms, came back with some which are edible and tasty – so much that the small weevily life of the undergrowth had parasols already eaten them from the inside. We found another non-edible one called Plums and Custard, purple on top and yellow underneath. The last one we came across is called Boletus Erythropu, a big bun-shaped thing, dark red above, yellow beneath with yellow flesh which upon s
cratching instantly turns blue, then an inky blue-black. Edible if cooked (if you are hungry enough). We played with it but left it in the grass. Not that hungry.

In the middle of the woods it was dark and quiet, lovely, but next day we were both covered with insect bites – I’ve got about twenty in sensitive places such as the back and behind both knees - itch-itch. Tiger Balm does the trick but makes you smell like a pharmacy. The bites should wear off over tonight.

I walked down by the river today, ate my cheese and sausage baguette standing on the footbridge above the marshy inlet, watching the joyous up-ended duck. My companion is a sensible soul but prone to ask idiotic question, probably rhetorical, ‘Do you think there’s any fish in there?’ Pointing at the river. ‘What are them red things?’ (Hawthorn berries). I’ve learned not to reply but to wait and let him finish his thought or at least let it trail to its ridiculous conclusion.

It’s beautiful by the river, hedgerow berries going over now to soft dark wrinkledness, the grasses wearing away in the wind, shredding delicately into the air and dew. The skies have been disporting themselves in the theatre of the empyrean: every showy atmospheric effect on show from east to west, blasting across the channel like prancing spotlights, burnished silver plates inveigled into the sea like huge sequins, the serpentine currents linking them into Freya’s ice jewellery. The skies are ecstatic.

Frank, from work, and I drove home in the tricky twilight, he grumpy and tired and not enjoying learning to drive, although improving, When he’s confident he is dangerous, muttering ‘My right of way I think’ passing cyclists, mothers with small children and dogs on leads. I must tell him that those words may be his epitaph.

As we drove into the grasping twilight along the cliff edge towards home the nacreous clouds converged along our route, streaming into the vortex of the sunset as if the plug had been pulled by a powerful godly hand and the sluice of the winds was emptying, instantly.

Janet x