Visit Flatford Mill today and the scene appears largely unchanged; an English rural idyll. But the area around is carefully managed, not just for the benefit of wildlife and farming, but specifically to maintain the appearance of Constable’s paintings. These aims are not necessarily incompatible, but there is an acknowledged desire to maintain a look that can be marketed as ‘Constable Country’. The landscape is to some extent a simulacrum; a present sculpted around a romanticised vision of the past. And it isn’t possible to recreate the scene of The Hay Wain exactly as it was two hundred years ago. The challenges of doing so offer a glimpse into a future we are already being forced to come to terms with.
Not long before midnight I walked the short way to the top of the flood defences on the river near my house. I could see the stars well enough, but no sign of a comet. I moved a little further down the walls in search of a darker spot. As I rounded the corner, moving away from the lights of the warehouses behind, there it was, hanging above the orange glow of sunset.
I heard a cacophony of gulls, unseated from their resting place on the river. A column of birds rose high in the distance beyond the back fence. And at the top of the spiral, drifting on the thermals, was a white-tailed eagle.
This summer has for some time been looked forward to as a make-or-break moment for English cricket. With England and Wales hosting the World Cup and an Ashes series starting here in August, it should be the perfect opportunity to make cricket part of the national conversation again; to try and halt the decline in enthusiasm for, and participation in, England’s traditional summer sport.
The Christmas season technically begins on Christmas Day, not, as it may often seem, in mid-October. Christmastide – as the period is called in liturgical circles – lasts for twelve days, until 5 January, the night before the feast of Epiphany. The origins of the Christmas carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ are not entirely clear,
Carlo Parola was born in Turin in September 1921. He won domestic titles with Juventus as both a player and a manager and was capped ten times for Italy. But he is famous for his mastery of the overhead (or bicycle) kick. He didn’t invent the move (a version of it is depicted in an engraving of the first international match, Scotland v. England in 1872) but he was synonymous with it in Italy, where he was known as ‘Signor Rovesciata’ (‘Mr Overhead Kick’). He once played in Scotland, too, for a European Select XI at Hampden Park, in front of 137,000 fans in 1947. Showing off his signature move on the wrong side of a 6-1 mauling by Great Britain, he insisted that, despite the score, he’d played well and enjoyed the atmosphere. The Italian press still called him the ‘Man of Glasgow’ when he died in 2000.
According to meteorologists, the first day of spring is 1 March. Astronomers would say it’s 20 March. No one in the UK would have believed either date this year, as they battled through wind, snow and ice. Better perhaps to ignore the calendar and look to plants and animals for the first signs of spring: the flowering of daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells, the buzzing of bees, frogspawn in brackish water, the smell of wild garlic, the two-tone call of the Eurasian cuckoo.