On tuesday our grandchildren’s school was shut for a teachers strike, and it was the tail end of a NHS nurses strike. As it happens, our grand daughter was booked in for some reconstructive orthopaedic surgery on her foot; notwithstanding any strikes (which incidentally we fully support). Her operation was carried out without delay or problems and she was home again by tea time, grumpy but hopefully fixed. As we drove past their school with the other two I tooted at the pickets who waved back cheerfully at the sight of two of their young students out for a day trip with granny and grandad.
Dyrham Park is close and (for National Trust members) cheap and the children love the freedom to race about and build dams in the streams. No-one has ever objected to them so we let them get on with it. Of course they also get a free natural history lesson – here are a couple of St Mark’s flies we photographed while they were mating. They’re the dozy black flies with dangly legs that seem not to mind flying into you – which makes them faintly scary to some people. They’re called St Mark’s because they emerge from their burrows in the grass in their tens of thousands in late April around the feast of St Mark; who – if you’re not a Christian and a full-on churchgoer – probably means nothing at all. On Tuesday they were present in many hundreds of thousands. We also hunted for St George’s mushrooms without luck (I’ve already made the point about saints days!) and enjoyed the peak dandelion period. We saw Cuckoo flowers, Maidenhair ferns and Harts Tongues. We talked about everything we saw and taught them to listen for birdsong and how to use a mobile phone app called “Merlin” to help identify them. Oh and we talked about the way barley straw is used to clear murky ponds and found some tadpoles and enjoyed the huge views out towards the Severn and the Mendip Hills. I absolutely defy anyone to say that a family day out is no substitute for a day in school.
Then, wandering around we came across a lonely maypole (this being the day after May Day) but you’ll see that the grass surrounding the pole looks pretty untroubled by even little feet. Clearly we haven’t yet embraced paganism with any enthusiasm in spite of the dark forebodings expressed by the Strict and Particular Brethren.
When we got back the children taught us how to order a Deliveroo from a mobile and then ordered all their favourite things. The oldest said afterwards “We love coming to you because you spoil us!”. So we all learned something new although ours was by far the more expensive lesson.
On Wednesday we were walking back from the allotment when we came across a bunch of people on the A4 protesting about the 20mph speed restrictions, the clean air zone and all things associated with wokery, 5G telephones, vaccinations and communism. Passing motorists tooted their horns enthusiastically without the tiniest thought illuminating their bewildering prejudices. I’m glad to say that the local elections 24 hours later saw the eviction of a raft of councillors who’d campaigned against the clean air zone and the new speed limits. Overwhelmingly the voters of Bath see the virtue of slowing down and breathing unpolluted air. Of course that won’t stop the campaigners (who are associated with all manner of far right causes), from telling us that they know better than we do – what we believe.