Notes on sleeping in a hammock

Five days ago we walked across fields to our next door village for a pub lunch and one of the boys wore a hat and gloves and there was a mean November wind, grey skies, distemper everywhere. Now England is warmer than Hawaii, warm perhaps as Athens. The long May days are balmy, our cold spring has preserved the hawthorn blossom which lies in spoonfuls of thick cream across the hedgerows.

Sheet, duvet, pillow, torch, copy of Larkin’s poetry. I cross our lawn shortly after 11.30. Not much moon. We have a row of eight apple trees in the garden, and last week-end C and I slung the hammock between the two at the southern end of the row, the two closest to Salisbury Plain; as we did so we cursed the cold. I lay the pillow at the Salisbury Plain end, and arranged the duvet, climbed in. The hammock slumps a little in the middle, but it is ok. Read a bit of Larkin in the torchlight, though the light attracts insects.

The trees are coming into bud
Like something being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Not a breath of wind. I can tell because I lie looking up into the apple trees and the leaves don’t move. Everything is still, accept for me trying to get comfortable. I can see the sides of the hammock either side of me and above me branches, leaves, some blossom clinging on and above muted stars. Midnight sounds: a dog barking, nothing, suddenly the loud spook of a tawny owl, very close. Something between a train whistle and a warning; telling me to fucking watch out. I am comfortably warm, I am comfortable, there is a little swing in the hammock.

Bird song wakes me at 4.14. It is light – not quite morning, but everything is revealed in a sluggish, reluctant sort of way. I lie there, feeling old, and suddenly want my bed. Struggling off the hammock my legs are stiff, there is dew on the grass. The key to the back door is in my pocket. Strange to be letting myself in so late / early. I must not wake the boys. As I climb into bed I wake C. This is the place to see out the dying of the night, the beginning of the day.

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