I’ve been in an air raid shelter. Years ago, in the back garden of the old family house’s elderly next door neighbour – I used to play afternoon Scrabble with her, and she showed me the twisting stairs in the rambling lawn. Down there was the bunker where she had once had to hide.
This week air raid sirens blared again, but in memory rather than anger: Friday saw the 75th anniversary of the end of fighting in Europe. Of course, we are still in lockdown and street parties are impossible. But nothing can stop this village decorating its gardens, or indeed its hall, and the show was bright.
We are only a small community, but we lost 14 men in action during the war – one of whom was given a posthumous Victoria Cross.
I have no bunting, but I did find the right colours, more or less, in a fox pausing by flowers planted in our own uncertain times.
And then there was the milkwort: a tiny flower of chalk downland that is as varied as the sky.
It grows on the steep southern flanks of my parish, where fields that have escaped modern agriculture still support a rich tapestry of living things. My maternal grandfather walked there too, and photographed bee orchids.
He served in Burma as an RAF officer; my paternal grandfather was in France.
Now I am here with my own dog, looking for flowers, tracking foxes, watching the world change. We all know that many difficulties are ahead, but that cannot blind our gratitude that we are at least free to rise to that challenge.
The natural world still breathes. Flowers still grow.