Magazine article The Spectator

View from the High Ground

Magazine article The Spectator

View from the High Ground

Article excerpt

It was, I think, Governor Winthrop, one of the founders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who said that politicians must think of themselves as a house on a hill.

I have never been sure if he meant that they had the advantage of being 'looked up to' or the problem of being constantly visible to voters on the plains below. The last couple of weeks have, however, left me in no doubt about the benefits of literally occupying the high ground. The rain, which has swamped the road to junction 29 of the motorway, has passed us by. It has fallen in great quantities.

That was only to be expected, since it rains on the just and unjust alike. But that which has not been absorbed into our porous limestone landscape has rushed away to the valleys. Sometimes it has flowed down the road outside my house like a living stream.

When I saw the pictures of the Sheffield Wednesday football ground, under four feet of water 15 miles away, I realised -- with a very bad conscience -- that some of the damage had been done by rain which had initially fallen on my garden.

The miracle is that it did so little damage as it fell. The peaches -- which have no right to survive outdoors in even the best of rugged Peak District climates -- still cling tenaciously to their espalier branches against the wall. The quinces seem indestructible. So do the damsons -- a mixed blessing, since we are still trying to give away the jam from two years ago. It has been such a record year for raspberries that I am thinking of preparing a paper for the Royal Horticultural Society to reveal my discovery that soft fruit does best in hard weather. The young apple trees are bowed down with heavy Granny Smiths and Cox's Orange Pippins, and a solitary pear has appeared on a tree which we only planted last year. Neither mulberry bush has given birth. But then they never do -- even though we bought the second one to keep the first one company and to perform whatever intimate act was necessary to bring about the miracle of creation.

Admittedly, the roses along the front of the house have taken a beating. But I have always regarded them as more 'quaint' than is acceptable in this essentially un-chocolate-boxy part of the world. The hardy perennials in the borders have lived up to their name and the camellias have survived. I have every expectation that next year, as in every other, they will come into bud in late October and excite the hope that they will keep their promise to blossom on Chistmas Day. …

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