On the eleventh day of Christmas . . .
A walk along the Thames at Mednenham. There's a long, flat stretch between an old, now disused ferry point and the locks below Henley. It curves slowly.
I've walked it in sun and gloom and cold – though not in the rain, it's true. I've shared the early morning with caravanners and watched a stunt flier practise in a sharp blue sky, rolling and tumbling. I've done the whole walk without seeing anyone else. And I've walked back through the fields when you can't see past the crops and when the earth has been cleared for the winter.
It's a completely humanized landscape. There is no trace of what might have been there before our ancient ancestors moved in. But still, in the way the whole of the Thames Valley does, it has a deep, sharp sense of, well, nature. Not the real thing, of course, but certainly the 'real' thing – and that, being a human, is what I'm after. Reality is for animals. 'Reality' is what us princes want and cherish.
PS It's also possible that my thoughts and feelings are coloured and shaped by the fact that my father spent the war based at Danesfield House – which still forms an impenetrable riverside barrier at one end of the walk. It was the base for aerial reconnaissance intelligence. He looked at photographs, in pairs, and turned them into maps. I should think my parents walked this walk, a decade and more before I was born. When the fliers would have been practising for a different kind of show.
Till tomorrow . . .