Boys, Beer, Birds and Bingley: the randomness of a perfect afternoon

The White Lion, Fobbing

I meant to write this some days ago, but I am discovering that work is eating the hours as never before. It’s not only when you are having fun that time flies…

But last Sunday afternoon was perfect for late March. I spent the best of it at The White Lion in Fobbing, drinking jars of ale with my cousin and enjoying bright sunshine, being the only two sitting out in the garden. There was something timeless about enjoying a beer, surrounded by violets, the stone tower of the church behind us and it was impossible not to feel the history.

We were joined on the bench by a craggy wildfowler and the conversation turned to trees and birds, the durability of fence posts hewn from different hard woods and a reassuringly rural challenge to burn chestnut without it spitting (apparently if it is seasoned after a natural dead fall it doesn’t – in any other circumstances it does). So very good to be reminded that there are still folk around who really do understand the way in which our lives are bound up with the countryside – and not in a soppy, sentimental way, but one that recognises the co-dependence of different habitats. It’s not many afternoons that I get to discuss the impact of plastic fascia boards on the nesting potential of houses and their contribution to declining garden bird populations. We left giving merry assurances to investigate the re-siting of owl boxes.

I then went to his parents to collect a book by local historian Randal Bingley. In return for ten pounds I received a copy of Behold The Painful Plough, Country Life in West Tilbury, Essex 1700-1850. (For those interested in obtaining a copy, drop me an email or contact Thurrock Museum Services who singularly fail to promote this brilliant book – which they publish: ISBN 0-9506141-8-1.) I was gobsmacked to arrive and find Randal Bingley there, drinking tea at a picnic bench under an apple tree, and talking about political anscestry with my uncle. We joined them and spent a pleasant hour discussing the value of the written record, the folly of reliance on digital information, East Tilbury’s Bata shoe factory and Sir Peter Scott on Nature Parliament, part of Children’s Hour.

It was wonderful and random.

As life should be.

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