Now an old man, Tom Birkin, looks back at the idyllic summer of 1920 when he was hired to uncover a medieval mural on a wall in the village church of Oxgodby in Yorkshire, England. Arriving in the pouring rain, ‘nerves shot to pieces, wife gone, dead broke’ he admires the ancient church that’s to be his home but when the rain clears and the blackbirds begin to sing he relishes the tranquility of the countryside around him ‘letting summer soak into me – the smell of summer and summer sounds.’ and determines to live simply and be happy.
From the top of his ladder in the bell-tower he can see Charles Moon an archaeologist, living in a bell tent in the meadow, digging for a medieval grave. The two become friends and Tom is soon accepted by the locals including the Ellerbeck family and their Chapel community, the troubled vicar in whose church he’s working and his beautiful wife Alice. It’s a time of rabbit-and-potato pie for dinner and seed cake, greengage pie and ‘scalding tea in a can’ at 4 o’clock. The slow sultriness of a hot summer day pervades every page, emotions are heightened and time seems to stand still:
‘The butterfly flew into the air once more. For a moment it seemed that it might settle on the rose in her hat, but it veered off and away into the meadow. The sound of bees foraging from flower to flower seemed to deepen the stillness.’ Continue reading “A Month in the Country”