Mole in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ was always my favourite. I identified with his timidity, his delight in finding a friend in Ratty, his fear of the wild wood, and his awe on meeting Badger.
With spring springing, sun shining and the earth willing to be tiffled, I am like Mole, wanting to drop everything and spend my time outside in the garden. And, yes, indulge my other two favourite hobbies, reading and gardening. It is pure joy to plug in a podcast, Round Britain Quiz or Melvin Bragg, and plunder the ravages of winter. The ground may have been sodden, flattened by incessant rain, but it is beginning to yield to a fork. The first shoots of the perennials are necking through, old friends poking up to remind me of the joy that will be their presence later in the year. Paeonias, delphiniums, and the shrubs bursting with tight buds. Squatting, kneeling, bending, legs, arms and back unused to the exertions, may produce aches and pains, but these twinges are a kind of triumph, satisfying in the knowledge of work achieved. That patch newly weeded, of soil released, the plants and bulbs exposed to grow under my nurture, adds to the pleasure of the day.
And what could be more deserving than to sit with my back to the sun, warmth and gentle light, with a cup of coffee, or any other brew, and read.
Which brings me back to ‘The Wind in the Willows’. The copy I possess was bought for me in 1946 by my grandmother; it includes a treasured dedication. It is a secondhand, a hard copy Metheun’s Modern Classics. I believe it was difficult to find any book at the time, the war over only six months previously. And that is where my love of reading began, a chequered love almost extinguished in adolescence when trying to copy my mother’s favourites such as Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. I suspect novels with neat closures or happy endings. I subconsciously already realised that life isn’t like that when I was thirteen and was instinctly bored by the prospect.
So like Mole I’m happy to mess about in my garden, attempting to create my own little Eden, but am aware of the reality of the stoats and weasels which my come to disrupt the peace.