Good morning, 15 September 2017
The city of Shiraz in the south of Iran is known as the city of roses and nightingales. But this letter is not about Shiraz, and here we talk of peacocks rather than nightingales though peacocks would not be out of place in Shiraz. The peacocks and the roses in this letter are nearly a thousand miles apart.
The two peacocks escaped from the garden of a cottage by the river Wye near a small town on the border between Wales and England. This town has a fine castle and a beautiful bridge that was built in the year before Jane Austen died. The garden was pretty, and the peacocks were well fed and well cared for. They were kept in a large pen before being entrusted with the key to the door and allowed to wander to other parts of the garden. But peacocks, it seems, are proud birds and they decide whose garden they will beautify. They can be bought but they cannot be owned. One sunny morning these birds left their garden near the river and made their way up the hill to a large nursing home in a grand old house that had paved terraces and wide lawns. In the nursing home lived people with dementia.
One afternoon I was walking by the cottage and noticed that the peacocks had gone.
‘Where are they?’ I asked the man who had brought them there and taken care of them day after day.
‘They are up at the old people’s home,’ he said. ‘They must have delusions of grandeur or perhaps they just feed them better there!’
“Are you going to catch them and bring them back?”
“No. I will let them stay. As they strut around the lawn in front of the windows, they will make the old people happy and brighten their day.”
The rose bush is in a small village in the cold province of Soria in the north of Spain. There too is a home for old people. A cottage near the home had been bought by someone who was tired of the traffic and noise of Madrid and came at the weekends and in his summer holidays to grow a garden. He had planted herbs for the kitchen and oak trees to shelter the cottage from the winds that blew across the open fields in February. By the road was a rose bush. It started to bloom in early summer and the flowers continued until late in the autumn.
‘You have a beautiful rose bush here,’ I said.
‘Yes, I planted it for the old people to look at when they come along the road in their wheelchairs,’ said the gardener. ‘The flowers will cheer them up.’
The roses on this bush are still in bloom and should last at least another month unless the frozen winds from the mountain of Moncayo come early this year.
So, there we are. As far as I know, the peacocks and the rose bush are still there adding something to the long days of the residents in two homes far apart.