The Journals of a Victorian Traveller by Martin Laurie contains the transcribed and edited journals of his ancestor, Julia Biddulph, who travelled the world with her husband during the last two decades of the 19th Century. The journals had remained unread since being rescued from the ruins of a bombed house in Canterbury during the Second World War. Here, Martin reflects upon the lockdown months:
When I look up from my desk I can see out across the garden and I realise how lucky I am. The garden is a world of its own and spring is the best time to look out of the window and watch as it emerges from its long winter sleep. For the garden and the natural world, the spring of 2020 was much the same as any other; or it was, until the last week of March.
I have been fortunate enough to live in the countryside all my life, but, my goodness, this last spring will be one that I shall always remember. The country went into lockdown, all our lives were changed – and for many will never be the same again. Since then there has been tragedy and suffering, there have been phenomenal acts of human kindness and achievement that none of us should forget; and there has been an effect on the natural world. April and May were beautiful months, it seemed as though nature was relishing this new locked down world. There were no aeroplanes and the sky seemed bluer, there were hardly any cars on the roads. The birdsong was fabulous; taking my dog for a walk the skylarks were trilling away high above us. The hedgerows were alive with nesting birds and the blossom this year seemed brighter and more scented than ever. The house martins returned after their long journey from Africa, and the swallows and the swifts were soaring in the sky, everything seemed so much more alive. The weather was, as Julia Biddulph often says in her journals, ‘delicious.’
Life seemed to slow down; my wife and I both work from home, suddenly we seemed to have more time. If we bumped into someone on our walks or even riding our bicycles we would stop and have a chat. Everybody seemed to have more time; in a strange way the world seemed to have become more considerate, neighbours were helping neighbours who had never before passed the time of day – even at a safe distance. Despite the daily Coronavirus briefings, the appalling death rates and all the other gloomy news associated with the virus, it seemed that there was also some good coming from the lockdown.
It is now August, lockdown has been eased, the weather is more unsettled and the days are getting shorter. The first brood of house martins has fledged and the second brood should hatch sometime soon. Nuts and berries are already appearing in the hedgerows to feed the natural world this winter.
I must go back to my desk and concentrate more on my writing. I have been in the garden picking runner beans and sweet peas, which I grew during lockdown because I had the time; so, there has been some good in it. We should look for the good in everything and be inspired by it, learn from our mistakes and be willing to change. There is a lot we can learn from the natural world.
The Journals of a Victorian Traveller is available to buy from Book Guild, Amazon and all good bookshops!