The presence of Monty Don broke into the gloom of lockdown late January. The reviews of the programmes from the strange year that was 2020 brought light and colour and a reminder that even in the shadow of the Covid crisis there is a rhythm in the life of the natural world that will always endure, no matter the morbidity and mortality of human life.
Of course, the return of the spring happens each year, it is no more remarkable than light appearing at dawn each morning. Yet there is special delight in watching the sky on arriving at seven o’clock for another day at school. The time has come when hints of lightness appear in the sky above Leckhampton Hill. Standing in my classroom at Pittville School, much time can be passed just watching from the window.
It is hard in January to imagine the days when the blinds need to be closed and a large fan turned on to try to make the room tolerable. When wearing three layers and a scarf, standing in shirtsleeves seems a trick of the memory.
In an online lesson with Year 10 students, a discussion of humanism brought an exploration of the aspects of natural life that were once attributed to a deity but are now explicable through natural sciences. From deep in the memory, a book title came to mind, The Re-Enchantment of Nature. The theologian Alister McGrath wrote urging people to rediscover a sense of beauty, a sense of wonder.
Perhaps there is not much enchantment to be found in staring out over school fields, certainly nothing comparable with the places and the plants found in the world of Monty Don. Yet the greening of the school pitches is a reminder that frost has been infrequent.
The rugby and football touchlines have faded, but the posts remain, a declaration that a lost year cannot prevent games returning. The Year 7 boys I watched playing in the autumn of 2019 have filled out, stretched, become solid Year 8 figures. The two who played in the second row of the scrum stand taller than me. Two years will have passed since I stood holding an umbrella while the rain poured down and watched drenched figures in the green and black of Pittville. Next time they line out, it will be Year 9 and they will have become firm locks in the pack.
Monty Don concluded the two programmes that were recorded at the end of the summer with a reminder to viewers that he would be back in March. Had he known how things would turn out, he might have reminded viewers that there is sequence in things that will unfold, no matter how bleak the news.