Barley Broth

22nd June 2020

The barley is growing well. I have looked down from my Cloud and I am glad. I look forward to seeing the soft green fields in my England every June. I liked to run my hands across the soft ears. And I would watch, as I did today, the ripples of the standing stems, like waves running into the shore.

I imagine the Most High with His hands are sweeping across the fields and He senses what I could feel on mine. And His breath gently blowing, a warm zephyr to stir the barley and stir the heart.

You can make bread with barley and I understand it is the poor man’s loaf. The barley harvest will presumably be sometime next month. I have mentioned elsewhere about my sharp sickle for harvesting. Jesus talked about ‘four months until harvest’. It will be four months in July from the start of lockdown in the UK. Hmm.

The Isley Brothers sang ‘When will there be a harvest for the world’. Next month. And the rest of the summer. But that’s the northern hemisphere, so looks like into 2021 then.

Barley is used for beer or ale (barley broth?). There are good breweries in Sussex. I wonder how they fare in lockdown? I was fond of Harveys brews, based as they are in Lewes the old county town. Alex Clifton-Taylor did a marvellous series for BBC 2, ‘Six English Towns (1978), Six More English Towns (1981) and Another Six English Towns (1984)’. This included Lewes. You will find some, if not all, on YouTube.

I had the privilege to survey sections of the town. It contains much of interest which Alex will explain. My inspections include the ugly magistrates court (why couldn’t they have built something less like a brick bunker), and I sat briefly in a cell to see if I could get the sense of what someone might feel like, locked up for the night.

Mind you, I went to boarding school, and although it wasn’t nearly as bad as some people’s experience, it felt like jail sometimes. Bit like lockdown.

The sheep are starting to be shorn on the Downs. But if so, what were they called before? Baabara I suppose. Baabara to Shorn or Sean. In these days of gender reassignment surgery it was only time before the madness got to the sheep.

Hillaire Belloc lived in Sussex and grew up in Slindon, near Arundel. He walked extensively and wrote the wonderful  Cautionary Tales for Children . I like the one about Matilda who told lies and was burned (a version of ‘Cry wolf’ I think). Reminds me of Covid 19, but rather more lies. A lot more lies. A gargantuan lie. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

But he also wrote ‘The South Country’. Well worth reading the whole but this is the last two verses.

If I ever become a rich man,
Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung
And the story of Sussex told.

I will hold my house in the high wood,
Within a walk of the sea,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.

His poem is very poignant. It tugs at the heart. A wistful longing for childhood and its innocence. Something to which we cannot return.

But it is not true. We can become children again. Children of God. John  says of Jesus:

‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But to all to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.’

Forever.