Even seven hundred years ago such was the fame of April for its showers that Chaucer opened his Canterbury Tales with the memorable line, one of the few that I remember from my school days, ‘Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote.’ But this year there have been few sweet showers and the unseasonably cold weather has persisted so that at The Forest Hermitage, at the very end of the month, there’s hardly any blossom, the hedges are still not green and there’s been no sound of the cuckoo yet.
One of my main concerns at the end of last month and the beginning of this was with one of my tortoises. One day I discovered Speedy, the smaller and younger of the two, with something terribly wrong with his eye. It looked like something had given him real bash, it was swollen and bloody, so off he went to the vet. After a week or so of daily drops there was no improvement so then he had to have a minor operation for which he had to be anaesthetised. Still for a while there was no improvement but then all of a sudden his eye opened and he got better. I’m so pleased. He’s been with me nearly nineteen years and I love him dearly. Charlie, the other one who’s much bigger and older has been with me just twelve years and of course I love him too. Tortoises fascinate me and I do enjoy watching them. A recent improvement here has been to what I call the Tortoise Park where these two live. We’ve enlarged and improved the surround and reseeded it with grass and suitable weeds for them to graze and I’m ever so pleased with it.
April of course is when Songkran, the Thai and also the Burmese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Lao New Year falls. So we celebrated. First was at Khun Peter’s restaurant near Baker Street, when Ajahn Manapo accompanied me for my regular first Sunday of the month appearance there, this time to celebrate Songkran and to remember Khun Peter’s mother who had recently passed away. Next, the following Saturday, April 13th, we were at Khun Yod’s restaurant, YodSiam, in Nottingham. We do this every year but this year without Khun Yod who’s gone back to live in Thailand. We managed however and had a good time. As soon as we got back that afternoon it was all hands to setting up here for the following day. It was still cold but on the Sunday we did have some sun and a shower or two. The weather wasn’t good enough for the fairly liberal bathing of each other that usually characterises Songkran but we had an impressive turn out and another very good day. I was especially pleased that M.R. Adisorndej Sukhasvasti, the Minister from The Royal Thai Embassy was able to be with us.
The next thing I had to do that was a bit out of the ordinary was make an unexpected visit to Maidstone Prison to take a Memorial Service for a Buddhist prisoner who had recently died. On the way back I must say there were moments when I wondered whether the memorial for me might not be too far off. I knew the night before that I didn’t feel right and before we set off for Maidstone I reckoned I had some sort of flu–like thing hanging about me but I was all right on the way down and while I was there. The journey back was something else and I was jolly glad to get in and curl up in my kuti. And I’ve been poorly ever since, which is making it unlikely that I’ll be going to Thailand in May to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University. But we’ll see.