As in 1887 and 1977, the beacon fires were lit last night.
1887 was Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1977 Elizabeth II’s Silver.
From 1887, by A. E. Housman
From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.
Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because ’tis fifty years to-night
That God has saved the Queen.
But yesterday was Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. Mrs T and I lit the fire indoors instead of out, sat before it, and toasted our toes as well as HM.
Wordsworth may have the fame when it comes to daffodils in verse, but in Shropshire this Spring we saw drifts of daffodils beside the roads, beneath the hedges, shining along the footpath edges … apologies; he is too easily parodied.
But I wondered why such county-wide devotion to a Welsh emblem: surely not love of the western neighbour? Rather love of the flower itself, and its defiance of lingering resistance from Winter’s rearguard winds.
But then I picked up A.E. Houseman, and these lines from A Shropshire Lad (X, March)
- The boys are up the woods with day
- To fetch the daffodils away,
- And home at noonday from the hills
- They bring no dearth of daffodils.
- Afield for palms the girls repair,
- And sure enough the palms are there,
- And each will find by hedge or pond
- Her waving silver-tufted wand.
- In farm and field through all the shire
- The eye beholds the heart’s desire;
- Ah, let not only mine be vain,
- For lovers should be loved again.
The girls’ palms are of course the pussy willow, whose ‘silver-tufted wands’ set off the daffodils so splendidly in the vase. And how good to be reminded, even by the morbid Houseman, to link our own flora and ourselves, to the ‘Hebrew children’ who went to meet the Lord carrying olive branches, and singing ‘Hosanna!’
At last the ground was fit to try a sowing of carrot seeds. It’s a special moment; that pinch of dust that promises so much. I always inhale! I mean that I take a deep sniff of the precious grain which smells more of carrot than the roots themselves, though the first pullings will be tastier than anything in the shops.
A little boy I know has sown seeds for the first time and eagerly checks them every day. It is good to share his delight and be grateful for the seed, the sowing and the sweet anticipation!
One rooted cutting of Mrs O’s Veilchenblau has moved half a mile to the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury; Sam and Richard are deliberating where to plant it beside their new woodland walk.
Another has gone to my mother, who says it is thriving; one will go to my brother and one to the dear friend whose willow tree I wrote about a while back. A little joy that will last for years; if Mrs O knew – and I’m not convinced she doesn’t – she would be pleased.
This afternoon I met B, a neighbour, looking for a rosemary bush to raid for her roast lamb. It was more than a little joy to me when I was able to give her a rooted cutting, grown in Mrs O’s greenhouse. B and her family were good friends to Mrs O, so that cutting will truly be ‘Rosemary for Remembrance’.
When I was gardening with Dermot, I tried to make cuttings from the roses where we worked. They did not strike because, when I was not around, he kept pulling them up to look for roots.
Last autumn at Mrs O’s I put in cuttings of a few roses, shrubby hypericum, euonymus and other shrubs. If only Dermot could see the results of patience combined with lethargy!
Planted around Mrs O’s back garden, they should provide cover for the local birds, and plenty of colour for whoever ends up living there to see from the kitchen window.
(Ms Rosemary Turnstone already has her own rosemary cutting potted up ready to go in her garden, as soon as she has reclaimed the right sunny spot for it.)
Before the traffic roar started this morning, I was out of bed and making a drink. The gulls, pigeons and collared doves were busy calling, blackbird and robin asserting their territory, but right outside the kitchen window, a scrap of brown feathers expanded to three times its rightful size and proclaimed its love for Jenny.
If she’s Jenny Wren, is he Johnny? She followed him, away across the back gardens.
And so the day started.
Good Morning Life
And all things glad and beautiful.
Listen to the wren here: BBC nature_Wren
It feels as though Will Turnstone has been hibernating these last few weeks. Did he notice the blackheaded gull in full plumage out there on Valentine’s day? He did, but did not tap the keys. Nor did he tap the keys for the wren that disappeared behind an ivy leaf at his approach, the goldcrest opposite the kitchen window, the bluetit possibly prospecting the nest box used last year; Br’er Fox crossing his and Mrs T’s path at 6.00 in town; the rainbows that punctuated recent showers – a gift from the low-shining sun; the lapwings, redshanks, pochard, and others at Rye, in the company of Mrs T; the daffodils wide awake for Saint David’s Day on March 1st. But be sure that he did indeed notice them and rejoice.
What blessings have you received during February?