Yesterday afternoon we found Mrs T’s hanging basket had been attacked. This morning I caught the culprit on my phone camera: Mrs Blackird, gathering moss for nesting! She’ll be maming a home in the hedge.
Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.
Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment. When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves. The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk. Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long. Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.
Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …
Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.
Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.
Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.
Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.
Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.
Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!
Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.
Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?
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.)