Tag Archives: violet

Spring, my mother said.

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.

Photo0924

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!

lizard1

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?

 

Advertisements

Strange Season

mermaidrose (542x408)

There are floods in my mother’s village in Yorkshire, so far well below her front door; down here in Kent, the storm has been less fierce, the temperature unusually mild. In flower today were: daffodils, violets, mimosa, roses, including our dear Mermaid and Thomas Becket; cyclamen, daisies and gorse of course; low-growing campanula, viburnum, prunus praecox, the watchful tree beloved of Jeremiah; camellia about to burst; ceanothus, winter jasmine. Someone at church reported a hawthorn in bloom; Glastonbury comes to Canterbury! Pussy Willow is not far behind.

It is worrying that the season is so topsy-turvy;  of course the slugs are loving it, and loving the Jerusalem artichokes, but we had more than enough to make soup with leeks for yesterday’s feast. Rowan and apple jelly gave an edge to the goose, made earlier after a forage with Mrs Turnstone.  It kept that lovely colour!

Photo0552 (636x640)

What chance to keep Kent tidy?

snowdropsrubbish   violetsrubbish

I read in the Dover Times that the district is suffering from an overdose of litter. These two pictures do little justice to the mess at two local railway stations where snowdrops and violets are blooming among the beer cans and cigarette packets. At least the latter will be less visible when plain packaging is introduced!

To add insult to injury, Dover Council has to pay the Highways Agency to clear the rubbish from the Trunk Road – £1000 a time. CraZy!

To add insult to injury, Network rail sent men to cut back trees and bushes last week, but left the litter.

Far Behind ? – continued

hazel.jan2

Spring felt a long way off when I was waiting on Aylesham station with the cold wind sweeping across the field. But down at ground level, among the discarded beer cans and sweet wrappers, peeping from under heart-shaped leaves, a few violets, out of range of fingers or lens.

Nearer home, crossing the old Franciscan orchard, the hazel catkins were reflecting back the gold of the setting sun. On Abbot’s Hill the woodpecker was out of sight but well within earshot, drumming hard enough to give himself a headache but perhaps he’ll charm a hen. Valentine’s Day is said to be the birds’ wedding day. He’s getting into practice!

Is Spring that far behind – 3.

Yesterday was torn two ways. It had been raining on Tuesday before I photographed the sunset over the Downs. And real Noah’s weather yesterday when I was once more in Aylesham.  Then the change: by the time I’d finished working the sun was out in all his glory: 40 minutes waiting for the train or take a bike ride? No contest!

Brompton folders with their small wheels are not designed for country life, but all was well until Bekesbourne. With the ground already saturated there was nowhere for the water to go – except the Bourne, and that could no longer hold it all. The standard advice to avoid driving (let alone cycling) through water was not really appropriate if I wanted to get home. The water was deeper than expected and my feet got wet!

Last winter’s floods were more than a minor inconvenience; let’s hope the water level goes down, and people’s homes stay dry.

This morning, a violet in bloom and a snowdrop impatient to join her, right by the front door.

Edward Thomas and the Gorse

gorse

Edward Thomas came into this piece written in January:

Where the road cuts through the belt of sandy soil near Ezra’s place are clumps of gorse, filled with rabbit runs which the little terriers love to explore. The first week of the year, and the gorse is in flower. This always brings a smile to my lips, remembering Edward Thomas.

‘If  I should ever by chance grow rich’, he wrote, he would buy local beauty spots and let them all to his elder daughter for a rent of the year’s first white violets, primroses and orchids, if she should find them before he did. I don’t know what these flowers were doing a century ago, but on January 1st this year the violets by our door are blooming – look under the leaves –  primroses are out next door, and, though this is cheating, Mrs Turnstone’s Christmas orchid is next to the crib.

When his poem was first published, some readers saw a touch of cruelty in Thomas’s next thought:

‘ But if she find a blossom on furze
Without rent they shall all forever be hers.’

The joke was on them, had they but realised it, for gorse, or furze, can be found in flower every day of the year. Thomas was giving his child all this beauty without condition. It is given to us too, had we but eyes to see it. Not Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. Was Jesus perhaps cracking a joke when he preached this parable, to show us that we don’t know as much as we think we do?

If I Should Ever by Chance by Edward Thomas

If I should ever by chance grow rich
I’ll buy Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,
Roses, Pyrgo, and Lapwater,
And let them all to my elder daughter.
The rent I shall ask of her will be only
Each year’s first violets, white and lonely,
The first primroses and orchises–
She must find them before I do, that is.
But if she finds a blossom on furze
Without rent they shall all for ever be hers,
Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,
Roses, Pyrgo and Lapwater,–
I shall give them all to my elder daughter.

Of Flowers, Foragers, and Fiona.

I should have made a list, said Mrs Turnstone, as we came off the cliff path to stride into the village. Had she done so, the list would doubtless have been longer than I have remembered, but here are some of the flowers in bloom on 26th October, alongside a Cornish cliff path, a salt-sprayed habitat that suits relatively few plants.

  • As Edward Thomas would tell you, the gorse flowers every day of the year. There were two different species of bee in attendance on it.
  • The little daisy also smiles up at us whenever the ground is free of snow. Among its relatives there was camomile edging a ploughland, and assorted dandelion-like flowers whose names I do not know.
  • The close cousins red campion and sea campion.
  • Thrift, another low-growing rock lover, provided a springy mattress when we sat down to dine and then measured our length on the ground to watch the clouds and rest.
  • Brambles had a few sweet berries, leaves turning red, and the odd cluster of pale pink flowers.
  • Invaders from the south, from west and east: the equestrian’s enemy, ragwort, Michaelmas daisies and Russian Vine. That can go on spreading forever, like its relative the sorrel whose lemon flavoured leaves offered this walker a quick refreshment.
  • Pennywort spires among the stones of the Cornish hedges, which are a local variant on drystone walling.
  • A relative, unknown if only to us, of the bugle as well as the bugle itself.
  • We only saw one violet flower, but surely we missed many more by not getting on our knees to seek out these treasures at a field’s edge.
  • Old man’s beard may be a seed head, not a flower, but its exotic glory will last through most of the winter.

There was a bonus for the foragers towards the end of the walk: enough sloes to make the jelly for the Christmas goose, well worth a few scratches! The question arose then: what to do about a jar? We had none to hand in our holiday cottage.

At this point in our conversation we came across Fiona’s Mobile Café, tailor-made to her specification from an old Citroen van. Fiona admired and congratulated us on our harvest. ‘Gin?’ she asked. ‘No, Jelly for the goose’, we said, ‘but we need to find a jar.’ ‘Well, I won’t need to take this one home today’, said Fiona. Thank you Fiona, we are set up!

* And so we were. The jar was just the right size to hold the jelly when I made it the next day. Once again, thank you Fiona!

Here is a picture of Fiona’s café –  http://www.flickr.com/photos/93297327@N05/9048998772/