Saturday, 30 March 2013

Bognor Regis

As an antidote to a long morning spent in the supermarket, I decided a trip to the seaside was needed. 
An icy east wind streaked along the pebbly beach and darted between the pier props where pigeons huddled or tumbled out in the direction of the waves, wings beating frantically for the shore. The promenade was quiet, few pedestrians and peddling cyclists trying hard to ignore the biting wind and focus on signs of spring. Daffodils shivered, faces turned out to sea seeking the weak sun. Even the boats hauled up like beached seals, their hulls resting bulkily on the deep pebble drifts, seemed to take a deep breath and brace themselves solidly against the wind. Behind them, the sea sparkled.

Monday, 18 March 2013

March; in like a lion, out like a lamb

This time last week, a snow storm was hitting the southern coast of the UK. Heavy snow, blown on forceful winds brought many Sussex roads to a sliding chaotic halt. Vehicles were abandoned or drivers slept in their cars overnight, whilst police and gritting lorries battled through traffic and blizzards in the dark of night. Over the next two days the counties roads and travellers slowly regained their usual composure and the local papers had a headline to use. 
Only a few days before, Spring had been a hot topic of gossip. Gardeners debated when to plant seeds and open up greenhouses, naturalists counted frog-spawn in ponds and compared butterfly emergence dates. 
Today, a Monday, all is damp and temperatures mild. Rain showers fall and fade and fall again, skies remain grey. The forecast for the ongoing week is much the same. 

A few poetic lines this morning came to mind:

A soft zinc sky, fading to white. Leaden roofs and dripping gutters. 

Dodge the drips, bow the head, 
squint up at the calling rooks subdued in the trees, 

shake away water running off coat-sleeves. 

Car door handles and bicycle seats are wet. 
Station and bus stop benches are wet. 

Nobody sits.

The rain will not last forever, it can't. One day we must wake to sunshine. There is always a day sometime around now, this month or next, when the sun is so bright and the day so complete when we wake, that is seems that we missed the start, like coming in late to a TV program and wondering what happened before the first advert's break. By the time we are up and out, the dawn chorus has long since passed; the birds dispersed and engrossed in their secret daily business. In a warm sheltered corner, the bees are already busy in the flowers. The morning mist and cloud has mostly faded away, only a few dewdrops remain on a cobweb and crocus, most claimed by the strengthening sun. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Spring Flowers

The warm sunshine on my back as I knelt to get a closer look at emerging bulbs in my garden today, tempted me to join the many other people uttering mentions of spring. Hazel catkins are now dusty and overstretched, dangling at their full length from many sun-bathed bushes. Beneath them are smiling faces of purest yellow; celandines, jostling for space with the daily increasing growth on warm path-side banks. 
Every year, in March, a grand show of crocus emerge beneath the trees around the town pond. Carpets of soft mauve, interlaced with saffron threads. 
Nights are still cold, evening walkers notice the day rapidly cooling, and each morning a thick grey blanket of fog clouds the valleys and hides the hills from view, to be gently tugged away by fingers of strengthening sun. 


There are two times of day when walking outside feels extra special, when the world seems to belong to you and you alone. Dusk and dawn, the hours of half-light as the sun sets and the day cools, and as the sun rises, fingers through the mist, softly melting the frost. 
In these quiet times when people are fewer, birdsong filters through the cool air; blackbird from the tree tops, wren from the bushes by the gateway. 

At dusk there is a sense of settling down, of pausing for reflection on the day. The air is stiller; thoughts quieter. Long shadows stretch across the field from the cattle that huff and sigh around their water trough, and a crowd of jackdaws chatter overhead on their way to roost. There is a temptation to check over your shoulder, half-expecting to catch a glimpse of early foraging fox trotting along the track. In the houses behind, its tea-time, before the children are bathed and pyjamas found, bedtime stories told and the last walk for the dog. Perhaps some-one pauses at a window before the curtains are drawn, to see the colours smudged across distant clouds and hear the drifts of thrushes song. 

It is light and yet the sun has not quite climbed into the sky above the hills. Fog swirls between hedgerow trees and tractor wheel rut puddles are thinly filmed with ice that traps straggling blades of grass in its edges. A frost has formed on the metal bars of the gate, and neatly trimmed hedgerow tops. Hidden in the mist a roe deer grazes at the field edge and roosting pigeon flocks begin to fidget in the tree tops. The frost is melting, softly dripping, and the strengthening sun is fading the fog. A tractor clatters noisily along the lane and sheep can be heard bleating in a distant field. There is a shuffeling in the bushes, and house sparrows start cheeping. Soon church-bells will ring and children will fidget in school assemblies, and perhaps, later in the day, the first spring butterfly will flutter along the hedgerow, yellow as the sun.