Friday, 18 April 2014


Nature makes the world go around; trees shade and shelter us, butterflies make us notice the sunshine, flowers help us express our feelings or love, regret, sympathy and joy. And birds? Birds are always there, mostly unnoticed, but around when you need them. 

It's the flickering of the morning sun on sleepy eyelids as it shines through the branches of the breeze-blown birch in the garden. 
It's the soothing song of the blackbird floating through the open window in the evening cool.
It's the childhood memory of the robin that followed grandfather's spade. 
It's watching children discovering the joy of tree climbing. 
It's the nettle sting on your knee.
It's the one house plant you've managed not to kill. 
It's the repeated notes of the song thrush as you walk across the car park.
It's the kestrel that perches on the telegraph wires at that bend in the road on the way to work. 
It's the daisies in the lawn on BBQ-ing afternoons. 
It's the first and last sight of swallows at each end of summer. 
It's that glimpse of bluebells in woodlands.
It's the singing of a stream.
It's getting up at dawn. 
It's the smell of the sea and that first holiday view. 
It's fresh strawberries; first of the summer.
It's purple-stained fingers after picking blackberries in the hedgerows.
It's the sunflower that grows taller than you.
It's the frost on your windscreen in winter. 
It's that Christmas-tree smell. 
It's playing conkers.
It's kicking piles of autumn leaves.
It's the wind that blows down the city street.
It's the pigeons that patrol the busy station platform, and the buddleia that grows by the rail track.
It's poetry and textbook.
It's classroom-window-gazing.
Its rain on the glass, and the rainbow that follows.
It's the ever-cheerful chirping of sparrows on the roof. 
Its the sunset on the horizon. It's the morning dew. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Magical Moment

I was working from home today, with laptop squeezed on the kitchen table, as close to the open back door as possible, whilst trying to resist the lure of greening garden, packets of seeds and warming soil. 
Small birds were dashing back and forth from fence and tree and feeder, whist a blackbird sang from my neighbours weeping pear tree, filling the garden with beautiful melodies. 
I was just hitting save on my document with the aim of taking a short tea break when an excited voice from the garden called me outside. Mum had spotted an unexpected moment unfolding. 
Against the fence of our pocket-sized residential garden, is a climbing rose and clinging tightly to resist the breeze, on the pruned end of a stem of this rose was a beautiful butterfly. An inch below, a papery case glued to the side of the stem was all that remained of the pupa in which the miracle of metamorphosis took place throughout the winter months, unnoticed beneath our noses as we passed by intent on busy lives. 
The butterfly’s wings were still completing their unfurling; white and laced with mottled green beneath, and when opened to greet the warming sunshine, purer white and tipped with brightest orange; a male orange tip. 
I recently heard the orange tip butterfly described as 'Spring's happiest butterfly' which I think wonderfully captures the moment of brightest joy and colour when a fluttering vision materialises from a beam of sunlight to dash past on hurried wings and disappear into the hedgerow's distant reaches. 
This individual, so fresh and new to the world, gazed back unblinkingly at me through my camera lens. Suddenly an experimental flick of the wings launched the butterfly off his rose-stem perch for a moment, catching the wind before he found a moments rest and sanctuary on the cuff of my jumper-sleeve. He waited a few precious, magical moments there, gaining courage from the spring sunshine, before taking to the wing again in first solo flight, floppy at first but gaining strength. 
Purple flowers across the garden must have shone like a beacon as soon his tiny feet found purchase in the petals and, bathed in sunshine, he fed greedily on sweet energy-rich golden nectar. 
The last I saw of the orange tip was an orange and white flicker of wings, disappearing over the garden fence and away into the April sky. 

I saw an orange tip later that day, beyond the house and along the street; I wonder if it was the same male that brought a moment of magic to my tea break, and a smile to my day. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Gardener's Birthday

This is Mr Sidney Barnes, a Brighton Corporation bus driver and conductor who through the war-time blackouts drove trolley-buses, trams and later double deckers up and down the streets and hills of Brighton. He was a great gardener, with a knack for flowers and veg, regularly winning prizes for his garden in the local corporation annual gardening competitions. I have heard he was a jovial, kind and generous man.
Sid also happens to be my Great-granddad, and today, would have been his 107th birthday.
I will always think of him when I see Auriculars, or straight rows of veg, or prune my roses (don't be afraid to prune them hard, or they get all straggly at the top, cut them right down low!).
Thanks Sid, time for a cuppa tea don't you reckon?
And hey! Great-Granddad? - Happy Birthday old timer xx

With Sid's Birthday in mind, and finding myself with a free day, I decided to visit a favourite local garden. West Dean Gardens is the perfect combination of formal and natural grounds and gardens, with a beautiful and perfectly proportioned traditional walled garden. Between the warm brick walls, spring flowers carpet the ground beneath heritage fruit trees, glasshouses sigh in the sunshine, and good earth is tilled so salad, veg and soft fruit run in rows or climb canes pointed towards the sky. 

I found a glasshouse filled with Auriculars, a secret warm corner filled with delicious scent of wallflowers, and bees nodding spring blooms. 


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Lunch Break

Beneath the rising hum of passing plane, hazy clouds drift, blotting the perfect sky.
Bees and insects buzz busily around the yellow fluffy buds on the willow tree and from the branches chiffchaff calls and pigeon coos.
A murmer in the rushes, soft breeze brushes skin and moves the waters of the lake. A ripple; fish rising. 

Eyes close. Sun warms. Sounds lull. 
Distant rooks, and further, far away sheep. Strains of robin song to the right, and blackbird to the left. And Chiffchaff, Chiffchaff, Chiffchaff.
Watch ticks. Insects dance over dark waters whilst butterflies bask, wings painted with unseeing eyes. Thoughts drift. 

A shiver in the breeze, a pheasant calls. 
The chaffinch now, sings for rain. And still above it all is the rising hum of passing plane.