Spring 1990, in the front garden of our Federation semi in Sydney I tried to grow daffodils. As per the packet’s instructions for temperate climes, I chilled the bulbs over winter in the refrigerator. For weeks they rolled around with the odd wrinkled tomato and overlooked turnip converting our cold-cupboard-with-a-light-in-it into a bulb battery farm. Released from their false hibernation, genetic instincts satisfied, they were then clumped into (probably) dry soil. Then, the instructions stated “after their spectacular display, leave them to gently brown before digging up and storing in a dark place until the following winter. Repeat.”
I have photos of my jaundice dandies valiantly trumpeting the dawn before collapsing, exhausted, panting and long faced into the dirt. Early water restrictions and the brown spectacle lasting longer than the yellow one put paid to following instructions post “sow”.
All hail Worcestershire 2016! where I wander with Wordsworth – “When all at once I saw a crowd,/ A host, of golden daffodils;/Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” Thousands of the country’s prettiest herald my passage up hill and down dale, without me or indeed any one else resorting to the vegetable crisper. Egg yellow, sunny side up, lemon-on-lemon; single, double, frilled necked; wild and joyous. It is spring!
Wordy William’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is one of only two poems I can recall learning at primary school. The other was Dorothea McKellar’s “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains / Of rugged mountain ranges, of…” absolutely no daffodils. And aged seven with limited experience, I doubt I questioned the loneliness of an English cloud. Were these poems, juxtapositioned in my 1960s syllabus, a reflection of the times and our (whites only) loyalties?
Already the hours between dawn and dusk well outnumber those of the dark stretch, and increase at nearly half an hour a week. Temperatures verge on double figures and the season reverberates with possibilities. At Foxtwist, we wake to a cacophony of bleating. Dozens of woolly twin sets wobble on legs too long for a new lamb’s centre of gravity. Ploughing is well underway, although Alistair who owns the fields on our east edge, has been forced to delay sowing early spring barley because just as the ground dries up enough, down comes the rain from – indeed!- the sky’s solitary horizon-to-horizon cloud.
The pheasant hunting season is officially over until next October and so the distant pop-pop soundtrack to our Saturday has faded. George, who looks after our garden March to October (nothing, including the lawn, grows in between) has returned from his winter pursuit beating the woods for local shooting parties. The pheasants that survived the season nervously shilly-shally about our garden, or in the furrows strewn with easy seed, reward for dodging the bullet. The birds are clearly suffering post traumatic distress syndrome. Once disturbed, they are the avian equivalent of Alice’s White Rabbit, screeching, sqwarking, flapping and fleeing in haphazard arcs across the fields. But they are beautifully glossy and George has promised me some tail feathers from this season’s carcasses.
I got about a bit in March including spending Easter in Krakow (moving, fascinating, quirky. Put it on your list.) and a week in London with Sarah Daniels/Allen (hilarious, indulgent, girly). If you are able when next in London, hock a kidney and spend the money on tea at Claridges. Sarah and I didn’t fancy the option of having their Michelin starred chef teach us how to make our own scones (a mere £225 each) knowing after the V&A jewel drool, Fortnum and Mason’s Easter Egg ahs and cheering on a performance of Please-say-you’ll-marry-me-in-front-of-everyone-outside-Buckingham Palace, we’d want to be seated and served. If you don’t like fancy finger food just drop into the loos. Chimpanzees tightrope walk the painted vines between marble columns, orchids bloom among the walls’ everlasting flowers and bright toucans monitor your hand washing technique.
And yes, another opportunity to love the London Underground. There’s just a brightness to it. This week London Transport aunnounced that commuters will no longer be asked to stand to the right on the escalators thereby allowing the fit-bit bunnies unimpeded access to the top. Studies have shown it’s a waste of standing space and time. Hundreds of additional travelers can be slotted on the empty moving steps cutting the journey from platform to street by seconds for one, cumulative hours for the masses. And I’m sure Boris (when he’s not campaigning for Brexit) will come up with a lovely way of asking for our cooperation in the matter. There already instructional posters about backpacks, smelly food and the less mobile to encourage the right sort of behaviour on carriages and which fully reflect the English regard and talent for poetry, apology, and privacy.
Brexit… yes…no… what? I am trying to follow, truly, but confess firstly it’s the name. It irks me. Brexit – like Bennifer or Brangelina indicating a union of two – but in this case meaning the divorce of many. (And what is it about B words?) There is no equivalent slogan for the Remainers – Bristay? Brisquat? UK-stick-around – a major slip up in the public relations race for Innies I fear. (London Transport! Where are you when Mr.Cameron needs you?) And then there’s the we-wanna-we-wanna-we-wanna-Brexit factions. Vote Leave, Grassroots Out (GO) and Leave.EU are embroiled in their own American primaries-like mud fight to become the referendum’s official Leave campaign. Thankfully this part will be done by April, when the British Electoral Commission will grant one lucky Brexiter faction the title, kudos and most importantly, the £7 million campaign kitty. And then the arguments for and against might become clearer. Until then I remain your ignorant Inbetweener.
Travel Notes to Self
Krakow – cafes and bars (Ulica Krokodyli Pub Kawiarnia, Alchemia, and Eszeweria) with Jewish / quirky nostalgic post war decor. In between the serious stuff – “Everyday life under the Nazi” exhibition in Oskar Schindler’s Factory; the Jewish Quarter and the Jewish Ghetto, Auschwitz – there are 320 churches, a castle, beautiful squares, the UNESCO listed Wieliczka Salt Mine, vodka bars, “milk” bars for filling and cheap lunches (Polakowski; Polskie Smaki), good value restaurants (Morskie Oko, Pesto, Dawno temu na Kazimierzu, Szara Kazimierz, Zazie Bistro). Queen Boutique Hotel – tick. Mozart’s requiem – lovely.
Guide to Krakow http://www.inyourpocket.com was excellent.