Tag Archives: spring

‘X’ Marks the Spot

27 Apr

‘Are you looking for treasure?’ I asked a man who had been standing on a wooden footbridge over the River Cherwell for some time. He held a walking map in plain view.

‘No,’ he said – soft Kiwi accent, grey beard, the same discreet hearing aid as my father. ‘But I’ll show you treasure. Look at that.’ He pointed to a wide, shallow stump that must once have been a magnificent chestnut – others shaded the river bank. Only that resilient old stump wasn’t just a stump at all: it was covered in dozens of leafy new shoots.

‘That’s treasure,’ he said.

The Cherwell Boathouse is a very nice place to eat.

So is The Old Parsonage, where you might, just might, one day spot John Simpson enjoying a drink at the end of the day.

If you wander along the meadows and river banks here, now, you’ll see snakeshead fritillaries in their prime, narcissus just over, dead nettle beginning, willow catkins, perhaps a heron gulping down a fish, punts inexpertly punted.

And, thinking of Xs, it is Freedom Day in South Africa today.

Flower Shows

22 May

There is a very large and glamorous flower show in full swing at the moment…

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but this year I think I prefer the one happening in the garden and on the streets.

Copyright Earthatwork Blossom May

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On to flower shows of a different but not unrelated kind. Do listen to Sir David Attenborough talking to James Naughtie on BBC Radio 4 this morning about the high number of declining plant and animal species in England outlined in the recently published State of Nature report.

‘It confirms your worst thoughts, really,’ Attenborough says.  ‘We’ve got this extraordinary expertise in destroying, poisoning and knocking down things.’

You’ll find the clip here.

Before that leaves you too depressed, have a look at the website of Plantlife, a charity dedicated to saving wild plants and their habitats, which I find consistently inspiring and motivating – two very good things. Plantlife, along with the RSPB and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, is one of the 25 wildlife charities that contributed to the report.

Commuter Soundtrack

19 Mar

Thank God for longer, if not warmer, days at this time of year.  I was in danger of turning into a mole, with near redundant eyes, a heightened sense of smell – especially for sweet potato gratin – and a warm pelt removed only for sleeping and known as, for not awfully clever reasons really, the Bulawayo Celebration Shrug. These days, however, when it is time to go home in the late afternoon, it is pleasing to look outside and feel mild surprise upon seeing the remaining daylight.

The birds are getting busier, too. I know it is a matter of life and death for them but the chorus I woke to and then came home to yesterday was beautiful. I am not yet terribly good at identifying particular species (I’ll raise you a South African piet-my-vrou for every English tree-creeper) but I do know a blackbird when I hear  one. Especially when it sounds like this:

If you are interested in the subject, you might look at the RSPB online bird identifier, which helpfully has robin, black bird, feral pigeon and mallard as a starting point. Poor old feral pigeons. They have such a bad press.

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

26 Apr

When you have spent almost an entire sunny weekend day indoors, there is nothing like popping outside and being confronted by a sea of hobbling marathon runners to make you feel like a total slug – especially if the only constructive thing you have done all Sunday is make Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Lemon Drizzle Cake? Well, it began with a homemade recipe book I bought last week at the Open Garden I mentioned in my previous post. I love homemade recipe books, especially when they are called things like Other People’s Cakes, as this one is.  That said, I must admit that the recipes in this one do  sound a little suggestive – Granny Meg’s Fruit Cake with Ginger, for instance, or Nellie’s Gateau au Chocolat.  I’ll stop before I blush.

What got me onto making cakes this weekend was a miserable packet of malted biscuits I’d bought, earlier in the week, in the hope that they’d fill a little tea time gap. My, was I disappointed: they tasted of precisely nothing, the reason for which became abundantly clear as soon as I read the ingredients list (which I ought to have done in the first place).  It was palm oil and corn syrup, rather than butter and sugar, that were sinking their way to my hips.  What a shameful waste of calories.

This does, however, bring me to two blogs I’ve wanted to tell you about for some time.  The first is Wandering Gaia, belonging to science and nature writer Gaia Vince,who has the kind of career I’d love were I more intrepid and better at figures. Previously an editor at Nature and then New Scientist, she’s travelling the world looking at how climate change is affecting those most vulnerable to it.  She’s already visited  Indonesia, where natural forest is being cleared  to accommodate our palm oil habit.

The second is from über blogger and ladies’ man James Alexander Sinclair, usually of Blogging from Blackpitts, who has begun (ok, a while ago now) with some mates a blog all about biscuits.  Unsurprisingly, it’s called Encounters with Remarkable Biscuits.  I’d recommend a nice cup of tea and a happy hour dipping into it.

The picture is of some blossom, which I’m beginning to think is all rather too ephemeral for my good mental health. You spend months anticipating the stuff, it arrives and, before you know it, it’s over, gathering in papery drifts on the pavement.  That sounds like a lot of things, actually – a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake being one.  I’d post a picture, only it’s all gone.