Signs of Spring

After weeks of grey skies, or so it seems, we have finally had a few bright days, when the sun has warmed the cold earth, and encouraged some early flowers to open at last. I was beginning to wonder where the snowdrops were, when a couple of days ago I realised that they were hidden under drifts of autumns leaves. Now I have brushed some of the old leaves away from the borders, clumps of snowdrops have opened to the sun, along with a sprinkling of yellow crocuses and a pink blushed hellebore. And this afternoon I was surprised and heartened to see a solitary miniature iris, its vibrant blue petals flung wide like arms to greet the sun.

Spring is on its way.




magpie - rspbI often see magpies in my garden, they strut purposefully around as if they own it! They are striking birds, and from a distance look rather like black and white, long-tailed crows. However, the black plumage is actually a dark and glossy iridescent blue-green. Magpies have an age-old reputation for liking bright shiny objects, leading to the commonly held perception that they are ‘thieving magpies’, but recent research suggests that this is probably not true.

I quite often see a couple of magpies in my garden. Occasionally I see as many as four, but last week there were six magpies strutting around, investigating the bird bath! After a bit of research, I discovered that this sometimes happens in spring, when magpies gather in ‘parliaments’ to resolve social and territorial conflicts.

Seeing six magpies in my garden reminded me of an old traditional rhyme, which was used as the title song for a children’s TV program when I was young – unsurprisingly the program was called Magpie!

One for sorrow, two for joy.
Three for a girl and four for a boy.
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret, never to be told.
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird you best not miss!

Six for gold? That sounds quite nice; but I haven’t seen any sign of it yet!


Spring is springing, and my hellebores are in full bloom. With the common name of Christmas Rose, or Lenten Rose, unsurprisingly most variations are in flower sometime between Christmas and Easter. They are ideal in shady areas, and their bright faces can enliven a dull sheltered spot. I have some lovely plants in a bed where I can easily see them from the warmth of the house, and it is difficult to say which is my favourite. The almost black Niger is very striking, while Pirouette is covered with masses of veined candy pink flowers, and Ice Breaker has large open, pale green and white flowers.

Which is your favourite?

Mayday Bank Holiday

It’s May, and in the hedgerows the may blossom is out in abundance. Long arching branches full of tiny flower heads curve gracefully over the road. As I pass underneath, confetti petals float around me, trying to catch in my hair, before drifting down and covering the pathways with a snow-like blanket. Under the hawthorn trees, bluebells stand tall, their blue and white veined bells nodding gently in the breeze. Daisies dot the grass, and yellow dandelion heads straggle across the verges.
Today is Mayday bank holiday in the UK; it is warm and dry, and a welcome day off from school and work. Usual routines have been set aside, and everything seems to have slowed to a lazy walking pace, unhurried, peaceful. A blissful change to the frantic hustle and bustle of normal everyday life.

May Blossom

On magpies and burdens

It’s spring, it’s nest-building season, and a couple of days ago I spotted a magpie struggling with a long spindly twig that was at least three times her own length. She flew erratically with the twig trailing below her, until she came to a stop in the ancient oak tree next door. After a pause to get her breath, the magpie tried to take off again, but the twig had become entangled in the branches of the oak tree. Not willing to give it up, she struggled hard for a moment, twisting and pulling at the twig. After a few more jerks and tugs, the twig finally wrenched free, and the magpie continued her unsteady flight, over my roof and out of sight. I imagined her struggling to add this lengthy and unmanageable twig to her nest, and it got me thinking as these things often do. It got me musing about how mentally, and often unrealised, we carry unwieldy burdens; things like resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, hate, revenge, and a myriad of other unhelpful emotions. We struggle to pull them along with us, thinking in our naivety that it is necessary to carry them and to own them; or not even thinking but just doing it, because that’s what we’ve always done. Then we stop for a moment, and these emotional burdens get entangled with everything else in our lives, but still we hold on to them. And when at last we get to where we think we are taking them, we find that they don’t fit, and that we have ended up hurting ourselves much more than those we wished to punish.
If only we could learn to acknowledge these destructive emotions, and lay them down before they become such a useless burden.

magpie - rspb

Waiting for Spring

I’m not good at waiting, but I think I’ve said that before. Wait for this; wait for that. As a child I was always being told, ‘wait until you’ve saved up your pocket money’, or ‘wait until you’re older’. But I’m one of those people who gets an idea, and wants to get straight on with it, a bit like a little cartoon character I remember, called Atom Ant, whose catch phrase was, ‘Up an’ at ’em!’ It’s taken me a long time, but now I understand that there are times when it is far better to sleep on an idea, and think about it properly, rather than being half prepared and getting it all wrong! I’ve also learned that having to wait for something can make us appreciate it all the more.
So what am I waiting for now? As the title suggests, I’m waiting for spring to arrive of course, bringing with it some warmer weather. The signs are all here; snowdrops, yellow crocus’s, purple anemones, and the daffodil buds are thickening, so surely spring can’t be far off. However, like everyone else, I’m having to wait for it.

Up an' at 'em!

Up an’ at ’em!