Saturday, 11 April 2020


The lane is blazoned with heraldic suns of celandines,
and beacons of gorse and broom catch across the hills..
It's there in the ring round the eye of a blackbird.
The first brimstone of the year, a floater at the edge of your vision ...

from 'Yellow' by Matthew Francis in his collection Wing (Faber and Faber 2020)

I'm out early.  The sun is an orange ball a little to the north of east.  The air tastes of a cocktail of chemicals (agricultural weedkiller), slurry and gorse.

A pair of hares are feeding on my neighbour's lawn.  As I get nearer one looks up, then the other.  They're off, bounding away in long strides.  I'm glad to see them.

The view down the valley opens out to the hills beyond, their summits clustered with the remains of iron-age hill forts.

The smell of coconut grows stronger - along the lane golden gorse and broom flourish like a Palm Sunday procession.

The store calves have been let out from their winter quarters.  I can see them down on the bog, remnant patches of Gors Geirch, part of which is a National Nature Reserve.

There are sheep with young lambs in the field near the farm.  What communication skills sheep have!  A ewe calls to her lost lamb, a lamb bleats to his invisible mother from the other side of the field.  Despite the distance between them and the voices of other sheep, they find each other.

Brambles are colonising the narrow lane and snatch at my clothing.  Red campion, violets, pignut and bluebells flower on the banks.  Every day brings a new flower.  Today it is narrow-leaved plantain:

plain plantains could be stylish 
were it not for railway shades of brown and cream

as I wrote in 'Summer lane' (The Art of Gardening Flambard 2010).  I was thinking of the old British Railways colours of my Midlands childhood, not the gaudy livery sported by some main-line trains today.

Narrow paths lead across the lane from the fields - tracks whose traffic we rarely see - fox, badger, perhaps the hares I saw earlier.  Animals with regular routes who slip through scrub and under fences, making a tunnel throught the grass as it grows.

A goat willow grows by the stream where I look for returning swallows.  No swallows yet (surely, any day now).  The tree is a true pussy willow - a mass of yellow fluff.

Suddenly a pheasant goes off like an alarm clock - Christopher Isherwood's description is so apt.  In a little spinney I hear the raucous screech of jays.  A tractor starts up and does some preliminary shunting in the yard.  The day's work begins.  It's time to get writing.

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