Friday, 27 February 2009

Signs of spring

So my dummy-on-the-floor tantrum ("I want spring and I want it now") of last week has paid off; for four days the weather here has been just beautiful - cloudless blue skies, and more than warm enough to work outside all day in shorts and tee shirt. And work we have. Brambles have been cleared, the new potager has been tilled, several tonnes of ivy have been yanked off walls and rocks, and a lorry load of plants has been planted, including three new fruit trees. I can barely stand up straight, but hey, it beats the soil pipe ...

Suddenly, and as if by magic, nature is responding to the onset of spring. Trees and shrubs are springing into bud. Yellow and purple crocuses and bright yellow narcissi are in flower all over the garden. It's impossible to walk across the grass without treading on a carpet of sweet violets. There are lizards, and bright yellow brimstone butterflies, everywhere. We have, after the long months of silence, birdsong: the robins, wrens, tits, finches, thrushes, nuthatches and many others are in full voice as they compete for mates and territory; even the blackbirds, traditionally more reticent in starting their song, are trying out a few of this year's phrases when they think no-one's listening.

But most extraordinary of all: we have nightingales already. Singing nightingales. Just before sunset tonight, as I slumped in an exhausted and undignified heap at a table in the willow garden to watch the sun go down, I heard their unmistakeable song from the woodland just a couple of metres behind me. Having convinced myself that I wasn't hallucinating, and that it really wasn't a thrush impersonating a nightingale (it wasn't), I sat back and enjoyed their performance - there were three of them - for more than half an hour.

The light is returning.

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