SPRING IS HERE!

Sori, 8 March 2021

“Spring his here” crooned Frank Sinatra. And indeed – at least in the little corner of the Northern Hemisphere on which my wife and I are currently perched – Spring is here! Frank  then goes on to lament the lack of love in his life, but that is not our problem. My wife and I can just focus on the flowers exploding into life all around us, humming soulfully a tune or two as we do so.

As usual in Liguria, mimosa was the first to burst onto the scene, with joyous sprays of canary yellow.

Those are fading now, their place being taken by crocuses (high up in the hills)

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various fruit trees

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My photo

and of course daffodils! Gardens and public parks have a sprinkling, but my eye was really caught by this bevy of them planted in a corner of an olive-tree terrace.

my photo

It’s been decades now since I’ve lived in the UK, but first impressions on the young mind are indelible (as opposed to impressions on the old mind which I find to be distressingly delible). My spending the Springs of my youth in rural Somerset, in that prep school which I mentioned in a recent post, has meant that in my mind’s eye Spring will always be that triumvirate of flowers: the snowdrop, the crocus, and the daffodil, which someone at the school had planted in various corners of the school grounds.
Later, when I moved on to my public school (in Brito-speak, a private boarding school for boys (in my time) aged between 13 and 18), my soul was stirred during my first Spring there by bunches of daffodils which sprang out of the lawn in front of my House.

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That same Spring, just off the path which led down from the House to the main school buildings, I discovered a group of narcissi, those cousins of the daffodil, scattered down a slope.

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I was enchanted.

Alas, I quickly learned that showing a delight in flowers would definitely put me in the uncool category at school. I risked being compared to Fotherington-Thomas in the book “Down with Skool”. Molesworth, the purported author of the book, has this to say about Fotherington-Thomas: “you kno he say Hullo clouds hullo sky he is a girlie and love the scents and sounds of nature … he is uterly wet and a sissy” (Molesworth’s spelling is also quite erratic). This gallery of drawings in the book of Fotherington-Thomas, by the great Ronald Searle, says it all.
At the age of 13-14, that was definitely not where I wanted to be! And so I buried my uncool delight in daffodils and other flowers of Spring under deep layers of teenager cynicism and world-weariness. A few years later, when I got to know it, I could only secretly thrill to Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils”.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
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.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

But now that I am old and venerable, and my foibles and oddities are tolerated (“don’t worry about him, he’s just an old fart”), I can openly advertise my delight in the flowers of Spring. I can, like the Great Poet, lie on my couch and let my heart with pleasure fill and dance with the daffodils and all the flowers that Spring brings us.

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A SYMPHONY OF WHITE

Beijing, 16 May 2013

My wife and I are in the US at the moment for our son’s graduation. We were down in Philadelphia over the weekend, together with our daughter, proudly present at the Great Moment.

graduation caps thrown in air

My wife and I had visited Philadelphia some 30 years ago, together with my mother-in-law, on our before-the-marriage honeymoon (I have referred to this in an earlier post). But we didn’t remember much, so we decided to go and visit the old part of town again.

It was all very pretty and peaceful; the streets in the old part of Philadelphia are really very pleasant to stroll along. As we walked, we came across some white roses planted along the pavement, separating it from a parking lot. These were not the sculpted creations one finds in carefully tended gardens but were more the blowsy type found on wild bushes.

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And they smelled heavenly!

A little later, when we arrived at the visitors’ centre, we stumbled into a magnificent trellis of white wisteria.

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I decided there and then to spend the rest of our visit to the US photographing all the white flowers we would come across, first in Philadelphia and then in New York where we would be staying a few extra days with our daughter. Here is the album of what we found:

White rhododendron in the courtyard of the museum at the University of Pennsylvania

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A white-flowered tree along a street in Philadelphia

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Another white-flowered tree on the lower east side of New York

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Some laggard narcissi on the upper east side

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A smorgasbord of white in Central Park, starting with white tulips

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then white pansies

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then three flowers whose names I don’t know

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a white chestnut at the exit of the park

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white irises around a statue of the Virgin Mary on the corner of a church not too far from the park.

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white daisies of some sort on the High Line (the last time we were here was the dead season)

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and finally white dieffenbachia, seen just before catching the shuttle to Newark airport

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graduation caps in air: http://www.plantijn.be/images/plantijn2/container1103/images/iStock_000004407014.jpg

other pictures: mine