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MARCH: “Pincushion moss growing in the crevices of a stone wall. A stretch of freshly turned earth, fingered over by frost.”

“Pincushion moss growing in the crevices of a stone wall. A stretch of freshly turned earth, fingered over by frost.”   From “Ten Delights of a Garden” - part of her book, “Through the Garden Gate” by Susan Hill. Flowering currant - almost there! In this March 2023 blog, I’m writing about a fortnight of very wintry weather! I take the journey from the first of the month to the sixteenth and I hope that the second half of March will see off Winter and welcome Spring! Maybe the weather is less wintry where you are? So where are the daffodils please? We have so much snow at present that ours have all disappeared. Socrates, my old pipe-smoking friend and Granddad-Bobby-lookalike, is slowly disappearing too. Even the topiary is up to its terrible knobbly knees in snow! I love snow but, frankly, I had hoped for that first mild day of March by now! Crystal ball photography To My Sister It is the first mild day of March: Each minute sweeter than before The redbreast sings from the tall

April - Richard of York Gained Battles in Vain

The world has changed since my last blog. Mad March has been corrupted by an ongoing sense of bewilderment. What is happening? I'm not sure. I stand in the kitchen and wonder if we will continue to shop for food. I do a confused, slow twirl on the landing and look out across the square. I wonder what the dog walkers are feeling. Are they separated from their families and friends? I watch the trees moving gently outside the sitting room window and question whether they will be in full green leaf or in creased Autumn gold when we will have moved through this period of uncertainty.

 We have concerns, as everyone does right now. Concerns about loved ones with health problems. Concerns about the powers to enforce the unusual rules we are having to live by. Concerns about the behaviour of those adversely affected by restricted movement and isolation. We continue to wake each morning. As the curtains are drawn back, April teases with her "will she - won't she" take on the weather. Later, I will look for rainbows.
When we found the first frogspawn last week, we were jubilant. We have taken the dog on that route a few times since, just to check up on it. Apart from making sure he doesn't leap into the ditch and scoff the lot, it is a delight to watch the development of the great spotted jelly mass.

The Caithness geese are moving in mysterious ways. Low-flying, and in thin, but very long, skeins. They appear to change their habits at this time of the year. I wonder if they will go soon, perhaps to the cooler countries. Some will come from the south.

The ducks are posing a threat to the tadpoles. One flew in front of us today. It had clearly been to the pond for breakfast. 

The various ducks and geese here remind me of my childhood home in the Isle of Axholme. They love it there too. In centuries past, many Axholme people fed their families by wildfowling. I asked a friend in Orkney if some of the thousands of geese there might be eaten, thereby reducing the numbers. This would not only be a way of helping farmers but also of feeding people. He said that nobody wanted to eat the wild geese as they are not as good, in texture or flavour, as domestic geese. I think, having had a bad experience with the Christmas goose, that careful temperature control and timing, with the addition of lemon to take off some of the greasiness, might be the way forward with any goose. Walnut, thyme and lemon stuffing may fit the bill. My decision to try cooking goose in place of the usual turkey, for the first time, only days after we had installed a new cooker, was a bad one. We made a feast of chipolatas and bacon (and a tiny sliver of goose each) that Christmas over twenty years ago. Why do I remember that and not the detail in today's news broadcast?
I'm sure the Wildfowlers of Axholme would have known how to cook their geese.

What of April? On the downside, Drummossie (Culloden) Moor went down in history as the place where Charles Edward Stuart's supporters were slaughtered in April 1746. You might argue that, in a battle, there is a victor - in this case, the Duke of Cumberland - and an underdog. Bonnie Prince Charlie got away but his supporters, their families, associates and their livestock and property were brutally sought out and destroyed. Not only that, but their culture was almost obliterated at the same time. My daughter and her family live close to Culloden so, in normal times, but not at present (I hate you Covid19), I pass through there. Every single time I look over in the direction of that expanse, I feel a sense of loss. It is one of those times when I am reminded of Wordsworth's lines, "And much it grieved my heart to think what man has made of man" (Lines Written In Early Spring).

Another sad April story is that of the massacre at Amritsar where, in April 1919, British troops opened fire on 10,000 Sikhs. Dear God! The terrible damage which can be caused by having the wrong person in control! Apart from the grotesque loss of innocent life, one of the most disturbing things about this dreadful event, is the heart-breaking account of British Soldier X. There were many British Soldier Xs who carried out orders on that day in fear and distress.

So, April has some awful true stories to relate. 

Here we are, in the path of a pandemic- hiding, scrubbing ourselves sore, worrying - in the beautiful month of April. April, with its sunshine and showers, its rainbows around every corner, its pale green leaves, its new life. Babies are still being born - all kinds of babies. The gardens and the byways are colouring up nicely. More folk than ever seem to be interested in gardens and allotments. Many of those now with time on their hands and having no health problems, and no one at home at risk, are helping out in a variety of ways. Others are quietly contacting those who have touched their lives with historic kindnesses. Connections are being made between neighbours who never had the time before. Fine, so the conversations may be shouted from one shed to another, but it is still a connection. A wave to someone you see from a distance can give hope. I'm big on the hope thing. No one can survive without it.

Later this month, the birdsong will be at its best, and that will go on right through to early Summer. I'm always first downstairs in the early morning - I claim it as my own -  so I let the dog out. I find it difficult to turn around and close the door. Some people get excited when they receive expensive jewellery. Not me. I get excited by birdsong and I find myself trembling with appreciation to the point where a lump comes to my throat and my eyes mist with the beauty of it all. I'm not good at differentiating between our birds - some are easier to recognise than others - but the choir runs well without stars.

And, speaking of stars, they're still there - all around us. Light sources are crucial. I'm lighting a candle in the front window every Sunday evening. I will light one each week as long as I can - through these plague days.  It's my symbol of hope - my prayer for a better world. I love that the children, up and down the country, are decorating their windows with rainbows - their hopes and prayers for a new and improved world.

Venus dominates the sky at present. We're part of something huge. This little planet is going through a spasm just now. It hurts. We'll get through it. This isn't a zombie apocalypse. We are affected by a terrible pandemic. At the end of it, we will emerge, scarred but able. As I write this the sun is shining after a morning of hail, wind and snow here in Caithness, Scotland. In the darkness of Covid19, we are heading towards the light. Our humanity is awakened and the future of our species is bright.

Would that we are able to continue some of these present hardships in order to protect our fragile earth. If my humble view of the natural world interests you, my new book, "Child of The Earth", will be available as an eBook from Monday, 13th April, 2020. The paperback book will be available at a later date due to the current craziness. 

Keep safe. 

Pre-order "Child of the Earth" here!