Well, here we are – I am now standing firmly on the seventy fourth rung of the ladder. It all happened overnight. One day I was quite contentedly seventy three, then, when I woke up next morning – I had aged a year. Irritatingly, I slept through the whole process.
Facebook, obligingly, regurgitated a photo for me. “You posted this picture four years ago today” they trumpeted. Can it be true? Have I really lived through four long years of inspirational quotes and hair loss adverts?
The picture I had posted – way back then – was taken from the top of The Old Man of Coniston, looking down at the place we had climbed from.
I’m not much use at looking backwards, but you might think that the view from this high up the ladder would also be something to write home about. I thought I might turn this step into a bit of a soapbox, and philosophise on Life (with a capital L, you’ll notice).
Don’t worry. You’re safe. After a couple of rungs, the view downwards disappears into a warm fuzziness – I may not be able to remember it all – but I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it.
And the view the other way? Well, there’s no sign of the top yet.
The picture today is May Blossom – it too, has once again made it into May.
You know how it is. You’re just sitting there. You’ve managed, by a judicious and calculated series of moves, to finally infiltrate the quiet corner with the comfortable seating. Everyone still has at least half of their last drink left. The conversation has reached that warm fuzzy inclusive stage, where it doesn’t take that many words to keep up the momentum – and the occasional empty space is as companionable as it would be if it were filled with the words that everyone is thinking, but that don’t need to be vocalised, to be shared.
Great and pointedly philosophical arguments are slowly formulating in the various minds around the table but, as the talk meanders here and there without touching anything that would make such pronouncements relevant, they recede, unspoken, into the blur of the warm, alcohol incremented friendship that encloses the group within a tangible aura.
No one mentions the thought that stirs, snuffling and grunting softly, in the background. Soon, all this must end. Soon, even the hardened drinkers, with their elbows firmly glued to the bar, will be roused to action. Soon, the harsh winds of reality will blow us all, onward, to real life.
Soon, the bar will close.
Today’s picture is of Greater Celandine, or Chelidonium Majus – if you want to get fancy. Interestingly, the Maj part of Majus could easily refer to the month of May, so it could be translated as the Celandine that flowers in May. The Celandine part is a corrupted form of the Greek chelidon – a swallow. This gives us a plant that flowers in May when the swallows come – and that would be pretty hard to argue with.
The Lesser Celandine (which has now been superseded along our verges by a veritable host of Dandelions) is a mere buttercup cousin, and not related to the Greater Celandine in any way. Our May flowering Celandine is actually a poppy and the flower’s yellow colouring is caused by the same chemicals that infuse the Welsh Poppy.
The Celandine’s medicinal use goes back to Anglo Saxon times, it has been prescribed for centuries for an assortment of ills, so naturally it is quite poisonous. As a hint, Mother Nature gave it an extremely bitter taste, so in order to kill yourself with it, you would either have to take it for an extended period of time, or cram fistfuls of it down, despite ever increasing nausea and vomiting.
Oh, and be careful how you handle it – the sap burns your skin – it was once used to remove warts.
‘Hi there. I just came over here to look at all this grass along the fence. It’s actually quite difficult to reach.
‘From over there it looked as if it would be easy to get to, but the holes in the hedge are a bit too small to be able to fit my nose through. I suppose that’s why the others haven’t eaten it already.
‘I was in the barn to start with, you know. There were lots of us in there. I suppose while you’re really young it isn’t too bad to be in a barn, but you soon grow out of it. I wouldn’t want to be in a barn any more, not now. I’m quite grown up, now. In the barn there wasn’t much room. Nowhere to really run around and enjoy yourself. I suppose the best thing about it was that there was always plenty to eat. Out here, you can’t always find your Mum, it’s true. But then there’s all this other stuff to eat. Funny, I never imagined that grass would taste so good, but one mouthful and I was hooked!
‘There’s a gate just down the hedge there, Why don’t you go and stand near that, then, when they come, they might let you out, too’.
Until recently, my ‘office’ was downstairs. Indeed, due to our house being built into a hillside, it was in the only room downstairs. The most useful thing about that room, was that it had the front door in it. Jackie also has an ‘office’ where she stores her craft supplies – she is almost always making something or sewing something – her office is upstairs.
In the winter, because my office was next to the front door, I was always very cold down there. So we decided that I would move upstairs and share Jackie’s craft space.
Now, I need to remind you, that just across the field from our house runs an embankment carrying the railway from Carlisle to Newcastle. Because the downstairs room only had two small windows, neither of which gave a very good view of the embankment, I had arranged a mirror, on a stand, in one of the windows – so I could watch the trains go past. There is a little passenger train that passes us at about twenty minutes to the hour. At almost the same time, (in fact they have crossed in front of the house three times while we have been living here) the train in the other direction also passes.
Now that I’m upstairs, I have the seat next to the window, and any time I look out I can see, not only the trains, but also the mountains.
What a busy week! Spring bustled in and, before you knew it, Winter had been washed, dried, pressed, folded neatly, and put away in the bottom drawer until November. The Lesser Celandine is now firmly established and running hard to keep ahead of the Dandelions who are power-walking along the verge of every road. Lambs are now so common as to be hardly worth a photograph and as for the Rabbits, well, they are just everywhere.
Snowdrops are just a memory, with the occasional green seed bell still dangling there, forlornly wondering if it was worth hanging on to the end. There are Daffodils around in plenty, but even they are beginning to consider that they may have overstayed their welcome, and are starting to stand up, look for their coats and mention that they really should be going . . .
The Honesty is in flower and the dark purple leaf spikes that herald the arrival of the Rosebay Willowherb have turned green, seemingly overnight. The sheen of Silverweed feathers sprinkle the roadside where the grass is short and the Lungwort flower spikes with their mixture of tiny red and blue trumpets are taking over the shaded spaces.
And here we have Cherry Blossom – it reminded us that in the Autumn we gathered a little jar full of cherries from these very trees – we covered them with sugar and brandy and put them in a dark cupboard.
We wondered how our little jar was getting on – perhaps we ought to check.
Often, when we go down to the bridge over the beck, just as we get there, a small, brown bird will fly off. We’ve tried sneaking up and peeping over the railings, but he is a sort of slate grey and he likes the muddy spots just under the bridge, so we normally don’t see him until he flies away even on those days we do find him in residence. When he takes wing he leaves behind a fleeting glimpse, a flash, of a yellow rump. That he’s a wagtail of some sort there is no doubt, he has quite a long tail and flicks it disdainfully as he prepares for take off.
Well, you know how it is, if people get up and leave every time you join the party, you begin to worry if you’ve upset them in some way.
Today, for the first time in nearly three years, he stopped to chat – and he sat still long enough for us to get a picture of him. He still wasn’t over the moon to see us, peeping out at us from behind some twigs, which the camera, obligingly, focused on, but we were, never the less, very pleased to have advanced our relationship to this level.
We are reasonably confident that he is a Grey Wagtail – I know, I know, but I’m not in charge of bird names – he likes marshy places best, but is happy to visit the towns and cities of the south during winter so he may just be a summer visitor – we’re starting to see a lot of those.