Sue, over on Sue’s Words and Pictures, mentioned that, when in doubt, she tends to classify unknown plants as “probably some kind of vetch”, and I’m pretty sure that today’s photo falls into that category. I’ve always called this sort of thing Bush Vetch, but a recent chat with Google (hoping he would confirm my superior knowledge of the natural world) proved frustrating. At first, he appeared willing to bolster my ego, producing several pictures very similar to mine, plainly labelled so as to induce feelings of smug satisfaction.
If I had any sense, I would have left it at that and gone on my way secure in my infallibility. However that first flush of over confidence pushed me to cross the Rubicon. What then was the difference between my Bush Vetch and, say for instance, Common Vetch?
In response to this enquiry Google produced another large selection of images – as close to identical to the first set as to cause me to wonder if he had misheard me. A quick application of the ‘Back’ button showed that the second set of photos was, in fact, a different selection. However, the differences among the individual pictures in each set seemed to be greater than the supposed differences between the sets themselves.
I wish Linnaeus had just put a bar code on each plant instead of messing with all that Latin.
We went away. Well, I mean to say, we are away, or perhaps, depending on when you’re reading this, we might be back now, or even travelling back at this very moment, or at that very moment.
Just after I posted last weeks in-depth psychological analysis of the current situation, we left our pastoral view of the Cumbrian countryside and our peacefully grazing cattle. We drove for six hours, until we arrived at our holiday destination – a cottage in a lovely rural location. Complete with views of the Welsh countryside and peacefully grazing cattle. They do say ‘A change is as good as a rest’, don’t they.
While we have been too busy having a lovely holiday to spend too much time talking to the locals, (other than the resident Blackbird, of course) there are a few things we’ve noticed. Geographically speaking, we are still on the west coast, but we are now a couple of hundred miles farther south. When we left home there were a few places where patches of Red Campions were starting to put forth the odd bloom, with a promise of a full display in a few weeks.
Down here, they already have on their, freshly washed and pressed, full summer uniform, and are standing around in groups, chatting idly, just waiting for word to arrive – that summer is really here.
‘Quickly, Darling, quickly. I need my new point shoes for my next number and my ribbons are still on my old shoes. Here, here they are.
‘Yes, yes. I know. But this is the dance before mine, so there’s three minutes yet. They’re just pinned on with safety pins, there look, I’ve already undone this one.
‘Well, they’re new shoes, Darling – and I haven’t had time. It’s been one rehearsal after another for days, then, when I get home, I’m just too knackered to think about sewing ribbons on.
‘Don’t shout at me, Darling, I really will do it after the show tonight, I promise – if there’s time. Oh, quickly Darling, quickly, this is their finale music. Yes, bit tighter, please. Don’t forget to tuck my ends in. My left ribbons. Look. That’s better, thank you Darling. See, plenty of time, oops, this is my intro.
‘Excuse me, everyone. I need some space.
‘I am smiling two three-and-a-one two three. . .’
Eve, as you all know, was made from Adam’s rib. Even the most unobservant observer must have notices that, these days at least, Eves come in assorted shapes and sizes.
Even if you had the right kind of ribs readily available, I suspect that the skills required are not so easily found. The ability to make Eves from ribs has died out – and now must be placed on the Red List, along with flint knapping, bronze casting and washing up without a dishwasher. I did check on Google, thinking there might be evening classes or a part-time course, but no luck.
The reason for this sudden concern with ribs, is that today’s picture is of Ribwort. The flowers look just like a spaceship – or one of those fairground rides, but the leaves have very marked ribs down their length. I can vouch for the fact that a Ribwort leaf can be rubbed on nettle stings to good effect. Whether it will perform the hundred and one other cures attributed to it, I can’t say.
Quinquenervia is the Mediaeval name for the plant – very roughly translatable from the Latin as Five Ribs. This leads us to today’s conundrum.
If you could find workers with the necessary skills, and if you found yourself a little short on this months quota, could you use Ribwort leaves to make five Eves at a time?
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.