Now, I don’t want to complain – well, yes I do, actually. Those of you who have followed the mumbling and ramblings that pass for communication around here, will be well aware that complaining is the life blood of our existence. So what, you are probably wondering, has he found to whinge about now?
You will be pleased to know that, this time, we are breaking new ground, taking our righteous indignation to new heights. In this post we are about to thrust under your nose something that hasn’t happened – yet. But it will, you mark my words.
Take a look at our picture. What do you see? Blackberries. Not just blackberries – but ripe blackberries (and very tasty they were too). But, and here is the pertinent point, it is only August. There is still a good-sized chunk of this year left – brand new and untouched. Now, I must admit that we have peeped inside the September box – just to make sure – but October et al are still in the cupboard, with their plastic bags firmly stuck down and the end of the sticky-tape cunningly camouflaged.
What about the rest of our summer? Why is Autumn in such a hurry to get started? I am filled with foreboding. Something is going on!
And that will definitely give us something to complain about.
As you no doubt guessed immediately, this is a Great Hairy Willowherb. They live in the remote jungles and rain-forests of the British Isles, far beyond the last vestiges of civilisation. Beyond even the reach of the tallest mobile phone mast, so far beyond and so remote, indeed, that even the nearest supermarket is half an hours journey away.
He is well known to the hunter-gatherers of the area – although the beast itself, is seldom seen – at night, round their camp fires they tell tales of legendary encounters and heroic escapes and in the silences that fall between such portentous postulations they listen, fearfully, for the sound of his call.
Once, so the story goes, all this was his, he ranged unchallenged, many days travel in all directions. Then Man came. He retreated and retreated. Eventually he was pushed to the far extremes of his once vast home range. Today his numbers are few and it is only the vast desolation that protects him. Soon, no doubt, Man’s constant encroachment of his native habitat will drive him to the edge – he will be forced to eke out a precarious living by signing up to appear on TV reality programmes and promoting his autobiography in the daily press.
Hint: I’m available if you’re looking for a ghost writer.
Now, there may be times when you feel the pressure to turn into a hare – note the spelling, please. I urgently ask you to reconsider. No matter what poets and romantics would have us believe, the hare occupies an unenviable position in the food chain of a considerable number of ground and airborne predators. Hares, themselves, have developed a nice turn of speed, and an inherent understanding of the essence of camouflage, in the hopes of outwitting the aforementioned. You can see at a glance though that their main defence systems come in the shape of two highly sensitive ears. A quick, basic analysis of the defensive and offensive capability of the animal reveal that in order to maximise its own survival rate it relies on spending most of its days sitting and listening.
Most humans, on the other hand, spend their days sitting and talking – only stopping to listen at those twenty-minute-past-the-hour moments when everyone else does too.
So, even though you could use the Harebell to make a cream, rub it on and turn yourself into a hare, as witches in Scotland have done for many years, I recommend against it.
Sitting listening is not a natural human trait.
‘Oh, good grief, where is she?’
‘Who, Mummy, Auntie Chloe?’
‘Yes, Caroline dear. The bridal car left before us, remember, so she should be here already.’
‘Maybe she’s just stuck in the traffic.’
‘Let’s hope so, Dear.’
‘Mummy, if you and Auntie Chloe are twins, why didn’t you both get married at the same time?’
‘I’ve no idea Pip, sweetie. Douglas was such a nice man. Is that the car,now? Oh no, that’s not it – and then to and cancel everything at the last minute like that – when she knew how important it was for Daddy and I. Oh, where is she?’
‘Why were you and Auntie Chloe so cross with Daddy this morning?’
‘Because he and Uncle Jeff went out and got drunk last night . . .’
‘Thank you Caroline, that’s quite enough. Let’s just say that Uncle Jeff did something Auntie Chloe told him not to – and Daddy was supposed to stop him . . . But he didn’t. Oh where, oh where is she.’
‘Ooh – is that why Auntie Chloe told Daddy to tell Uncle Jeff he better be feeling lucky?’
‘Caroline, please. You’re not helping. Just peek in the church and see if Daddy and Uncle Jeff are waiting at the alter, Dear.’
‘Carrie, your bridesmaids dress is blue, my bridesmaids dress is blue and Mummy’s bridesmaids dress is blue, we’re three bridesmaids in blue.’
‘Yes, we are Pippy sweetie. Oh Mummy, if Auntie Chloe doesn’t come – I won’t be able to be a bridesmaid.’
‘Now, Carrie darling, please don’t cry. Look, look, I’m sure that’s the right car. Yes, it is. Oh, thank goodness. Here she is!’
‘You’re a bit late Chlo.’
‘Yes, I know Sis.’
‘Right – Pip, Caroline, spread Auntie Chloe’s train out nicely for me. There, that’s it. Now girls, remember, you have to sprinkle the rose petals in front of Auntie Chloe, not, are you listening Pip, not on the people in the pews.’
‘Here’s my music, Sis – shall we go?’
‘You had me worried for a minute, there, Chlo.’
‘You shouldn’t have, Sis. I pretty much have to be here. Just like you and Darren, remember?’
Here’s a nice picture of Feverfew. In common with most herbal remedies, Feverfew will cure almost anything – although usually migraines, these days.
Most people Google knows think that the name Feverfew is a corruption of the Latin – febrifugia (meaning a cure for a fever) – which is reasonably believable. It has at least ten alternative names of which Featherfoil is pretty descriptive of the leaves. Most of the rest are just names that seem to be applied to a great many plants, both the wild and the garden varieties, with total abandon.
Bachelor’s Buttons springs to mind here. It is possible that there used to be a great many spare bachelors in the days when people were going around naming things, but I suspect that the number of different plants called by this name is more related to bachelor’s ability to loose their buttons, or even perhaps, to bachelor’s lack of enthusiasm for sewing their buttons back on. Either way, it seems it harks back to those long ago, happier times – when bachelors rode around the country spewing buttons right, left and centre.
Most bachelors, these days, wear just a tee-shirt – so, hopefully in the future, we will see the number of different plants labelled Bachelor’s Buttons showing a steady decline.
There are times when it is hard to sit down and write coherently. As you can see we have a picture of a bee on a thistle today. Bees are pretty common – I mean, you find them buzzing around all over the place. You would really think then, wouldn’t you, that you could just type – identify bee – into Google and within 0.0256 seconds or so you would have around 5,000,000 answers, each one of which would, naturally, be fully pertinent to bees in general and specific to the one in the photo.
It is my sad duty to inform you that life, with or without a capital letter, is never going to be that simple. Let the moon trine Mercury. Let Jupiter accidentally pass through an auspicious and harmonious opposition to Venus. Let the wind blow high, let the wind blow low – life moves on, not in a straightforward, easy to understand way, but in a way completely calculated to complicate and confuse.
Today’s picture, therefore, is of a Field Cuckoo Bee – or any one of the other two hundred and fifty different types of bees in Britain.
I did try to ask him who he was when I took the photo – but he was much too busy to answer.
Just look at the time! It was only a moment ago we were saying happy new year to everyone – and now it seems that it won’t be long before we have to do it again. Where has the time gone? Do you think he ever gets tired just going round and round, year after year? Perhaps that’s why we invented seasons – to help to keep him from getting bored and hurrying on, just to get this year over, in the hope that next year will be more interesting.
We are starting to see the results of all those blossoms Spring brought out of the green-house this year. We don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch – or pick our fruit before it ripens, and anything can happen between now and then – but things are looking good.
Last year we collected a small jar of wild cherries and poured a generous helping, or a thrave, as they used to say in medieval times, of brandy, with a few heaped spoonfuls of sugar, over them. The result was a very cherry flavoured brandy and some very brandy flavoured cherries.
If the weather pulls its weight for a few more months – we might just need a bigger jar this year.