Amazingly, Beatrix Potter was born in 1866, 151 years ago. She was an incredible woman. Her children’s story books, written around the many pets she and her brother kept as children, are still selling well today, all theses years later. One of the most interesting things about her life and work is her use of merchandising. In 1903, she designed and patented a Peter Rabbit doll, so today Peter Rabbit is the world’s oldest licensed literary character. She also worked on a Peter Rabbit board game, although that didn’t appear on the market for some years, as the first version was very complicated.
But it’s what she did with the income from her business interests that we remember her for, here in the Lake District.
Around the turn of the century, the Lakeland’s Herdwick sheep were an endangered breed. Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm and set about breeding Herdwicks – she was so successful that she won awards for her sheep at local agricultural shows, and even became the first woman president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association.
And no, she wasn’t Harry Potter’s sister.
Google says that tame hyacinths have more flowers per stem than wild ones. It may well be that this makes the tame flowers smug, and this may, in fact, be what makes the wild flowers wild. Now, as you all know, the flowers we have around us today arose from a sporting accident.
You remember, I’m sure, how Apollo and his lover Hyacinth used to fool around throwing the discus. You did know that The God of the West Wind also loved Hyacinth and was extremely jealous because he only wanted to play with Apollo? Well, while the two guys were fooling around, being macho and stuff, you know what I mean, The West Wind saw his chance. Apollo threw – and Hyacinth ran to catch the discus. The West Wind gave an extra huff at the crucial moment and the discus hit Hyacinth full on.
He died instantly, as you might expect. Naturally, as his blood, or Apollo’s tears or maybe both hit the ground, beautiful flowers sprang up.
Just a little thought by the participants at this time – could have resolved centuries of animosity.
Spring is springing into action all around us. Last week we showed you a Violet that we found in a muddy patch by the roadside; in several paces we have the occasional enthusiastic Hyacinth; the small, demure purple trumpets of the Ground Ivy, or Heal All, are appearing wherever you stop and inspect the verges closely; Soldiers and Sailors, or Lungwort, are putting out the occasional flower, and we even have a few entrepreneurial Lesser Celandine hustling, here and there, under the hedges – meanwhile, our Daffodils are really getting into their stride.
Up here, in the farthest north, we do have a great many cultivated Daffodils, these are immediately identifiable by their good manners and their erudite conversation. We also have a considerable number of their wild cousins. Most of these are no great threat to life and limb – but, never-the-less, it is best to treat them with respect and circumspection.
Some though, thankfully only a small minority, are really wild. No one has ever been able to get close enough to them to ascertain the root cause of their unrepressed anger and so, like the specimens in today’s photo, we just keep them caged up.
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No International Women’s Day would be complete without a mention of Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess. Not only was she Lesbian from the island of Lesbos, but what little we know about her suggests that she was lesbian in the LGBT sense, too.
She was what we would, today, call a singer/songwriter – and a superstar to boot. Her fame spread wherever there was Greek influence and her contemporaries referred to her as the Golden Voiced Goddess.
In 1927, a “scandalous” theatre production suggested that one of the female leads had a lesbian lover – who sent her posies of violets. It was raided by the police and closed down immediately. The idea caught on however, and for some years afterwards a woman wore a posy of violets when she wanted to show she was in a sapphic relationship – that she had female lover.
The Ancient Greeks loved their drama – I’m sure they would have approved.
We had heavy rain during the night, so we set off down the road towards the bridge over the beck – we wondered how he’d coped with the downpour.
Making our way in that direction, we became aware of birdsong from the hedge on our left. We’d noticed a small brown bird flitting in and out of the leafless branches so, with the help of the chirping, we were reasonably sure where our songster was. But, search as we might we could not pinpoint the location of the sound, nor could we see anything that looked like a bird anywhere in amongst the branches.
We took one further step and a small brown bird flew out not six feet from us. He had been right under our noses, but his brown feathers in the brown of the bare branches had been perfect camouflage.
It was a dunnock, he (or she) of the strange social arrangements.
Depending on the food supply their inter-gender relationship can vary from one to one (male – female), to one female to any number of males or one male to any number of females. DNA tests on dunnock chicks from the same nest often find that they each have a different father.
And we humans thought we invented that.