The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Tra La..

I have just returned from an unexpected trip to England and blearily reviewing it a day after my return the images that remain have been those of the flowers that bloom in the spring.

When I left, the trees were blossoming here.

The llama del bosque

flamboyant tree llama del bosque

The roble

roble

The cortez Amarillo

cortez amarillo

On arrival in England the roadsides were covered in gorse in full flower – though its coconut scent was dulled by the chill – while  swathes of Spanish bluebells were taking over  from  tulips in the suburban gardens. Trees displayed that freshness of leaf undulled by the summer heat to come, the structure of their branches still visible under the sheen of green and, to my surprise, the horse chestnuts were coming into flower in the London parks where clouds of blossom were cast into relief against the Cambridge blue skies.

 

hyde park in spring

I remembered then Browning’s ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’..

OH, to be in England now that April ’s there
And whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough         5
In England—now!
II

And after April, when May follows

And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover         10
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That ’s the wise thrush: he sings each song twice over
Lest you should think he never could re-capture
The first fine careless rapture!
And, though the fields look rough with hoary dew,         15
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower,
Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

There spoke the exile in his Florentine retreat – though goodness only knows what he found to be gaudy in the flower of the melon, that most unpromising  harbinger of sweet delight.

I was happy to see England in the springtime again, but cannot feel the regrets of an exile. I was privileged to have grown up with it, to have known it, shall never forget it, but cannot say that I hanker for it, any more than I hanker for England itself.

There were other flowers in evidence during my trip: those laid by people in memory of the policeman murdered at the gates to the Houses of Parliament.

Poor devil: he died, as have so many of his colleagues before, at the hands of a deranged person while doing his duty – in his case, guarding an entrance whose gates had to be left open to permit ministers to be driven to the Commons in time to cast their votes in a division.

Perish the thought that a minister should wait for an instant at a gate closed in the interests of the security of all those working in the Palace of Westminster.

They might be shot at if kept waiting? Good. The world would be a safer place if ministers were forbidden to have protection. Might give them pause for thought before putting the rest of us in peril and I suspect that – to paraphrase another song from ‘The Mikado’ – they’d none of them be missed.

In the aftermath of P.C. Palmer’s death we had the politicians braying that ‘terrorism’ had not succeeded in bringing down British democracy….

Of course terrorism hadn’t brought it down: the same politicians and their ilk had already done for it with their slavish adherence to the dogma of ‘public bad, private good’ when it came to principles of government, with the gerrymanderings of the Boundaries Commission, with their interests (paying) outside the House.

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

Currently, like Ko-Ko in the second verse, there are plenty of people whose attitude to the flowers that bloom in the spring is to say that they have nothing to do with the case.

The Prime Minister has called a snap election, putting her trust in the British media to depict her as a female Moses who will bring her country to the promised land…..the land promised to private enterprise, where access to health care and education will depend on the ability to pay for it; where those thrown out of work will be demonised; where those too ill to seek work will be driven to suicide.

Given her proven ability to change tack while at the Home Office I imagine that once she has gained victory the new Moses will reveal herself to be Aaron, presenting the golden calf  for public worship.

I cannot fathom people….more and more of them are living with the effects of unemployment and the resulting lack of tax revenues to fund proper services and yet the turkeys still vote for Christmas at the bidding of the butcher.

Flowers in France too, for the policeman killed on the Champs Elysees as the country goes to the polls in round one of the Presidential election.

The outgoing President Penguin congratulates himself on his record…yes, well done, thou good and faithful servant of thyself. As first secretary of the Socialist Party you sabotaged the campaign of that party’s candidate (and the mother of four of your kids), Segolene Royale, to gain the presidency and now as President you have sabotaged your entire party and given your support to the bankers’ candidate, Macron, whose chief claim to expertise in economic management seems to lie in having transformed the millions he made while working at Rothschilds bank into wallpaper for his flat.

Panic in the dovecotes at the thought of Marine Le Pen gaining power or, probably worse for the powers that be, Jean-Luc Melenchon  who said of the press reaction to his growing presence in the polls:

“Once again, they are announcing that my election win will set off a nuclear winter, a plague of frogs, Red Army tanks and a landing of Venezuelans,”

Roughly the sort of thing that the British press says about Jeremy Corbyn.

One thing is sure…if the British vote for May and the French for Macron then both countries can forget the years of social justice…..the golden calf will be a full sized Minotaur before they can blink and the hopes of themselves and their children will feed its maw.

Thoroughly depressed I set off on my return….U.K. to Costa Rica via the Netherlands and Canada. Yes, I know….but Scots blood will out: the fare was less than half that of the direct flight.

A change of flight time at the last minute left me with an overnight at Amsterdam Schipol, guarding my luggage like a broody hen its egg as the check in would not open until morning.

It was a salutary reminder of how nice people are: a young woman offered me one of her biscuits and accepted a cucumber sandwich in return; an armed policeman looked after our bags while we went to the loo and the gentleman at the coffee stall brought our drinks over to us to save us  from moving our mound of cases.

And then the flowers that bloom in the spring reappeared. As the dawn broke, the tulips in the tubs outside the Departure area began to glow with what looked like an internal light…strange, other worldly and utterly beautiful.

A good note on which to leave Europe….a reminder that while all seems dark there is yet hope.

And to greet me on my return….sitting on my desk….this little orchid. A true welcome home.

IMG_20170421_150525

 

 

Continue reading “The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Tra La..”

On the hoof again…

airport queues

Things have been somewhat eventful here lately: Leo has been diagnosed with COPD – as if he didn’t have enough medical problems to fill a doctor’s waiting room to overflowing as it is – and we have been clearing up after Saturday’s hurricane which took the tops from a fair number of trees but which left house and livestock sheds undamaged.

The last remnant of the storm appeared today: a highly indignant crab found on the balcony, menacing the poodle with its distinctly large nippers.

Crab removed with tongs to the stream, poodle comforted with biscuits and the two big dogs awarded biscuits as well, as they have decided that they were traumatised by the hurricane (which they spent tucked up on our bed) and are being needy. Black Tot has just helped herself to biscuits…nothing disturbs Black Tot, but she never misses a biscuit opportunity either.

I am cooking for the freezer, as I am off to England shortly for mother’s one hundredth birthday bash….and between arrangements for here and for there I really do not know whether I am coming, going, or been.

First of all, mother had thought to celebrate her birthday at the house in Spain – with her friends, known to me as the Naughty Nineties. Needless to  say, the logistics had been my problem.

The mere idea of transporting them to the end of the road without the assistance of sheepdogs and cattle goads is enough to give me the heebie jeebies…but to  Spain?

Ryanair, who run planes to the new airport at Castellon half an hour from the house , were helpfulness itself. I could get all the wheelchairs and zimmer frames aboard without problem….

However, getting the Naughty Nineties to Stansted airport was another matter.

National Express coaches could not take all of them on one coach…which would mean half the party lost in the loos at Victoria Coach Station while awaiting the stragglers and the process being repeated at Stansted airport….though there again the airport was helpful: staff were available to deal with people needing assistance.

The train? Forget it……crossing London on the Tube with the Naughty Nineties was out of the question.

A taxi? The only thing on offer was a stretch limousine used for hen parties….which mother turned down on the grounds of moral turpitude. Goodness only knows what you might catch…

So Plan A was abandoned…much to my relief as I could see that once in Spain I would have been doing the cooking for a group whose dietary requirements would have been stringent on the home front  – All Bran to open the bowels, hard boiled eggs to stop them up again, plenty of beans to provide musical accompaniment – while going the whole hog in the caffs…requiring Alka Selzter and Milk of Magnesia on the industrial scale once back at the house.

Further, that week would have coincided with a village fiesta where bulls run loose in the streets: you look left, look right and look left again before you leave the supermarket in case something taurine has you in its sights.

I suspect that the bookies would have their money on the Naughty Nineties and their zimmer frames but the whole thing seemed fraught with undiplomatic possibilities….

So mother is going to Winchester for her birthday, where she she served in the army in World War II: where she met David Niven: where she was taught to fire a rifle and to throw a molotov cocktail into  the turret of a German tank: where she adopted the phrase of the sergeant instructors…’take one with you’. …and where she learned the words of and actions to ‘The Spaniard who blighted my life’.

She is also…and the Guildhall have been warned…seeking the visitors book entry in which she and the girls who served with her signed their names together with that of the young American serviceman who was adopted as a brother, taken home to what hospitality their families could offer… and who disappeared off the radar after June 1944…

From the practical point of view, Winchester being as hilly as it is, I’ll order a taxi to the heights where the barracks which she knew have been perverted into luxury flats…long gone the days when Sir John Moore,  master of the light infantry once based there, inveighed against the promiscuity of crowded lodgings…but where once these conditions were imposed on the soldiery in these days the well heeled bustle to live cheek by jowl.

peninsular barracks

Thence we can visit Oliver Cromwell’s Battery to see the house in which she was billeted on an elderly lady who had an art when it came to using mother’s rations to feed both of them – pass the castle with the Round Table then out through the city, past the cathedral to the monastery of St.Cross, where bread and beer are still served to those who declare themselves as pilgrims…

By that time I’ll need both as we shall then be wending our way back to the cathedral to admire the memorial to the diver whose contribution was vital to the restoration of the building.

And what will the Naughty Nineties be doing?

Preparing a party for mother on her return.

I prefer not to think how they will blow up the balloons….