|Amelanchier in blossom|
The high thin whistle of returning swallows and martins swooping joyously in the sky is everywhere, it is definitely spring. Finally. It’s still none too warm and I haven’t taken tender plants, the lemon and olive trees and ferns out of the conservatory yet but no night frosts have been forecast for the next week and I might risk having Paul carry them outside when he comes on Monday. I usually do this in the middle of May although there is always a warning not to do anything rash before the end of this month. In these ‘Franklin’s Days’ beware late and destructive frosts, thunder and unreliable weather.
According to a Devon legend, the sharp frosts which sometimes occur at about this time are the revenge of one Franklin, a beer-brewer put out of business by competition from cider. He therefore vowed his soul to the devil in return for frosts on each of the three Franklin’s Days around May 21st hoping that these would kill the apple-blossom and ruin the cider crop.
It will also be time to strim swathes of spent daffodils before the beginning of June. So many plants die untidily, leaving a horrible mess for several weeks but as they need the dying foliage to replenish their stores of energy to produce next year’s flowers we must put up with the yellowing flattened carpets. Having lost old gardener I am in a bit of a pickle. There is no way I can do all of it myself, certainly not the really hard jobs like dealing with compost, with digging, pruning trees and shrubs. I have an area of nasty plum tree suckers. Old gardener cut down the tree last autumn but the suckers have spread and infested a large patch. I have no idea how to get rid of them. It’s a problem. If I can find someone to dig them up and maybe poison the remains I could level the area off, put in what is known hereabouts as a “water feature” (very fashionable, a kind of fountain with a built in pump which allows for the water to rise and fall and produces a pleasant sound) and use bark chip or gravel to cover the earth. There is a very beautiful acer in the same bed which I want to keep. A water feature would be just the thing to set it off.
I am gently forcing myself to meet people, for lunches at a cafe, supper at the pub, a movie being shown at the village hall, a coffee here and there, a friend popping in for an hour, a poetry reading evening, and so on. Very mild, non-threatening and non-tiring entertainment. I think it must be doing me good. Once Millie is gone I won’t have the automatic daily conversations with other dog walkers.
Talking of dog walkers: I was in the High Street the other day on my way to the surgery when I passed a man and a woman standing by a gate, gossiping. I said “good morning” as I was passing them. The man turned, said good morning back and then: “Ursula? It is Ursula, isn’t it? I didn’t recognise you without your dog.” I expect I shall have to get used to people do a double take. Having said that, a long time village acquaintance came down towards me as I was going up a steep lane the other day. Again I said good morning; she stopped, looked at me closely and said “I didn’t recognise you with your head down.” Hm, have I become a changeling? It is said that mortal children are often substituted for a changeling during May, perhaps that goes for some adults too?