Twittering. No, no - not that sort of Twittering, not the 140 character bletherings de nos jours, but the raucous chirruping of the birdies in the sycamore trees this morning. Perhaps because we are halfway to spring - Candlemas earlier this week marked the halfway point - they felt the urge to sing. This morning the assorted song birds, tits and finches were trilling their little hearts out in the tree tops. No rain, no frost, no snow or fog, just a clear, mild day when my hen feeding can be done hatless and with coat undone. Tra-la. I feel like singing too....
Thinking of Candlemass - from an unknown date in Christian history February 2nd was adopted as the festival of the Purification of the Virgin, coincidentally taking place at the same time as a Roman pagan festival of purification. The popular name of Candlemass derives from the practice of blessing and distributing candles which the Church of Rome dictated should take place on this day.
Golly, that sounds dry and dreary doesn't it? I'd like to see it as light coming into the world with the lengthening of days - we've all noticed how the evenings are getting lighter little by little haven't we? This delightful little poem by Herrick talks about getting rid of winters 'garnishings' in preparation for the brighter greens of spring:
Down with the rosemary and bays,Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly now upraiseThe greener box for show.
The holly hitherto did sway,Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter dayOr Easter's eve appear.
The youthful box, which now hath graceYour houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin',
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing in turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.'
Finally on Candlemass old country wisdom tells us that:
If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemass day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter's gave at Yule.'
If I remember rightly Tuesday was 'wet and foul' I therefore predict winter is over and done and we will have a barbecue summer. Ha! Don't all come after me with big sticks when it doesn't happen.
It's February again and the Young Farmers thoughts turn to The Drama Competition. Last year was Pantomime, the year before, Entertainment and this time it is Drama. We have a Very Serious Play which somehow they are managing to turn into farce. Bless 'em.
It is, as usual, like herding cats trying to get all the cast in one place at one time. Some of the group are naturally talented and others, though willing have all the aptitude of a cereal packet. I reflect that a Pollocks Toy Threatre with its cardboard players which were pushed on from the (cardboard) wings was marginally more expressive.
I have been given the job of 'lighting' - not an area in which I show much talent if I have to do more than flick a switch. From memory there is a lighting technician on hand at Whitchurch and all I need to do is nudge him on cue and he will do tricky things with spots, floods and ballasts.
Still, 5 days to go until they are on stage. There's time yet.
The remark that dare not speak its name:Overheard at the last meeting of our WI was a whispered conversation between two elderly deaf ladies and was so politically incorrect that I fear to post it in these self-righteous days. (Our talk was about a school in Kenya given by two local ladies who are raising money to provide the school with some of the things we take for granted - electricity, exercise books, latrines. The pupils were as bouncy and keen as pupils the world over; though their culture and colour are obvious differences - so you may get my drift.) My ears flapped.
The comment - an observation and a reply - was both accurate and witty and said without an ounce of prejudice. I'm convinced of that. It's just that one doesn't hear that sort of thing any more - except in a village hall in the shires - and it doesn't sit comfortably at all.
A Time to Sow:
My seeds have arrived and I am itching to get started - we have a frost-free greenhouse and some heated propagators so I think this afternoon onions, tomatoes and peppers will be sown.
Finally - Any day now the Glam. Ass. will announce that the birds are looking colourful - meaning presumably that they are looking their best with a view to attracting a mate. Now I always think that they look their best after the moult - which usually takes place in the summer so they have new and efficient plumage to take them over the winter. We beg to differ. Of birds and spring though I remember my brother Robert announcing with confidence that the birds got married on St Valentine's Day. I do hope that's true.