Waiting for spring

The sun has been shining for the past couple of days, but it is still very cold. The equinox has been and gone and British Summer Time is with us. We have the light but not the warmth; this spring is too long coming.

Daughter and grandbabies have been here for a few days. Pictures here are from a walk after seeing them off on the train yesterday. I tried a new route out of the village, via a footpath which implausibly crosses the busy A17 and then over to Star Fen. The winter colouring is still beautiful – bare black branches against a duck-egg-blue sky – but we need more green, more life, more seeds sown and food growing.

Heading back to Heckington down Littleworth Drove, I passed the field where I saw some particularly fetching sheep in winter stubble on my last walk up here (see A walk on Star Fen). I felt sad, as I do listening to the lambs bleating from the dog field, reminded of all the sheep and lambs dead in snowdrifts on hill-farms around the country.

There has been some good coverage of the crisis facing British farmers (see this recent Observer article), but I can’t help feeling that farming stories in the mainstream papers often read like those on disasters happening to other people in a far off place. Yesterday the snowstorms and the dead lambs were front page news, being hailed as the worst disaster to hit hill farmers in 60 years; I have a slight sense of shock when I cannot find a single paragraph on them in this morning’s paper.

But in the meantime, the sun is out and along with farmers and gardeners all over the country I am crossing my fingers that it stays out. Spring: bring it on, please.

After the party

St. Paul’s was striking nine o’clock as I walked down from the Millennium Bridge after taking these photos, hands too cold to hold the iPad anymore; it made me think how much I like the church bells telling the time back in Heckington.

This same weekend last year the sun was shining for my birthday walk and lunch in London; this year, in the wintry weather, only three of us were hardy enough for a short walk.

Lovely friends and family all gone home now after lunch, chat and birthday cake lasting the afternoon. We ate the Spiced Salt Beef that I got the beef for from Bassingthorpe Beef (see A lumpy thing but mine own or At the farmers’ market). The recipe is in Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen, perhaps my most-used Elizabeth David cookbook – and her least well-known.

Guests today aged between two and eighty-one, but in the middle a number of my exact contemporaries; people I have known since early childhood or teens or student days, back when we were busy growing into ourselves; people I did all that talking with (see Grantchester reprise).

Very sweet to have these connections still, after so many years.

Along with pictures of St Paul’s and Millennium Bridge, in the gallery above, are the tower of Tate Modern and some of the many silver birches planted in front of it. I always think these look like the Hattifatteners in Finn Family Moomintroll, a favourite childhood book recently revisited.

Tap on the pictures to see bigger versions.

Jam tomorrow

Greengage tree

Or perhaps that should read, jam in a few years time…

I planted a plum tree and a greengage yesterday. The one in the picture is the plum, a variety called Czar which is early and supposed to be good for cold climates. The gage is called Ingalls Grimoldby Greengage, named after a Lincolnshire village called Grimoldby, near Louth, and William Ingall, who had a market garden there in the nineteenth century. He raised five varieties of apples there, along with the greengage. I had ruled out having greengages before I found this one, thinking that we are too far north. The helpful man at the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, from whom I bought the trees, told me that Lincolnshire was the furthest north they were generally grown, and Cambridgeshire the furthest north that they were grown commercially in the past.

I like the idea of keeping old varieties of fruit that were developed in my newly-adopted county.

I should have waited until the autumn when we’d had time to make a proper plan about fruit trees, but I didn’t. Oh well. Other fruit likely to be grown against fences – perhaps even an apricot one day, on the back, south-facing wall of the garage (see picture in Leeks past and present post).

I have been reading about Norse and Saxon place-names in the county, and England in general (of which more some other time). Grimoldby looks like a good Norse name; Heckington is squarely Saxon. For some reason things being Saxon gives me a sense of age and continuity while Viking names conjure up something wilder, more exotic, with a sea breeze and salty tang in it; a bit irrational, I know.