269In this blogposting…
*Voices Of Spring
*A Dirty Joke
Look before you leap…
VOICES OF SPRING
As rosy-fingered dawn creeps over our window-sills earlier and earlier, there’s now a noticeable spring in her step, isn’ there? And, after such a deplorable winter, I reckon we deserve the longer, warmer, sunnier days we’ve been having lately - and which we often anticipate knowing that we’re likely to be disappointed.
Not this Spring though. I’m told that the snowdrop display at Howick Hall this year was as good as it gets. So - another year, another opportunity I’ve missed of seeing one of Northumberland’s less trumpeted but most heart-stirring sights.
Despite being so diminutive and unassuming, snowdrops always give good value for money (as it were). Presented in great, white, woodland carpets, they are amongst the first flowers to uplift the wind-blown, slush-sodden soul. And they can last for weeks.
Which is, I guess, more than can be said of crocuses. Pretty though their multicoloured roadside rugs always are, they often seem to me to disappear by the time you make your return journey later the same day.
But the real harbingers of the year’s turn are, of course, the daffodils. Shameless hussies appearing like magic in gardens, along roadsides, in parks and woods. In small, friendly, reassuring clumps or in huge, open bankside drifts - big, bold, look-at-me flowers staring at you - looking you straight in the eye and challenging you to look away if you can.
And, of course, you can’t. Whatever colour a daffodil is (and I always fancy that they choose their shade themselves), from the palest, subtlest colour of clotted cream to joyful, glad-to-be-alive sunrise yellow, they almost hypnotise you with their perfection. To me at least, at this time of year, absolutely no other flower in no other colour would quite fit the bill. Daffodils are required. Wonderfully obligatory. They are necessary for Spring to be Spring.
By comparison, tulips merely follow on their coat-tails, trying to steal their glory. Tulips - for which the Dutch still harbour a deep and blameless fascination - brandish their multitude of colours and variety of shapes in the hope, I think, of outshining our native daffodil, and they very nearly succeed. In truth, the depth of their colours is astounding - you could drown in the flawless reds and purples. And seeing the almost mythical black tulip for the first time glues you to the spot.
But not all of Spring’s heralds are as bold or as obvious as crocuses, daffodils and tulips.
Every year, on my many journeys along the Felling by-pass and up and down the A19, I can’t help but break into a smile when I see the carpets of tiny, white flowers that adorn the central reservation in vast numbers. They look like a dusting of late snow.
Many years ago, I mentioned them on-air and asked if anyone knew what they were. A listener called Alan Savage called at once to tell me they were called ‘Danish scurvy-grass’ - a particularly inauspicious name for them, I thought. Not so, he countered. They’re ‘Danish’ because they are. They are salt-loving plants that grow in great profusion on Denmark’s coast and were originally carried here on the wheels of Danish juggernauts. They survive so well on our dual carriageways because of the high concentrations of salt they find there.
And why ‘scurvy-grass’? Because, for centuries, they were used by the Danish navy as a valuable source of vitamin C - to prevent scurvy, just as we used oranges and other citrus fruits.
So, on your next highway journey, say a quick ‘Goddag’ to any of these pretty little Viking flowers as you pass by - before they disappear again until next year.
As for now…
I’m waiting for the gorse to come into flower. In a couple of weeks, my journeys down the A19 will be through a tunnel, or at least an avenue, of gorse and broom. Their massed sprays of tiny yellow flowers, so unexpected on the thorny, tough bushes on which they appear, and growing wherever they can get an undisturbed foothold, mean that Summer isn’t far away...
Speaking of Alan Savage…
As a direct result of his call, I went to visit Alan in East Cramlington, where he was responsible for the Millennium Arboretum, an ambitious project to plant 2,000 different types of tree. At the time, it looked lovely, even though many of the trees were mere saplings.
He was even gracious enough to plant a rare type of oak-tree in my honour. It was at the western edge of the arboretum, near the A189 footbridge.
I wonder if the arboretum has survived the years. And I wonder if Alan’s still the tender-hearted tree-shepherd he was then.
Does anyone know?
A DIRTY JOKE
From the truly sublime to the mildly ridiculous now.
Someone who has asked to remain anonymous has recently sent me what he calls a ‘dirty joke’. Never having been married, I cannot vouch for how accurate the punch lines are.
Yes, there are two punch-lines.
‘A man and a woman who had never met before, but who were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping compartment on a trans-continental train.
Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over having to share the compartment, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly - he in the upper berth and she in the lower.
At 1am, the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying,..........
'Ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the cupboard to get me a second blanket? I’m awfully cold.'
'I have a better idea,' she replied. 'Just for tonight...... let's pretend that we're married.'
'Wow! That's a great idea!', he exclaimed.
'Good,' she replied...'Get your own f***ing blanket.'
After a moment of silence, he farted.
If you’re still reading this…
Our next AGM will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 27 April at Birkheads Nursery. To the uninitiated...the road to the nursery is just a few hundred yards south of the Tanfield Railway on the Sunniside to Stanley road.
Any mention of the royal wedding will be STRICTLY forbidden.
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