Virginia Barton

15 January 2014: A day in mid-January


15 January 2014


Possibly because of a snorting cold in the head, or possibly because who knows, it could be the last time; packing up Christmas was put off until the dust on the tables and shelves could be seen drifting into little runnels every time there was a draught. Eventually the job had to be done. Cards bagged for re-cycling with the Woodland Trust, and the minimal decorations stowed in a little box.

ImageHappily there were enough fresh flowers to fill in the gaps: a rainbow of tulips, a stiff-standing frilly cyclamen, and a ducky little posy of tiny blue iris. These last brought out a nasty covetous streak in me. Tall stately ones we have; some browny yellow, others bluey purple. But not these delicate January bloomers, Unguicularis Marondera.

I say “we have” but, actually, the garden where we live belongs to the complex of flats, nearly a hundred of them. There are a dozen or so ground floor apartments such as ours, where we happy few have small terraces, or patios as some call them, just large enough for two chairs, a totty table, and a few pots. The clever ones have miniscule sheds and a bird table. But the surrounding flower-beds may be added to by residents keen to enhance the look of the place – with permission. It is there that as many as possible Unguicularis Marondera will be planted, if I have my way.


A team of green-clad striplings maintain the gardens once a week: mowing, trimming, pruning, and vacuuming (yes, vacuuming) anything that moves – dead leaves, litter, feathers, and such like. It’s not up to them to check the rat boxes – a Special Man does that – possibly at dead of night since I’ve never seen him in three years although I have seen a rat.

Olivier-and-Oberon-in-Wuthering-HeightsAs one who hales from the North where nature roars loose and random, and where the wind scoffs at efforts to tie-back, tie-up, or restrain by any means (think Wuthering), the ways of Southern England are lip-curlingly scorned by us Borderers. Surrey suffocates, Berkshire bores; Middlesex is unspeakable and dear old Oxfordshire plain ugly. (You watch it Virginia, your slanders will catch up with you one day and you will have to eat your words.)

One sometimes feels that the only place one can breathe is north of Preston.

I was going to bang on about air pollution, but you will be glad to see that I have changed my mind.


Canada and the USA have been chilled to the marrow of late. A young English chum, his wife, and tiny babe whistled off to Los Angeles to get warm.

We haven’t had a really cold snap here yet, but rain has bucketed, streamed, stair-rodded, and poured. Poor souls are still pumping out their houses and counting the cost. One friend is wading for the fourth year through her kitchen to salvage what she can. She says the whole house is damp and reeks of wetness. Her indomitable spirit and supportive family see her through, but I think I’d have done a runner. Old Father Thames may keep rolling along, but preferably not through my property.


ijasmie001p4Definite signs of spring, though, to cheer the heart, unless like some types the spring sets the nerves a-jangle and upsets the digestion (a passing nod at BH). It’s lighter in the mornings. The small sword-like snowdrops thrusts cheekily through dead leaves and brown earth.

Robins, blackbirds, tits, and wrens are everywhere and noisy with it. Winter jasmine clothes a nearby fence and viola are perky. The camellia buds are swollen fit to burst.

Take another look at Gerard Manley Hopkins — he says it all so much better than I can.






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