Will Flowers Be In Place At The Start Of The Season?

Some Big Questions to be answered in Big Cricket when the new season starts.  Should Flower stay – or should he go?  Should KP go – or should he stay?  Should Cook … well you get the idea, and you probably have some answers.

But, noticing today that the cherry blossom is already in bloom around the bowling green


and catching a glimpse of the scoreless but sunlit scoreboard at Fairfield Road through a gap in the hedge


some other questions occur to me.

Will the mild Winter mean that the sycamores and silver birches at Grace Road will be in leaf (unusually) for the start of the Season?  Will the daffodils in the beds in front of the Pavilion be in bloom?  Will there be a fine sheen of pollen on the outfield at Fairfield Road?

And I find I care far more about the second set of questions than the first.

The Violets Raise Their Heads Without Affright : March, by Helen Hunt Jackson

Time for Helen Hunt Jackson’s monthly forecast – she continues her classical theme from February.  As you will see, she mentions that, in March, “the violets raise their heads without affright”, and here are what I believe are violet crocuses doing something similar around the edges of the Little Bowden Rec..




Month which the warring ancients strangely styled
The month of war,–as if in their fierce ways
Were any month of peace!–in thy rough days
I find no war in Nature, though the wild
Winds clash and clang, and broken boughs are piled
At feet of writhing trees. The violets raise
Their heads without affright, without amaze,
And sleep through all the din, as sleeps a child.
And he who watches well may well discern
Sweet expectation in each living thing.
Like pregnant mother the sweet earth doth yearn;
In secret joy makes ready for the spring;
And hidden, sacred, in her breast doth bear
Annunciation lilies for the year.


Mars, God of War, also, of course, shares his name with the popular brand of confectionary that enables us to Work, Rest and Play.  Here is Mars (on the right of the picture), as depicted by Sandro Botticelli in a painting on show in the National Gallery in London.  He appears to be having a Rest, though whether he has previously been Working or Playing we do not know.  My guess would be Playing.



The Treacherous Month : November, by Helen Hunt Jackson

A week into November, and I realise we haven’t yet heard from Helen Hunt Jackson.  No, she’s not on strike.  An extreme example of the Pathetic Fallacy in action, this one, and, I feel, one of her stronger efforts.



This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster* lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning’s rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet’s day of pain?


I was about to say that there were no signs of Spring flowers yet in my garden, but then a closer look revealed the tips of the first daffodils (trust me – that is what they are).

First daffodils of Spring 2011


*Roughly what we would call Michaelmas Daisies, I think.

With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming : Virginia Astley

A desperately lazy weekend, I’m afraid, or rather, as it isn’t really the weekend’s fault, but mine, a desperately lazy blogger. 

But still, to prevent this becoming the first weekend when I’ve failed to post anything at all, here is a snap of the Brampton Valley Way in mid-July.  The wild roses have all but gone, the sloes and berries are still in their infancy, but these flowers (and I wish I knew what they were called) are in full bloom.  If you look very closely you may be able to see bees and butterflies and (just out of view) some of the squadron of swifts that were putting on an astonishing display of aerobatics overhead.


And for anyone who happens to be listening in overseas and would like to be reminded of how an English Summer’s day feels, may I recommend the following selection from the LP From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, by Miss Virginia Astley, from 1983.  This album sometimes feels like it’s barely music at all, more a simulation of what it would be like to lie in bed through the progress of a Summer’s day with younger sisters practising the piano (and oboe) in the room below. 

This track – the album follows the progress of the day from waking to sleeping – is the first, and is entitled With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming:

Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost

Time, I think,  for another snap of my garden – this time the back yard.  One sense the internet isn’t very good at satisfying yet is that of smell – if Mr. Jobs could devise an Application that could reproduce the scent of these blooms at the prod of a button I’d consider saving up for one of his iPhones, though that would, in truth, take me a very long time.  


June Roses

Seaching for a poem to go with them, I discover that there is fairly general agreement among the poets on the subject of roses.  They are not long (the days of wine and roses), they (the buds in particular) need to be gathered while we may, they are generally very prone to canker and worms (invisble or otherwise) and deliquesce too quickly.  They do, though, have the advantage that they and their perfume linger long in the memory.  All true, and all handy tips for the amateur gardener.  The largest blooms here were buds only a week ago, and the oldest have already had their time on earth.

This one is by Robert Frost, and contains a tip of the hat to my old favourite (and rose-specialist) Robert Herrick.  My house isn’t quite as untidy as the one in the poem.

Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master,
With doors that none but the wind ever closes,
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster;
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses.

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary;
‘I wonder,’ I say, ‘who the owner of those is.’
‘Oh, no one you know,’ she answers me airy,
‘But one we must ask if we want any roses.’

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly
There in the hush of the wood that reposes,
And turn and go up to the open door boldly,
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses.

‘Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you?’
‘Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses.
‘Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you!
‘Tis summer again; there’s two come for roses.

‘A word with you, that of the singer recalling–
Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is
A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.’

We do not loosen our hands’ intertwining
(Not caring so very much what she supposes),
There when she comes on us mistily shining
And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.


Other men’s flowers : the Lent Lily, by A.E. Housman

As usual at this time of year, your correspondent is enduring a vexatious time at work, and can only proffer another small bunch of other men’s flowers.  In this case the flowers are lent lilies (or daffodils) and the poet A.E. Housman. 

I always very much want to like Housman‘s poems and usually succeed when I read them individually.  Read too many of them at once and the consistency of feeling and style topples over into self parody (and Housman must have been as often parodied as any poet).  He seems to have discovered an attitude (I won’t say a pose) that he (oddly) found comfortable early in life – life is brief, love is fleeting, flowers die – and never seems to have made much effort, either in life or in his verse, to risk the confusion of emotional engagements that might have disturbed this equilibrium.  At least, in this one, it’s only the daffodils that die – in A Shropshire Lad the body count must rival The Terminator.

He was also (according to Frank Kermode*) a very fastidious bachelor, who refused to allow his neighbour Ludwig Wittgenstein to use his private lavatory – though whether this is significant in some way I can’t say.

If my lent lilies are planning to die on Easter Day, by the way, they’d better get a move on and bloom.


 The Lent Lily

by A.E. Housman


‘Tis spring; come out to ramble

The hilly brakes around,

For under thorn and bramble

About the hollow ground

The primroses are found.


And here’s the windflower chilly

With all the winds at play,

And there’s the Lenten lily

That has not long to stay

And dies on Easter day.


And since till girls go maying

You find the primose still,

And find the windflower playing

With every wind at will,

But not the daffodil,


Bring baskets now, and sally

Upon the spring’s array,

And bear from hill and valley

The daffodil away

That dies on Easter day.



Some Lent Lilies yesterday, not in my back yard

*Nothing for ever and ever

Rockery nook

Spotted from the top deck of the X3 from Harborough to Leicester yesterday that someone has planted what looks like a rockery on top of the bus shelter outside the Chip Inn.  If I’d had the presence of mind – not to mention a digital camera – I could have taken a snap and posted it on here as proof, but as I didn’t you’ll have to take my word for it.

Rather charmed by this, although the utilitarian* mind might- as it can only be seen by those on the top deck of a bus, or on stilts, or – I suppose – from the upper floors of surrounding buildings –  dispute it as a worthwhile use of scarce resources.

Is this the only example of this in Harborough, I wonder?  Perhaps they are everywhere, just previously unnoticed by me.  

* I use the term loosely, and probably inaccurately.