Plant Blindness

This fascinating article from the BBC explores how important plants are and how most people don’t even see them.

In my experience children and young people are fascinated by plants if you take to the time and effort to talk to them and to show them what is all around them. From quirky names to folk stories, edibility, seed dispersal and smell, plants are endlessly fascinating as we all know; but we do have a duty to spend a little time with youngsters ( and the not so young!) to physically show them what amazing richness there is beyond the little world of our smart phones.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190425-plant-blindness-what-we-lose-with-nature-deficit-disorder

What ho!

Spring rain plumps the flowers, germinates the seeds and also brings out some very strange creatures to make the beast with two backs!
In the forest there are great deep ruts left by felled tree trunks. After sufficient rain they fill with water and the newts that have spent the winter in crevices and warm piles of leaves creep slowly out to find each other and to coldly embrace in their waters.
This photo was taken through the shallow water of such a local pool and the difference between the sexes is very obvious (the female is large, green and mottled). These are alpine newts, native to this part of Europe, but also found in the UK, where they were probably introduced by a PG Wodehouse inspired newt fancier.
I love their slow, waddle; their stocky inelegant bodies and their secretive, ephemeral lives. Just call me Gussie Finknottle!

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“A licking of his thumbs…”

On watching my cat reclining with such an expression of wicked indolence on his furry face, I was reminded of TS Elliot’s “ Macavity The Mystery Cat.” It is hard to think of the writer of the anguish of the twentieth century who created “The Waste Land“ in a whimsical mood, but it must have happened and this wonderful poem ( best read aloud) is the wonderful result.
Relish the word “suavity”, Elliot invented it!

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime —Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime —Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—
But it’s useless to investigate – Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
It must have been Macavity!’—but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place —MACAVITY WASN’T THERE !
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

Sit back and enjoy your dandelions!

It is so peacefully easy to do something for the bees. Just leave the mower in the shed and let all the dandelions flower! The lawn is bright yellow with sunburst flowers and the air is loud with the humm of bees, that are so covered in pollen they are almost as golden as the flowers.

Inaction is a much underrated art. We don’t have to be improving ourselves, tidying the garden, living “our best lives” ( what ever that improbability should be! ) often the best thing is delicious sloth, quiet, environmentally friendly inaction: just letting the garden go. I have managed such masterful lack of movement  that a  dandelion is now poking through the slats of the garden seat. The only danger to it will come when I sit on the bench for a peaceful cup of tea!

 

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Breaking free.

Spring is a liberation for the heart and the soul: the return of life is everywhere at this time of year.

On the path, a blackbird’s delicate egg shell speaks of something set free and in the air above, black caps cascade music against white clouds. At my feet, beneath the still bare trees, there are tiny white oxalis flowers, bruise blue lungworts, splatters of seven leaved cardamines and whole slopes of improbable violets, such as I have never seen in an April wood before.

There is herb Paris and wild strawberries, sweet woodruff and dogs’ mercury, oxslips and celandine, lords and ladies and bachelors’ buttons and more and more and more pushing up from the moist earth under a confetti of wild cherry petals; all for this apparently inauspicious, inelegantly sounding, miraculous year of 2019!

Complicated.

The world is very simple and very complicated. Every breath we take is a  marvel and the memory of some music that we still hear.

This morning is snowing. White flakes are mixing with the falling petals of the plum tree. The cat is outraged and runs in and out of the kitchen, snow flakes melting on his dark warm fur, mewling for explanation.

I am reading about my home city of Liverpool and its role in the slave trade, that leaves its echos in the street names and in its faded riches. One of the sea men who worked on the terrible ships trading human beings for money  was John Newton, who was infamous for his profanity and disrespect, which was so intolerable that he himself was left by his captain in West Africa and was enslaved before being rescued by his family.  This man finally understood the horror in which he had been complict and became a clergyman in England. He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, which has been sung in churches, fields and homes ever since, encompassing in such moving words and music how human life can move from darkness into light.

 

I was sent on my trail back to Liverpool by a wonderful book that I have just finished called John and Elvis by Mathew Langford.

The John is John Lennon and the Elvis needs no explanation.  It was so readable that I devoured it in a couple of days. The plot is an imagative interweaving  of their respective biographies, that echos with their music and the places that they inhabited and the need for us all to make some sense of this extraordinary, contradictory, amazing world.  I recommend it, as the snow falls on the cherry trees and my snow flake cat looks out on the garden with existential confusion .

 

 

 

Thermogenesis

Spring snow is always such a shock. Just when we are getting used to sunshine a  front sweeps in and brings wet cold, cold snow.

Thankfully it is short lived and most plants are little the worse for it. Some plants even seem to shrug off the snow before the thaw begins and they are the ones that catch my eye. The photo is of daisy flowers closed shut, but quite free of the just fallen snow. The only explanation can be that they produce their own heat that actually melts the surrounding snow. They are not alone: tulips, cabbages and winter wheat and many other plants are capable of  making heat to protect themselves from frost and snow. This phenomenon has been well studied in a few  plants world wide, but it is a remarkable ability that is shared by so many plants, which we only get to actually appreciate and recognise after pesky, shocking spring snow!