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March 2012

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Mary Davies contemplates the weather

A mild winter takes some of the excitement from the start of spring: there is less of the sense of joyous renewal that comes with the first benign days that follow long cold dreary months. When once I lived at a high altitude, long before I had a cottage in the mountains, there was a marked sense of change from one season to another with the sight of the daisies and celandines putting out their first flowers in the still-wintry grass. In Wicklow, because I lived close to sea level during the week, spring had already arrived on the lowlands before it reached the mountains. But hunting in the long grass for the first tips of the daffodil shoots was a seasonal weekend pleasure. There were little wild crocus from eastern Europe with their delicate violet-blue flowers to brighten the front border just as the snowdrops faded. And primroses at the roadside were a reminder that the woods there would soon be vivid with bluebells. 

The arrival of spring becomes even more of an anti-climax in years when the mild winter weather is followed by a spell of hard frosts. This year, for a few days in February, the dog and I took our morning walk over ground frozen hard, avoiding ice-encrusted puddles in the grass, the new bright-green tips of the wild arums in the woodland contrasting with their setting of hoar frost. At times the only life among the trees was the frantic activity of one of the new residents, the grey squirrels, as it climbed high above our heads to disappear into the ivy or hastily balanced on flimsy branches to reach the further trees. However unwelcome, it is hard to dislike such engaging creatures and their presence does add entertainment to our route.

One of the advantages of living close to the city, though, is that the spring-flowering trees are such a splendid sight. Starting now with scatterings of delicate blooms across bare branches, the season will soon advance to the annual spreads of double pink cherries arching over suburban pavements and casting their thick carpets of fallen petals. The sight of these is a pleasure to come as the days warm. And March's great event, St Patrick's Day, conveniently marks one of the turns of the year. As one translation from the Irish has it: ‘St Patrick's Day of the wonders/that saps the severity from the cold stone/A nest is in each wood/A fish in every pond/A heifer calf in each milking stall in Ireland.

 

 

 

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