Spring in the countryside is a wonder – but it is tinged with sadness | Emma Beddington
Last spring, I finally moved out of town. That makes it sound like I gave in after decades of edgy murder-mile living, rivers of piss, my children playing with syringes. I did a tiny bit of that back when you could still see blowjobs and drug deals from the window of my east London flat and not men in ironic Deirdre Barlow glasses selling rare succulents for £700, but mainly I lived in a quiet corner of Brussels. When I moved back to the UK, it was to a provincial city centre where I complained constantly, like those idiots who pay millions to live in Soho, then decide they don’t like the noise of people having fun.
So after a year enveloped in the blessed peace of the outer suburbs, what have I learned? Well, after a lifetime of aching for the first frost, fetishising boots and boring on about hygge, I admit it- I was wrong about winter. It turns out that when you move somewhere with no insulation as an energy crisis starts to bite, no amount of woodsmoke-scented candles and hot chocolate will keep you cosy. When people recommend turning your thermostat down a degree, I laugh, my breath dancing spirals in the morgue-cold air- the modest number on ours is a mad aspiration, like me saying I’ll do a 7am yoga class. Getting out of bed (two duvets, blanket, electric blanket, flattened and grilled like a human panini) requires superhuman effort- I put my clothes on top of my pyjamas, so no skin is ever exposed, mummying myself in so many layers my arms stick out like a toddler in a padded snowsuit. It’s very sexy.
The upside to this is the way the seasons mean more. We are all, surely, familiar with that profoundly true graphic describing them- winter, fool’s spring, second winter, spring of deception, third winter (‘spring of personal betrayal’ a SAD-suffering friend adds). Now, even in the snatches of fool’s spring, a suggestion of sun between bruise-coloured clouds, I press my pasty face against the window like the ghost of a Victorian orphan, hungry to see nature slowly coming back to life.
Apologies if this bit becomes an idiot’s nature diary. In my former life, I was always basically pro-flora, except in hayfever season (that’s the one after ‘third winter’) and extremely pro-fauna, entertained by gulls, foxes, even, grudgingly, the rat that clung to my urban bird feeder with its determined little pink toes. Now, though, I’m perennially astonished and delighted by the evolving spectacle a little bit of wildness offers.
I’m no gardener – the neighbours wince when they look over the wall – so I’m late to the fizzing, extraordinary anticipation that comes from every bud, every pale spike poking through hard earth and every pollen-dusted catkin. I get it now. Then there are the birds, my God, the birds. I didn’t realise spring had a playlist until I moved here- every day it’s earlier and richer, a raucous polyphony of seduction, aggression and the simple fact of being alive. Watching them is even better- like a superior Pokémon Go, the thrill of spotting something a bit different- lollipop-shaped, long-tailed tits, surely designed in some Pixar cuteness lab.
But even the regulars are spectacular. The resident sparrows brawl, shag and shout like nightmare neighbours from a Channel 5 show. Starlings drop by in gangs, cocky and peacock-iridescent, with an eery, almost-electrical, click and whistle. A magpie keeps trying to carry a far-too-big branch up a tree, like an over-ambitious Labrador- how am I supposed to work when I can watch that?
The blackbirds are best. I put seeds on my windowsill and multiple times a day I look up, watch a blackbird’s undulating flight towards me, feel the satisfying feathery whump as it lands and the thrill of getting checked out by a yellow-ringed eye. Walking the neighbourhood later on, when the sky gets that deeper blue or pink tinge, they sing on every fence and gatepost now, and in some primal part of me, I know it means spring – the real one – is coming. My heart lifts like it’s filled with helium.
I’m happy, I suppose. I didn’t imagine happiness could be so easy and so close- a furred magnolia bud and a song at dusk between the MOT garage and the Spar. I hope it’s OK to say that. It’s hard to know what to do with happiness at the moment, when spring is unfurling east of here, too – flowers blooming, lambs being born – and two million people are missing their bulbs coming up, or the tree they like down the street blossoming. When it’s the backdrop to outrageous suffering.
Poetry sometimes helps- William Carlos Williams’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is good on that dissonance of pain while the world goes about its perennial business. It was spring, it goes, ‘the whole pageantry of the year was awake tingling with itself’.
But I don’t believe happiness makes you indifferent. It makes you aware of what it might be to lose a home, birdsong, the simple animal joy of being alive. Spring.
Follow Emma on Twitter @BelgianWaffling
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
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