Archives for the month of: May, 2013

From inside my hood I hear muted rain on canopy leaves and watch reverentially, the wild white cherry blossom whirl into black mud.

I’m tuned into cherry blossom after living in Japan where blossom icons appear on weather forecasts and sat-navs. I was invited on arrival in Joetsu to join a group of professors in the park for hanami – blossom viewing, and anticipated a sacred experience. Among hundreds of other parties we spread a blue tarpaulin and a picnic under the trees and – got well and truly hammered. I glanced at the flowers now and again, glowing white and moony in the dark, I’m not sure anyone else did.

Cherry blossomA year later I sat beneath a cherry tree in Fukuoka radiant in new blossom, waiting for a boat to South Korea and beyond. I travelled home by ship and train and all the way across Europe, cherry trees were just coming into flower.

Here the first tree to flower is opposite the Co-op. It is ice-cream pink and blowsy, the petals race the pavement dust and it’s over before the rest have begun. Rob and I found one by the practice goal-posts, soft white and drifting. We ate bread and cheese underneath it and drank a bottle of cheap pink wine.

Last month in Shrewsbury market hall were wild garlic flowers in glasses on the tables. We didn’t buy the garlic pesto paninis; we’d been eating it for weeks in mash and sauce and scrambled eggs, and so chose cheese oozing croissants instead, with mugs of strong Ethiopian coffee.

GarlicBetween us and the stream and all up the opposite bank, the ramsons are rampant, rioting over the new flood shoved earth, pushing the boundaries of the woods, though they are shyer at the edges of the trees, and on the sumpy path I trod to the stream. The valley is pungent and sharp and hungry with the smell of garlic.

I read once that it was brought to Britain by Roman soldiers, that they would cure their cracked feet with cloves of Italian garlic squeezed between their toes which fell out as they marched. But I don’t know if it’s true; it’s abundant in Wales.

Rob lent me his old down jacket – the one Christian found in the dog shop. I wore it like a hug in the moon cold night and the frosty morning when my tent poles were painful to touch.

I camped on the common under Black Mountain, it was closely grazed by ponies and sheep and Welsh Black cows, trembling gold in the dawn. The air was cold in my lungs, and thin and bright enough to shimmer my soul.

towardsmonmouthIt was so early I had the view to myself; Hay Bluff saturated in blue mist to the west, and to the east the valleys dissolved and vanishing in and out of silvery clouds.

At the top, wind buffeted round the toughened tussock grass, the brown heather and the black mud. A black grouse hurtled into the air and larks rose when the wind dropped. Herefordshire hills were lying in tissue paper clouds, fifty shades of grey like whales in a silver sea, and distant tarns shone like bright coins.

It was fifteen miles or so along the ridge to Pandy; down there where the sun was hot, the grass green and the celandines gleaming.