Wednesday, 25 May 2016


A spring week in Normandy - a first for me, having always been in high summer. Apple blossom and flower-rich pasture in abundance. An ever present cuckoo, living up to the oldest English song, heralding summer.  A dawn chorus of epic proportions. Miles of spotted orchids clustered in the hedgerow banks all around; maybe less pesticide use, maybe just less intensive use of land?

And on the bookshelves of our gite, this old friend.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Early summer rain and hodmandods.

Raining today but really warm. Sitting at football in a T-shirt but trying to sketch an armadillo skeleton for my book plans whilst avoiding heavy raindrops. The badger set still is still enticing me, in the woods on the walk along the lane, but I have yet to see the badgers that my son saw a couple of weeks ago and I plan to stake out the set one evening next week to try to get some photographs. The wet warm weather has bought out the snails, there are gangs of them (* collective noun for snails - a 'slime' 'shell' ?) in the gardens on School hill, writhing groups all enjoying the security of the wet leaves, cloudy sky and humid air - still evolutionarily linked to the water of the distant sea from where these now earthbound molluscs once crawled. They are actually very beautiful and, even in large groups, surprisingly invisible with their mottled shells and careful considered movements. As a boy I used to collect them, no surprise there, and the smell of damp leaves or lettuce still reminds me of my buckets of snails in the shed. They frequently escaped, as did my cockroaches, and I recall the trouble caused at my father's work in hospital when they got out in his office having been bought in for me by his secretary.

Though not a cow I have horns;
Though not an ass I carry a pack-saddle;
And wherever I go I leave silver behind me.
The answer, in a curious little southern English dialect word, sadly long since defunct, is hodmandod

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cowslips and swifts in the westcountry.

Plants bursting up everywhere with the sunshine and heavy rain showers. The wonderful roadside meadows on Street Hill are covered in Cowslips, (Primula veris), and primroses (Primula vulgaris) - I hadn't previosuly realised that they were closely related. I saw the first swift on Thursday night at 7.30pm above the field where we were raising a marquee in Catcott and there suddenly are cuckoo-pints everywhere in the hedgerows.


Wikipedia - Arum maculatum is a common woodland plant species of the Araceae family and is known by an abundance of common names including snakesheadadder's rootarumwild arum,arum lilylords-and-ladiesdevils and angelscows and bullscuckoo-pintAdam and Evebobbinsnaked girlsnaked boysstarch-rootwake robin, friar's cowl and jack in the pulpit. The name "lords-and-ladies" and other gender related names refer to the plant's likeness to male and female genitalia symbolising copulation.