March and April

These two months weather patterns have merged into one – one which could be described quite simply as miserable. A couple of days have escaped to be bright but I only remember two which were sunny AND warm, without a biting wind.

‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade’. (Charles Dickens).

I can see why a lot of small, furry animals hibernate until the underlying warmth of the ground stimulates their blood. Bloodstone is a symbol for March. Its ‘blood’ has remained heavy, dark and cold. I found myself yawning a lot and being able to nod off at the drop of a hat. The constant cold laid waste to my brain cells, extinguishing creative juices in the same way as the garden remained emphatically ‘dead’ in the relentless grip of winter. I looked in vain for buds on the apple tree and the grape vine. The olive looked sere and dry – springtime was obstinately absent. Maybe I should have left these shores for southern climes.

Barnes birds waiting for Springtime ...

Barnes birds waiting for Springtime …

One day, the sky was blue but it was the blue of glacier ice. On another day, the fragile blue of a wild bird’s egg.

Sunshine sparkling like ice across the Thames ...

Sunshine sparkling like ice across the Thames …

Low tide near Barnes Bridge ...

Low tide near Barnes Bridge …

Grey and uninspiring for the most part, cutting cold with sharp bursts of sun, followed by hailstorms, heavy rain or persistent drizzle and at the back of it all that chilling, raw damp, which gnaws relentlessly at your bones, making you weary. And because you hadn’t achieved a great deal, and were somehow unable to do so, it settled you inevitably into a deep, stultifying gloom.

Dodging the tentacles of the ‘noro virus’ we ran into the open maw of the ‘100 day cough’, with its grim attendants. However, we kept up a simulation of normality, keeping going with early nights, honey and lemon drinks, thumbing our wet noses at this rather repulsive and unwanted companion.

Some actual rather than virtual repulsive types knocked John off his bike in central London. Let’s hope the police will do something about it, even though the brain dead miscreants drove off. Plenty witnesses offered to help. I can’t help but feel that some people are ‘mal élevé’. But I won’t pontificate on that here. it would take up too much space.

This all cast a pall on daily life in general but meanwhile, refreshingly in hindsight, much was achieved. Tree cutters arrived, roof leaks were mended, the oven recovered with a new element installed, wrought iron gates replaced the rotten wooden ones, acupuncture was experimented with, magic insoles were offered by Mr. Catto (podiatrist), spring cleaning of rooms and visits to the tip inspired both highs and lows of mood. ‘Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Cold sunset in Barnes 2013

Cold sunset in Barnes 2013

Joy of meeting up with friends to see Manet and George Bellows at the Royal Academy, Lichtenstein at the Tate, an ascent of The Shard, Barocci at The National Gallery, Tudor Treasures at the V&A, Elizabeth Frink at ‘The Lighthouse’ in Woking and BBC 4 coming up trumps with programmes by Adam Nicolson on writing in the 17th century – ‘The Century that Wrote Itself’, Andrew Graham Dixon on ‘High Art in the Low Countries’ followed by the renovation of The Rijksmuseum, and an insightful hour on the art and genius of Joseph Mallord William Turner.

More insights into Pompeii and Herculaneum – and I mustn’t leave out Michael Portillo’s railway journeys all through Britain and Europe, holding his ‘Bradshaw’s’ guide close to his chest. This is a wonderful series of journeys by rail peppered with a fascinating miscellany of historical anecdotes. I thought I didn’t like Michael Portillo when he was an MP. I’ve completely changed my mind and it’s a good feeling to be able to do that.

Looking south from the Shard ...

Looking south from the Shard …

View from The Shard - HMS Belfast

View from The Shard – HMS Belfast

I’ve read two ‘Maigrets’ in French. ‘L’indicateur’ and ‘L’amie de Mme. Maigret’ since the beginning of the year. I enjoy Simenon’s writing. He keeps up the tension of a ‘whodunnit’, along with great descriptive powers and easy dialogue which draws you in almost as a player in the story. I could meet any of these characters in the street and recognise them. And I hope I retain some of the new vocabulary I’ve learned! I still keep sneezing, so I know my repulsive companion is still sticking to me like glue (urghh) but hope he is planning now to move on elsewhere. He has caused disruption and depression but not death.

The magnolia stellata is now sparkling with starry blooms, snowdrops are being followed by forget-me-nots and narcissi and there are buds appearing on the apple and grapevine. The 25th April saw a high in central London where you could walk without a coat. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. And a Canadian friend came to see us on the 19th of April, citing that they had had snow in Canada as recently as last week.

Walking upriver on a cold, wet, March day ...

Walking upriver on a cold, wet, March day …

I came upon this cigarette packet left on the river wall. ‘Smoking kills’ it announced. So would the river if you fell in today.

The shape of things to come ... ?

The shape of things to come … ?

Always worth waiting a while … just in case. ‘Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent’ – Felicia, in “Finishing Touches’ (1973)

I’ve definitely been ‘in the doldrums’ but I’m looking forward to May now!


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