O to be in England!

Sunny skies over the land of the Angles

Robert Browning’s famous poem ‘Home thoughts from Abroad’ celebrates the glorious English spring as recalled by a  homesick traveller. After our wettest April on record followed swiftly by the coldest May on record, the last few days of sunshine have been most especially welcome and precious. There is indeed nothing quite so fragile or beautiful as an English spring. And while our small, cloudy and unsettled island generally makes me want to emigrate at least for six months of the year and is a source of intense frustration and exasperation, this past few days have been lovely indeed.

The English country lanes are lined with hedgerows thick with white and fragrant May blossom.

A hedgerow of May blossom



Is it time to get up yet?

The fields are full of buttercups and baby animals who don’t realise they’ll be burgers before the year is out.
 Rapeseed flowers create an intense mass of yellow which is almost un-natural in its Andy Warhol luminosity. Farmers are growing 10 per cent more rapeseed this summer as global demand for oil seeds, particularly for use in cooking, has increased. Rapeseed is a bright yellow flowering member of the mustard and cabbage family and its oil was originally used to lubricate steam engines. Grown in the UK merely as a “break” crop to surpress weeds and improve soil quality and considered only fit for animal feed,  it’s ‘nutty’ flavour is now much in demand and has been  dubbed the “British olive oil.” It is stocked on the shelves of Fortnum and Masons and has become very trendy, popularised by some chef chappy called Jamie Oliver. How its fortunes have risen.
Cow parsley (or Queen Anne’s lace) also adorns the country lanes in abundance at this time of year. This is a delicately pretty biennial so called because it was considered an inferior type of the true parsley and fit only for cows.
I didn’t realise there was only one TRUE parsley? Is that like the one True God? Parsley was also a very friendly lion in the BBC animated children’s series The Herbs. The Herbs was created by Michael Bond who also wrote Paddington Bear and the stories were set in an idyllic walled garden. It is rather charming and very English.


Not true Parsley
The TRUE parsley

Summer weather also finds my domestic cat activity increasing. Sherbet the white cat stirs from his almost uninterrupted winter slumber on the purple chaise longue in the front room and ventures into the foliage to becoming a wild hunting beast. The sun’s gone in again now, but like a one night stand with a gorgeous Greek waiter, there’s always the chance it could return for a full blown holiday romance.

No one can see me up this tree