Spring is in the air, and ain’t it just swell! Winter is definitely gone. The swallows are back and the hedgerows are fit to burst. Lambs and calves gambol in the fields, while the ewes and heifers lie sunning themselves.
It has been an incredible start to Spring. Has the gorse ever been as luscious, the primroses as plentiful, the blackthorn as magical? The blooming this year has been so spectacular that I’ve managed to spot a few wild damson trees that I hadn’t noticed before. I’ve made a note to visit them in the fall, when I’m picking sloes, which, judging by the blackthorn flowers, will be a bumper harvest this year. I am really looking forward to that moment when the hawthorn blooms (almost at the same time all over the country) and the roads look like they are strung with pop-corn balls.
I love this time of year. There is so much anticipation in the air, so much promise of good things to come: thick green foxglove leaves in a clearing, seedlings in the porch, plans for a weekend away on Sherkin Island.
That sad, sniffling woman who dragged herself around the house only a few weeks ago has left the building and started gardening. Stepping outside I shed the last my seasonal depression like a snake’s scaly skin. Everywhere I look lifts my heart: banks of wild garlic, blue bells, yellow flowers that carpet the woods, a profusion of daisies, streams of tiny blue forget-me-nots and a dozen tiny multi-coloured flowers spill that through the grass. Swallows swooping high over the front field on a sunny blue sky day, erase any trace of the winter doldrums.
There’s only one sight that lifts my heart more than the swallows and that’s the Big H.
It hardly ever happens, but the last few weeks of lovely weather coincided with a mini-bus load of visitors. It was wonderful to be able to show off West Cork in all its glory, and a great relief not to have to watch my family put on ever increasing layers of clothing as their holiday progressed. Every night I anxiously watched the weather forecast as if it were an All-Ireland final. “Go on! Go on you big beautiful freakin’ H!” I’d shout at the telly. I know that the big H stands for High Pressure, but for me it stands for Happiness. The big H is a promise, a covenant with the people of Ireland that we will be basking in the sunshine. All thoughts of cold, wet, windy weather are swept away on a wave of optimism as that beautiful second letter of the alphabet embraces us. How I love that Giant H as it hovers over the map of Ireland.
Unfortunately, living on a small island in the Atlantic means that a Giant L (for loathsome) is always lurking somewhere in the wings, ready to sweep the country with another gale, or blanket us in fog. And so it was that yesterday, I could barely see the fields across the road. My lovely giant H is gone and we’re stuck with plunging temperatures and dripping gutters.
Yet hope springs eternal, especially in Springtime. I know that big H isn’t too far away. It’ll be back, peeping behind Evelyn Cusack, as it makes its way across the Atlantic, or sneaks up from the South. I have faith in the big H. Let it rain this weekend. Let it rain all through the last week of April. By the time you read this that big H will be over us again. It will be the May Bank holiday Weekend, which kicks of the season of BBQs, beach, festivals, vegetables, craic agus ceoil that defines a West Cork summer. I’ll be on Sherkin Island (where ‘One Horse Pony’ will be playing at the Jolly Rodger plus a BBQ!) and I don’t know of many places in the world as beautiful as Sherkin and Cape Clear when that big H is marking the map. So come on BIG H! Here’s hoping….
Newsflash: The oak tree in the front field has come into leaf well before the ash trees, and you know what they say: Ash before oak, summer will soak. Oak before ash, summer will splash!