Tuesday, 22 April 2014


I am officially a mother. I know this because what I crave, almost above all else, is peace and quiet. Time alone to spend however I wish, frittered away reading or writing or simply being, is in very short supply.

Every day is a battle to find an hour or so in which to do something that pleases only me. Sometime it is writing this journal. Finishing a book which has been languishing on the bedside table. Going for a swim. Oh Holy Land of Pool, how I worship thee! I sit in the sauna, toasting myself till I am red in the face and dry as parchment, relishing the quiet and seclusion of the tiny, wooden walled cell. Once baked I enter the cool calm of the water, its turquoise embrace enveloping me willingly, and I swim my thirty lengths or so with the Zen like detachment of a monk. Never has the repetitive, essentially mindless activity of swimming been such a balm to my soul, and woe betide the chatty bather who tries to engage me in idle gossip. I offer them only a withering look and mutter something unintelligible and vaguely unfriendly till they leave me alone. 


Spring is currently in its most beautiful phase, to my mind at least. Seemingly overnight the trees have lost their winter pallor and their bleak branches become covered in a riot of blossom. In Japan, cherry blossom symbolises clouds, and is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. The country is known for its annual cherry blossom festival Hanami, which has its roots in the 5th Century. I wonder why we do not celebrate this delightful time, for we are truly blessed when it comes to blossom trees. First come the shell pink flowers of the Yoshino cherry, delicately fragranced and as pretty as pair of ballet shoes. The blackthorn is next up, producing a frothing mass of white blossom, while the pale pink blooms of the winter-flowering cherry can open anytime from November through to March in mild weather. Apples trees follow suit, normally from late April onwards, offering blushing pink buds which burst open to reveal pure white flowers. But possibly my favourite, and in its prime right now, are the mulberry pink blossoms which my hasty internet research
cannot identify. Is it the early flowering red peach, the atomic red flowering nectarine, or one of the many varieties of crab apple? In my ignorance, and based solely on the fact that its fruit are of a similar shade, I have always thought of it as the blossom of the mulberry tree. In any case, its intense pink blooms catch my eye everywhere; in gardens, hanging over paths and glowing beacon-like in parkland. The colour hovers somewhere between fuchsia and purple and brings to mind the deep pink of the Church of England. It is magnificent, and when I see a tree dressed in such regal mulberry robes I feel happy simply to be alive.

Recently the grassy knoll under my favourite tree has become a place of profound beauty. Always a lovely spot to sit, the blossom has transformed it into a cathedral of loveliness that would shame an angel. The recent mild weather has made my walks with Felix ever more pleasurable, and one day when I entered what I think of as my very own secret garden my heart leapt to see it draped in a delicate gown of white. It has become ever more beautiful, until last week I arrived to find that a lively breeze had begun to loosen the flowers from the branches. I stood under the snowy umbrella as silken petals floated down upon me and Felix, entranced by the sheer loveliness of it. In the dappled shade of the blossom-tree, on a bright spring day with blue sky and high scudding clouds, I lay on a blanket and let the sun warm my pale winter skin. Blossom drifted gently on the fresh breeze and settled on the pram in which Felix peacefully, mercifully, slept. I let my body relax and felt the frantic activity of motherhood seep out of every pore, while I surrendered myself to the silent contemplation of beauty.

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