A sceptic's take on being human – or should that be virtuous?
Hunting for signs of spring
We set out to double check and photograph a patch of wild leeks that we found a couple of days ago and which I’ve never seen before so we needed to document them properly with grid references and detailed photos in order to get them double checked by the local County Recorder. There is a kind of trainspotter sickness that can grip you when you get into plants but fortunately it’s a sickness whose symptoms are air punching for no apparent reason and feeling absurdly happy even on a cold grey day in winter.
The secondary reason was the competitive urge to find a Celandine in flower. The results of the New Years plant hunt, organised by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland are coming in and the general impression is that this is a rather late season. Last winter we photographed them in flower down here on 17th January and by the look of the leaves today we’re running a fortnight late this year following the continuing bitterly cold weather. We did however find a lonely violet – not my strongest subject but Sweet Violets, Viola odorata are the earliest to flower. Winter Heliotrope were in flower too and a solitary Cyclamen was hiding at the top of a hedge bank which – while photographing it – provoked the strong perfume of wild garlic under my feet. There were abundant purple catkins on an alder tree. In the fungus department we spotted a Glistening Inkcap on a moss covered log.
More than anything, seeing the growing leaves of a multitude of other flowering plants made me wonder how many terawatts of sheer green energy are sitting there underground waiting for a daylength and temperature signal to let them burst forth. Hemlock Water Dropwort doesn’t look half as dangerous when it’s vibrant green and only a few inches tall.
As for the very local Wild Leek, we await the verdict from the County Recorder but here are the photos we sent to him. Cocoa and toasted saffron cake were consumed.
I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun.
When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths.
What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs.
But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more.
Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.
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