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Signs of spring push through the freeze

Outdoor Living

SUN SALUTATION The robin sings year round, but his spring song becomes more powerful, confident and upbeat.

Country sights and sounds
John Shelley

While it is nice to get away it is always better to be back. That is what I tell myself. Yet somehow, the combination of wind and rain and sub-zero temperatures which we currently enjoy has less appeal than the balmy spring warmth of the Algarve coast.
The phone rang. It was James. ‘If I was there I think I’d stay.’
I wanted to ask how the weather had been; the high level of the lake had already told me. It might be receding a bit, yet remains stubbornly higher than I saw it before. The rivers have certainly dropped (we can discern the banks once more) and the lakes will soon follow suit, for sure.
‘I’m going for a trout,’ James told me. ‘I know just the spot.’
He always does. But two weeks with the sun on my back have softened my constitution. It feels cold here, and damp. ‘I have the raised beds to dig over. If I don’t do them now I’ll have to be at it when I don’t want to be.’
James muttered. He would fish alone – not that he minds at all, for we invariably go our separate ways when we do fish together. What hurts is that his moment of glory, when it comes (as it invariably does), will be dulled by solitude. There could be no triumphantly calling me to hurry over with the net, nor the gentle goading that accompanies his success.
It is pointless to swell ones chest in the company of nothing more than cattle and trees. Could a man, even an angler, address mere bushes with such patronising statements as this? ‘If you’d only have got here first, you’d have had him out even quicker than I did.’ (And this so often in the knowledge that I had fished that very spot moments before and done no good.) Swollen with success, he attempts to instruct me. ‘You’ve got to have patience, see? It’s no wonder you’ve got nothing, charging about from pool to pool like you do.’
It is true; I am a mobile angler, given to casting my fly into riffle and stream, while James prefers to sit beneath a tree with a worm-baited hook lying on the bottom of the darkest water he can find. I just couldn’t spend the day in such a fashion, staring at the rod tip in a half-trance, just watching and waiting, waiting for it to swing down and around as another fine trout falls victim to the worm while my inexpertly cast fly returns to me empty, again and again.
No, I would stay at home and dig. And full of good intention, that is what I did. The first forkful of weed-filled, wet and claggy soil clung to the tines and had to be forcefully shaken off. A small pool of water gathered in the cavity that it left, and when I filled it in with the next clod the water splashed over me. So much for digging.
I went to look at my garlic (planted on the shortest day of the year) for the first time in three weeks. It is attempting to grow, at least. At the better drained end of the patch the thin green leaves are four inches high; further down they have yet to show. Last year’s onions, left in the ground through lack of appetite, are also sprouting. Should I dig them out and start again? Or will they do better left alone? The latter course feels more appealing, at least for today.
What, then? I could clip the roses and try to tame their thorns. Or what about the apple trees? Would they not benefit from a vigorous pruning?  Perhaps they would, but everywhere is so very wet. Well then, isn’t it time to sow peppers and tomatoes, to give them a good start indoors? Next week, perhaps.
A pair of ravens croaked westward, with heavy, rasping wingbeats, and when I looked up at them there was blue above. There was more, too. That breeze had lost its drizzle of cold – there was now a soft hint of warmth and, suddenly, the robin singing from his post and beneath the hedge heart-shaped leaves of wild violet. Sunlight came to brighten the colours and lighten the day.
James would be at the river by now.  My rod, leaning nonchalantly at the wall, caught my eye. The wormery has done well and is full of wriggling bait. What more could a man wish for? Cheap wine and grilled sea bream, perhaps, yet Ireland has it’s compensations. Look out brown trout, here I come.