Spring 2006

Spring is here. Its arrival is always uplifting yet I cannot help feeling that this year it is more lovely than any that has preceded it, but when I say to my husband, ‘Is it always this beautiful or are we blessed with particularly glorious displays this time?’ He laughs and replies: ‘Chérie, you eulogise the end of winter and the fireworks of nature every April.’

As I write, the hillsides all around us are redolent with the perfumes of fruit blossoms. Driving to the supermarket is not the usual boring chore; rather it is like moseying through the fields of an Impressionist painting. Our palette includes the white of cherry and pear blossoms, the delicacy of apple pink and the ruddier rose of nectarines and peaches. When the wind blows, dislodged petals drift through the air like sweet-smelling ash flakes or flecks of broken birds’ feathers.

The irises are also budding, an extravagantly deep violet. After we had moved into the farm they surprised us, growing wild, fringing the perimeters of the ancient dry-stone walls. They multiply fast, so every few years we dig into the edge soil, pull up some of their rhizomes and break them into segments, which is the toughest part of the job, rather like cracking old bones apart. Once they have been divided, we plant the tubers everywhere: encircling the feet of the citrus trees, skirting the circumference of our fences, beneath hardy old oaks, and when spring comes and the skies are cobalt their deep violet flower is a striking addition to the garden.

Arriving soon will be orange blossoms. Although our oranges are too bitter to be eaten as fruits, we harvest them to make marmalade or to steep in alcohol for vin d’orange. The wine, too sweet for my taste buds, resembles sherry, but, in tiny quantities, instead of cassis, it is an intriguing addition to a glass of champagne.

My travels are over for the present. I am home now and hard at work on my new book. A deadline looms so my days are spent gazing out longingly at these fabulous explosions of spring. It is a rigorous discipline to keep myself at my desk when beyond the open windows nature is a firework display of industry, particularly as I have been moaning that this book, The Olive Route, is the toughest yet. I receive no sympathy from my husband though. He simply replies: ‘Chérie, you say that every time’.

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