Derek – Friday 21st January 2022

January is the longest month. Beginning at the tail end of Christmas and finishing in sight of spring; it is a shivery time to get through. The days, though, are slowly getting longer and the garden, like a drowsy sleeper, rubs its eyes in the growing light. Buds in trees and bushes form in the autumn in the axils of the branches. To swell and burst into leaf, they need more warmth as well as light. One of the first to go into leaf is the willow. We have a few, including a willow hedge, and there’s little sign they have woken.

The pond is languid. I can’t see any animal life. They are there, on the muddy bottom, but all the creatures in our pond are cold blooded and so dormant in this chilly weather. Nor are the plants stirring.

Our daffodils, though, are on the move, and soon we’ll have our first flowers. Large bulbs virtually guarantee a flower, but not all of the daffodil bulbs we planted are large as we bought big sacks containing bulbs of various sizes. A large bulb takes several years to mature. In the nurseries, the flower bud is cut off as soon as it forms, for up to three years. They want growth going into the bulb, not to make flowers. It’s why large bulbs are so costly.

We have lots of pots of daffs on the mat covering our wildflower bed. They all have green spears, eager for light and warmth. Though no flower stalks. It’s as if the plant is hesitant, knowing we might yet get a real cold snap.

On the underground the other day, I was caught by a poem, one of the series Poems on the Underground. This one had me reading it several times:


What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


So much emotion in those lines. The writer doesn’t just want manicured gardens, but wildness. It is of course what the world needs. The rainforests, nature’s wildness, are being trashed. For cattle grazing in Amazonia, or for soya to feed our cattle. And in South East Asia, palm oil for chocolate, soaps, shampoos, and margarine.

O let them be left.

The writer of the verse is a local lad, born on the Grove in Stratford, about where Morrison’s car park is. The poet is, if you haven’t guessed, Gerard Manley Hopkins. This is from his 1881 poem Inversnaid. There’s a memorial outside Stratford Library, laid by Seamus Heaney.

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

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