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China Girl blog 7th February 2019

Mother says it warms her heart to know that spring will soon be here. The sap has started to rise, the birds have started to sing, and are already pairing up.

Last week, the snow fell and the ground froze, making stepping out fraught with danger. On the day of the snow warning, Waitrose was like a rugby scrum as people stoked up for a long siege.

Flowering in the cold winter weather is the sweetly scented, yellow-flowered witch hazel. The genus Hamamelis, which means together with fruit, referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with maturing fruit from the previous year. In the autumn, the seeds are ejected with such force, they can fly up to thirty feet. The name witch hazel has its origin in middle English wiche, from old English wice meaning pliant or bendable; nothing to do with witches. Twigs of the witch hazel were used as divining rods to find underground water. Mother’s father was able to find water, but Mother doesn’t have the knack, however hard she tries! The pretty yellow flowers brighten the winter days.

Also flowering is Leucojum vernum, the spring snowflake. A native of central Europe from Romania and west Russia, through the Pyrenees to Belgium, where it grows in  woodlands on steep shady hillsides, flowering as soon as the snow melts.

We have made a tent of fleece for the Echium, hoping it will survive the cold nights. Despite growing against a south wall in the inner court, it has suffered.

This last week we had a charming couple for the night, both in their sixties. They chose their wedding night to stay at romantic Cothay, a mini honeymoon.

Ma’s daughter Arabella and Johnny, whose birthday it was, came for lunch on Sunday. We had the most delicious lamb cutlets cooked for only ten minutes in the aga. Arabella made our favourite smashed potatoes, boiled in their skins and mashed with lots of olive oil and butter. A happy day, despite the cold.

The thought of spring lingers in the mind with all the promise of joy to come.

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