I have written earlier, that this time of year is a time of stillness, a time of waiting for the great turning of the year. Few birds sing; little changes very much.
Even if I didn’t have painful sciatica, this is a time when I feel this momentous stasis. I can feel that the earth is holding its breath. I seem to lie about more, and the hammock is got out and strung up between two birches.
I anticipate long, hot afternoons, lazing in the hammock, sipping beer and listening to cricket matches on my old-fashioned ‘tranny’ radio.
However, Ruby doesn’t seem to recognise that humans need to lie about at this time of year. She does it all year round, anyway. So what’s the big deal?
It’s no good telling her about my sciatica. She’s just not interested. Why on earth would someone want to lie in a hammock, surrounded by soft cushions and drinks, when there are rabbits running through the nettles and brambles?
I can’t imagine . . . !
So I get my trusty walking frame up from the bottom shed (which, by the way, is slowly sliding down the hill like a drunk who is very drunk) and set off to the woods. It’s a simple but brilliant machine that seems to take the pain in my back away and also gives me a seat to sit on whenever I need it.
It handles rough terrain remarkably well, and this walker and Ruby are my two off-road friends.
As I enter the woods, I see the cow parsley has been supplanted by the Giant Hogweed, which, as its name might suggest, is not so delicate and frilly. Hogweed is most definitely a Weed – and proud of it. And so it should be, for it is tall and invasive and the flowers smell of pig slurry.. Some people, it seems, find it can irritate the skin. The newspapers that whip up hatred of all that is foreign and strange, call it ‘burning’, but that is just plain old xenophobia.
In contrast to the hogweed, in almost all respects, is the Meadowsweet. It’s one of my favourite wild flowers, and it’s flowering now in the damp field by the railway bridge over the canal.
As its name suggests, it grows in damp water meadows, and has a sweet scent, reminiscent of a slightly musky honey. Another version of its etymology, however, is that its name comes not from its habitat, the meadow, but from mead, the old alcoholic drink made from honey. The flowers were used to add extra flavouring, apparently, and it was consumed in large quantities in Viking longships and Saxon halls. It is the originator of the English propensity to binge drink at the weekend.
But there is no modern flower called a lagersweet . . . Hmm.
Just past the meadowsweet, climbing all over the boundary fence between wood and field, is a magnificent honeysuckle. The scent is powerful, and there is a little path to it through the stinging nettles and willow-herb. Obviously others come to smell the flowers from the fairy kingdom as well as me.
Look closely at honeysuckle. The flower is a complicated maze of pipe-like structures and wizards’ hats.
I sit on my walkers, by the bush, and drink the scent. It is such a heavy scent that you can drink it in as well as smell it.
I stay there till the scent has become so pervasive that I no longer notice it. It is a little nook of heaven that makes the walk better than the hammock!