Posted by: christinelaennec | January 25, 2015

As the day lengthens…

Beautiful amaryllis in bloom.  January 2015.

Beautiful amaryllis in bloom. January 2015.

“As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens”.  Katharine Stewart starts her January 25th essay with this well-known Scottish saying, commenting that “These old sayings invariably ring true” (p. 34).  After a week of ice and snow lying over much of Glasgow, we had a bit of a thaw, but rain falling at freezing temperatures has meant ice and black ice again (the poor postie took a tumble).

Ice, 24th January 2015, Glasgow.

Ice, 24th January 2015, Glasgow.

Stewart goes on to talk about changing weather patterns:  “Something has happened, lately, to the direction of our wind-flow.  The prevailing westerlies, reasonably mild and bringing welcome soft rain, have been swinging to the north, and even to the north-east or south-east.”  I believe she was writing in 1994.  Twenty years later, I at least have adjusted to the idea that the weather patterns are clearly changing.  There’s no longer a sense that we can look back to former times to show us what to expect.  One thing remains the same:  “The television weather-men rarely get their suns, clouds and arrows quite right for our particular area.”  We now have as many weather-women as weather-men. (Does anyone else miss “Heather the Weather” – pronounced Hayther the Wayther with a slightly rolled r at the ends?  She always stuck in the word “old” – “It’ll be a chilly old day near Auchterarder”.).

It does still seem to be the case that tv weather forecasts are only very general indicators of what actually happens.  I’ve noticed over the years of visiting the Hebrides that it’s almost pointless to watch the weather report, as the reality so seldom matches, unless it’s a very obvious matter of a huge Atlantic storm coming in.  Many people nowadays rely on weather websites online (xcweather is meant to be good, particularly in predicting wind strength and direction – something people pay attention to here, just as Katharine Stewart did).

In her garden, “Branches and twigs lie in unusual places, scattered by those alien gales.”  This has been a common sight here in Glasgow for the past few weeks.  Most of the pathways have been cleared now, but if you look, the ground is littered with branches and twigs:

Branches and twigs brought down by winter storms - and also some daffodils starting to come up!  Glasgow, January 2015.

Branches and twigs brought down by winter storms – and also some daffodils starting to come up! Glasgow, January 2015.

Because I love trees so much, I used to find the sight of broken branches very sad.  Now that I am older, if not very much wiser, I understand that the winter storms have their use.  The trees are thinned out by the winds.  It’s the weak branches that break off, except in exceptional circumstances.  Just as it’s nice to give the house a really good clean after Christmas, the winds leave the tree a bit cleaner, and even more ready to withstand future storms.  Having said all this, I was weeping the other morning to hear the whining of chain saws at the back of the house and see a beautiful mature tree – one branch had come off in the storms – being killed.  The moment when the branch with the crow’s nest toppled was the worst and I just went to the other side of the house and covered my ears.  It is probably true that the tree had grown too large for a city garden and lane.  But the birds and I will miss it very, very much.

Stewart writes that “In a sheltered corner… I come on a tiny primula, blooming quietly to itself.  That atom of reassurance is enough to make the day.” (35)  Spurred on by her discovery, I went to look in my own garden.  Sure enough, there is a small pink primrose just putting out a flower.  But the primula she was writing about was surely the native primrose, and the ones in my garden are blooming away:

Native primrose in my back garden - much eaten by snails!  Glasgow, January 2015.

Native primrose in my back garden – much eaten by snails! Glasgow, January 2015.

She ends her essay by describing her Burns’ Night Supper, as January 25th is the birthday of the Bard:  “In the evening, sitting at the fire, I eat supper of mashed neeps and tatties, with a mealy pudding (haggis is not for me) and drink a small toast to Rabbie.  He had a kinship with animals and flowers, with the whole earth, which so many have lost.  His ‘Red, red rose’ is surely the greatest love song of all time.” (p. 36)

So I will finish with the first verse of Robert Burns’ famous poem, and you can judge for yourself:

My love is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June

Oh my love is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

If you’d like to hear the song, here is a link to Karen Matheson singing it.

I wish you all a good Sunday, and a good start to your week.



  1. Its nice to hear the comparisons, beautiful poem one of my favourites Such a shame about the tree, our neighbours have just taken down a large part of a beautiful tree but unfortunately is was causing damage to the roof and house so needed to be done. Have a lovely week.

  2. It’s my favourite poem, I didn;t know this singer, one a my favourites is Eddie Reader. Have a wonderful Burns Night.

  3. Sorry to hear about your fall. You have a beautiful Amarylis. We have been getting rain here too.

    • Lucinda, I’m glad to say it wasn’t me who fell, it was the postman!

  4. Your amaryllis is lovely against the wintry setting. I’ve enjoyed reading the excerpts from the book you’re reading. Be careful in the ice and snow. I remember the snowy winters from eastern Washington. Wishing you a great week 🙂

  5. Beautiful amaryllis – well done on getting it to this point! We’ve been picking up lots of sticks like the ones in your picture too, all the way down here in Kent! Hope the postie recovers soon!

  6. In the midst of your wintery weather how wonderful to see your Amaryllis in bloom, and fun to note that I think we both have the Apple Blossom variety! In spite of the Fisher-Price Nativity palms I had propping up my bulb it took a dive to the carpet while I was asleep two nights ago 😦 I cut the blossom stalk off and put it in a vase of water and the blossoms although a bit battered still look pretty. I have enjoyed catching up on your posts today…swans on the ice! and the wonderful weathery scarf you made. The weather temps produced a very pleasing pattern of color. I am enjoying your comparisons of your current life experiences with the essays. We are having to do some major tree trimming/felling after a large limb landed on our roof, but I echo your feelings about the loss. Hoping you and yours have as safe and happy week as possible xx

  7. Burns night! How did I miss that? The next day (today as I am writing this) is Australia Day . . . and Indian national day, both of which we usually celebrate at my place. Often (as now) we have the Indian cricket team out here playing against Australia, making the day especially significant. Perhaps next year we’ll do Burns night (but no haggis for me either, and neither neeps nor tatties make a regular appearance on my dinner plate. I must do some research on alternatives which fit into the tradition but suit my diet). At the moment we are also being plagued by falling tree detritus, but not due to arctic gales. At this mid-summer time the huge eucalyptus tree outside our neighbour’s house (which spreads its branches far and wide) is shedding bark, much to the annoyance of my partner who is trying to encourage the grass to grow in our front lawn. So we do have some natural events in common, to some extent. The destruction of a mature tree is always very sad, isn’t it? Do you have, as we do, a council “Tree Preservation Order” which bans the killing of trees without council permission?

  8. I miss Heather with the weather. At least you could understand what she was saying, unlike the permanently sloshed Judith Ralston (that’s probably not true, but she doesn’t half run her words together in a pretty incomprehensible manner). When I was working at sea we were constantly updated with weather reports, but if we wanted a second opinion we went to the Magic Seaweed website. It’s aimed at surfers, and for that reason is excellent for coastal locations. It’s probably far more reliable for the western isles than good old Auntie Beeb. So sorry to hear about the felled tree, let’s hope another is planted to replace it.

  9. Because of our very mild winter I checked my back garden yesterday and found primroses coming up – – no blooms though. Also found a poor hyacinth extremely stunted but about 2 inches tall — trying to bloom! We had snow and ice last night — still need to see how much. I have to get out into it in just a few minutes. 😦 Not very excited about that. I would be so sorry about that tree too. Am reading a book you would probably enjoy called “The Bluebird Effect”.

    • Heather, thanks for the book recommendation!

  10. I’m another follower from Downunder. I love your blog. Yesterday I was picking plums in the Southern Highlands of NSW and adjusting the huge nets which are necessary to protect the fruit from birds and bats. Inevitably the nets get holes in them. I needed something to hold the holes together. Beneath the tree were many thin but strong ,straight, short sticks. I pulled the holes together and threaded these sticks through the the joins. They held perfectly.I reflected with pleasure on the fact that nature, the spirit of the earth, often provides solutions right at our feet.

  11. You have prompted me to pull my Katharine Stewart books from the cupboard for another reading. I discovered ‘A Garden In The Hills’ at a second-hand bookshop some years ago, was able to acquire the others through alibris.
    I continue to offer prayers for the Dafter’s health–and to hope that the recent down-turn is not prolonged.

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments, it’s always a great pleasure to read them.

    Erna, I bet you do actually know Karen Matheson, she is the lead singer of the band Capercaillie. Eddie Reader is also a fantastic singer of Burns and other traditional songs.

    It’s good to know I’m not alone in grieving when a mature tree is felled. But sometimes it has to be done. oldblack, there are Tree Preservation Orders in certain areas. In our street in Aberdeen, all the trees in the front gardens were under such an order. Every time I needed to have the atlas cedar pruned, I had to write to the council, and submit a form with a drawing, outlining the work done and the reason why. Once I received written permission the tree surgeon would come. However, you don’t need permission if there is storm damage. I heard that two massive beech trees on that street have been taken down. It could well be that they were so big as to cause concern, or their roots were getting into drains and wrecking pavements and walls. I’m not sure if the trees’ owner would have had to replant or not.

    Lorna, I have seen images from Magic Seaweed, I think word has gotten round!

    Dierdre, it is so true that nature often provides a solution at hand. Another example is how, if you sting yourself on a stinging nettle, there is very often a dock leaf nearby to make a poultice!

    Thank you also for your concern about the Dafter. It is a pretty bad relapse, and she has worsened since the start of the year. We are waiting to see what happens next. I will write about it at some point.

    And lastly, the postie is just fine!

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