Column from some time aback
Suddenly – and almost without warning – it is spring. Walking to the train station early one morning last week, I lifted my head past the familiar eye level and saw, surprisingly, a few scattered pink blossoms on a neighbour’s cherry tree. Now, the tree is in full bloom, its brave showing of colour reminding me of our own immortelle that blaze, more and more infrequently, on the hillside.
It is my second spring here and I have a better understanding of the English love of this season, with its promise of summer’s long hot days being not too far behind. The music on the radio is perfect for this time of year. Put on one’s headphones and walk past the houses with the little flowerpots starting to fill with brave purple and fuchsia blossoms. It’s like being in a movie where you’re the star that’s walking and contemplating life and how it can punch you and roll you around but surprises you when you don’t expect it. The Cure’s Love Cats and Greenday’s Time of Your Life go well with the changing quality of light, the way the still bare branches and tiny buds of the trees appear to have been etched out of the sky, like a child’s cardboard pop up book. The sunlight has now lost its winter’s wateriness and it’s crispy coldness and, now, seems to be stretching itself out across the sky, like a cat waking up after a nap.
And as I think this I see one of the numerous neighbourhood felines on the pavement. She – he? – is in a predatory mood. Back arched and energy tightly coiled, he/she waits to pounce on something I cannot see. In this posture it’s easy to see the heights from which it has descended, that it calls among its relatives such royalty as tigers and cougars and jaguars. In winter it used to remain mostly indoors, sneaking out occasionally to watch us attempt walking downhill without skating. In summer it will be mostly outdoors, visible only when it suns or cleans itself on the various walls. But for now, spring is in its delicate bones, driving it to call upon its felid ancestry.
It’s not officially spring yet, of course. Just weeks ago there was snowfall – unheard of thing – transposing London into an alpine village. Odd, the ability of little white flakes to make everything that’s mundane and dirty and common into delicate little works of magic. Passengers on the way to work complained about delayed trains but surreptitiously packed snowballs and took photos. School children lay on the shaggy white carpet and made snow angels, doing their part in the mass conversion to happiness and wonder at the common enough miracle of nature.
So it’s not officially spring but, really, it is. The days are getting longer – the four o’clock sun is still bright enough to feel like day. The shops have changed their window displays. Gone are the greys and blacks of last season. In their place are the bright neon colours of this season, colours not seen since secondary school when fluorescents and Trapper Keepers were vital parts of a teenage world. It’s exciting, seeing the return of colour in the windows. Brave young girls have started wearing shorts and minis, keeping warm with stockings and tights and boyfriends that carry long coats in case fashion proves too formidable an adversary.
Spring feels like love, like romance, like a birthing, a renewal. It feels like the world is celebrating. It feels like life – tired and weary in winter – has rested and found it does have the strength to try again after all. It feels like God, fed up of us and our constant mistakes and ineffectiveness has shook his head indulgently and decided he created us and loves us and he may as well help us out because, hell in a basket, he knows we can’t help ourselves. The beauty of this season is that it is a promise, that there is a possibility of anything happening and that they will be mostly good things. And that it is a promise that will be kept.