Dandelion Wine

Green-Flash-Dandelion-WineThe hen Blackbird, whose territory is at the front of our house, has been busy gathering material for the nest she’s building in the clematis that covers the wall to the right of the kitchen window. She always nests there.

Luckily we’d just spread a load of compost on the flower bed. From the kitchen window I was able to watch her as she moved across the bed methodically inspecting the rotting material. She started with leaves, filled her beak and then flew off to her nest. This was repeated, time and time again, for three days until the base and cup of the nest, held together with mud, was complete. Then she started searching for the lining. Grassy stems, survivors of the composting, seemed to fit the bill. By now she will have laid her clutch of eggs.

The Blackbird and her nest are just one of the first signs of approaching Spring we’ve seen. My wife rescued a toad desperately trying to make its way across the road to a pond where they normally breed. On our patch of water meadow the Marsh Marigolds are out. These are all good signs but it is still cold enough at night to bring in ‘wisps’ of Common Snipe to probe for food in the muddy areas.

At the moment I feel chilled to the bone and long for some warm sunlight and the return of our two pairs of Swallows that nest in the potting shed.

Will the Spotted Flycatchers that nested in the Wisteria for years and years ever return after a two year absence?

One momentous event in my Spring/Summer calendar is the decision when to order my new pair of Dunlop Green Flash tennis shoes. They are ideal for slopping around in the garden and for when I have to creep up to deal with a rat in the chicken run. They generally last two years but this year the decision was taken early by my wife. Holding them up she announced that they were disgusting and that they were going in the bin.

In the past I have got my Green Flash tennis shoes from Grays in Cambridge. Not any longer, I am afraid, they no longer stock them. I tried Amazon and three days later I had a brand new, sparkling pair of my favourite tennis shoes in my hand.

My passion is echoed by Douglas Spaulding, a 12 year old boy, the hero of Ray Bradbury’s book, Dandelion Wine. Here he is explaining to his Father why he wants a new pair of tennis shoes:

“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness.

Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people who made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer.

Douglas tried to get all this in words.

“Yes,” said Father, “but what’s wrong with last year’s sneakers? Why can’t you dig them out of the closet?”

“Don’t you see?” said Douglas. “I just can’t use last year’s pair.”

For last year’s pair were dead inside. They had been fine when he’d started them out, last year. But by the end of summer, every year, you always found out, you always knew, you couldn’t really jump over rivers and trees and houses in them, and they were dead. But this was a new year, and he felt that this time, with his new pair of shoes, he could do anything, anything at all:

It is a fine book about a boy growing up in Green Town, Illinois, and I urge everyone to read it.