It’s hard not to at the moment. Obsessively monitoring news from Ukraine isn’t going to help anyone, but nonetheless I find myself scanning the updates morning and evening and at odd times in between. I sat half undressed on the edge of the bath yesterday evening for a full ten minutes watching an interview with a captured Russian soldier. He was explaining how he had seen the tale of a fascist oppressive regime the troops had been told they would be liberating dissolve in the face of reality. “They are right” he said of the Ukranian resistance, shaking his head sorrowfully “I would do the same, we are wrong”. Cities razed to the ground, half a million refugees and counting, thousands of protesters arrested daily in Russia and Putin sitting in all his madness at one end of the table seemingly untouchable. No solution in sight.

In an attempt to wean myself from the rolling updates Lyra and I have been taking ever lengthening walks when the weather permits. Things are beginning to stir. In the hedgerow buds are forming at last. There’s something of the tiny hoof about the ash.

The birds are tuning up and poor Lyra has been tripped over and trodden on as I crane my head to try and catch a glimpse of the stars of the orchestra. I have been on the trail of a particularly tuneful, but utterly elusive, bird for some years now. Its song fills the sky, seeming to come almost from the clouds, but I have never caught a glimpse until this week when I spotted a slim brown bird, very small, about blue tit sized, at the tip of a branch close to the epicentre of a positive volcano of notes. Alas, I am no closer to identifying Avis Incognitis. There are a lot of little brown birds…I would have said a willow warbler, but I am sure I saw a slight touch of pink underneath. That points to a chiff chaff, but the song was much more complex (after looking at a dazzling array of little brown bird pictures I had Dr G. Oogle play me their greatest hits). Whin chat??? Or could it be a T’Pau duet scenario (glamorous visible frontwoman, the big voice was the heavier lady in the shade…..).

Now is the season of purple and yellow. There are carpets of crocus under the trees in the Hirsel and the isolated dots are gradually thickening a little along our back track. I love the way they seem to stretch up and open for the sun. Whin is shining in the hedgerow by Butterlaw and everywhere tucked under trees, in crevices in the walls, along the rockery and even in the top layer of my wonky objet trouvée bird table there is a warm glow of primrose. Looking closely I can see the slightly narrower, more tightly crinkled leaves of the cowslips coming through in the orchard. All types of primula thrive on our heavy soil, so one of next month’s jobs will be splitting the over wieldy clumps and thickening up the primrose bank along the back track. Yesterday we strolled past a jolly line of fully open daffodils sheltered by the drystone wall on the Simprim road but in the shade of the Hirsel woods they are still mostly tightly furled. I think I like daffodils best just before they fully open, when they still have an air of mystery. We have a few out in the garden but most are only a few inches through. The Lenten Lilies in the orchard were first up. These are a species variety and should self seed, but they seem to be taking their time about it. Grappling with couch grass (my nemesis) by the stream I found the bronzy heads of fritillaria imperialism breaking through. It won’t be long before their foxy smell permeates the garden. On a slightly different olfactory note, the Hirsel woods are full of new blades of wild garlic. A foraging trip earlier in the week led to some excellent (if I do say so myself) salmon strudel and a huge crusted halibut.

On the rainier days we have stuck to the slightly less muddy paths of the cow circular. I count five calves now. They are especially hard to spot on rainy days though, when, honouring their weather reporting duties from the outset, the claves flop down in the grass, for all the world like a grounded flock of Michael Fabricant’s wigs. Lyra does not approve of rain, so after a quick spin to tally the calves we hastened home to lurk by the Aga (Lyra) and make cake (me) by way of distraction. A hybrid parkin combining treacle and marmalade worked particularly well (recipe uploaded). Indeed I was so chuffed with this I thought a coconut and lime version might be just the fellow. Lachlan was despatched to the co-op for Roses Lime, butter, eggs and flour yesterday. He returned, inexplicably, with raspberry jam so a Victoria sponge it is. I am not to be diverted though, so will be stopping at Sainsbury’s on the way to Selkirk this afternoon. (I cannot believe that Roses Lime is not to be had. Lachlan has declared it “too fancy” for our local shops. The cheek of it – it’s a staple marmalade (if ever such a thing existed) so he must be proved wrong).

Keith, on the other hand, has been in full demolition man mode. The hideous built in wardrobe in Ishbel’s room is lying in bits at the front door and I have only had to race up the stairs twice to forestall disaster. The first such incident involved a Heath Robinson fix to stop the pipes bursting and the second a, failed, attempt to catch a nail studded picture rail. The plumbers are now here closing off the pipes and removing the redundant ones (our house is strewn with boxed in pipes which, on further investigation, lead nowhere and have no function. Was it an early maze prototype??.) Next up is the plasterer to replace the coving (and take a look at the attic room ceiling which has crumbled away) and then the triumphant return of Barry the Decorator to paint and put up the wallpaper. The saga of the wallpaper deserves its own post so we shall perhaps have a home decor special in a month or two.

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