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April 2017 - back on Islay

We left our new home in Shropshire with blossom everywhere. Cherry trees were blooming in gardens and blackthorn was covering hedgerows in a froth of white.

Back on Islay I felt that I’d stepped back a month. Blackthorn was still in the grip of winter and our garden trees had yet to break their buds. 

As the days passed growth accelerated. By the end of the month we were surrounded by leafing trees and a ground cover of bluebells and wild garlic.

In addition to the glorious sight, a good handful of wild garlic leaves thrown into the food processor with olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan cheese brought the taste of spring into the house.

Gorse had an early flowering. Often at its best in late May, this year it s bright blooms were evident all over the island at the beginning of April. We had to embark on picking for The Botanist gin as we couldn’t risk missing this important part of the recipe. It’s an unenviable task as each small flower has to be grasped between finger and thumb and it is all too easy to suffer pricks and scratches. After several days of picking my hands were very sore indeed.

Primroses dotted both cliffs and woodlands and there were so many self-seeded in our lawn that I put a couple of dozen into pots to take to Shropshire. They grow in the wooded valley close to the house but I plan to put them under the trees to follow the snowdrops which I planted on our last visit.

During that visit we had to cut the grass but back on Islay there was little evidence of growth. It was the third week of the month when we finally got out the mower to cut the paths which allow us to walk round the garden without getting wet feet. In between the paths, the bluebells leaves are growing, but in this exposed situation it will be a few weeks before we have our last experience of their glorious scent and colour.

For the moment we can enjoy the delicate pale lilac flowers of Lady’s Smock which have self-seeded all over the garden. Also known as Cuckoo Flower or Milkmaids it is the most delicate member of the Cabbage Family. Shakespeare, in Love’s Labors Lost, wrote of lady-smocks all silver white painting the meadows with delight. This puzzled me for years until I saw a swathe of blooms by moonlight when they did indeed acquire a pale silvery glow.

The pattern of the next few months will be keeping up with the garden in between packing books, removing bookshelves and decorating walls which have been hidden for a good number of years. There will be many trips to the tip and to Re-jig, our island re-cycling store, as we try to weed through the accumulation of a lifetime. It’s a daunting task, but a necessary one because we have less space for storage in our new home. 

As we grow older I think it’s vital to consider our children. They lead busy lives and it is unfair to leave them with the task of clearing out our belongings. Besides, I have reached the stage where I want to enjoy the present instead of hanging on to things from the past.