Sunday, 31 May 2009
“In New York, everyone is your instant friend. If you were to stand up in a diner and shout, 'I'm putting on a cabaret', then everyone would gather round and ask, 'Where will it be?', 'What will it be about?', 'Who will you hire?'. If you did that in England, there would be absolute silence, everyone would stare into their soup and think, 'How appallingly embarrassing.'”
Saturday, 30 May 2009
For anyone who is interested: http://whatenglandmeanstome.co.uk This site has been set up by three academics to compile what they call a Domesday Book of the mind, to explore the idea of Englishness, what it means to different people, how England thinks of itself and how others think of us. Many and diverse people have written extremely interesting and thoughtful essays on the subject "What England Means To Me". The organisers are happy for anyone to contribute 800 words or so, but even if you don't want to write your own essay, go there and read some of them!
Thursday, 28 May 2009
This touching poem was written by an internee held by the Germans in Grand Caserne, St. Denis, in 1942. It comes from a small, privately-published book of verses by internees, many of whom had already been imprisoned for eighteen months. To Maia - in England by James E. Thomas Let us be still awhile and dream of days When you and I went roving happily; How like a misty curtain hung the haze Veiling the dappled splendour of the sky. Dear God, how sweet to us was life that May, The sun, the sky, the earth, the grey-green sea Were ours, and we like children deemed the day Too short to drink our fill of ecstasy. But now I seek in vain that long-lost joy, How could I once have found the earth so fair! Alone have I the thought of you to buoy Me in the swirling water of despair. Dear heart, how little shall I count the cost If I regain the beauty I have lost!
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
A study by the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration has said that England has absorbed virtually all of the net immigration to Britain for 16 years. Between 1991 and 2007 more than 2.1 million immigrants were added to the population of England, which last year became the most crowded major country in Europe. England has taken more than 20 times more immigrants than Scotland, even though it is only 10 times the size in terms of population. The population of England is likely to increase by 10 million over the next two decades, of which 7 million would be immigrants. Since 1991 England effectively absorbed 11 times more migrants than all the other home nations combined. Frank Field, the group's co-chairman, said: "This research shows immigration is overwhelmingly an issue for England rather than other parts of the UK".
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
From an address on receiving the Freedom of the City of Hereford in 1930 "I am linked with Herefordshire by ties far deeper than I can explain. They are ties of beauty, and whenever I think of Paradise I think of parts of this county: whenever I think of any perfect human state, I think of things which I have perceived in this county; and whenever I think of the beauty and the bounty of God, I think of parts of this shire. I know of no land more full of the beauty and bounty of God than these red ploughlands and these deep woodlands so full of yew trees, those apple orchards and lovely rivers and running brooks. There is no more lovely county in this lovely land, and I cannot be thankful enough that I passed my childhood days where everybody lived on and by the land, singing when they brought their harvest home and taking such pride in their great cattle and their great horses, their apple orchards, their dovecotes and their little gardens. Men built shrines so lovely that the bright spirits who inhabit Heaven have come to earth to dwell in them, and to companion men and women so they may converse with the Divine. Up and down this shire and in so many other shires - perhaps in this county pre-eminently - there are so many of these lovely shrines which are evidence that men have gone from this earth into Paradise to come back back bringing news of the people who dwell there. When I was a little boy I looked upon these shrines and felt that they were a shadow of Paradise, and that beyond them was Paradise. Many years ago I hoped by some miracle of poetry that I might get beyond that reality to the Heaven of which these things are only a shadow, and that when I get into Heaven I might hear words so that I might come back to earth and tell men and women so that they would know and be happy. It will be a happy day for England when she realises that the true wealth of a nation is in its land and in the men and women who care for it. When men live the beauty and bounty of earth, they are more conscious of the reality of Heaven beside them."
Monday, 25 May 2009
From a report in The Daily Telegraph today: England is stuck in a "pre-devolution time-warp" 10 years after the creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, an MPs' report said. The Commons Justice Committee said there was wide agreement that its system of government must change but no consensus on what should be done. It said Parliament would come under increasing pressure to resolve the so-called "English question", but gave warning that there were problems with the proposed solutions, such as an English parliament, regional assemblies, or English votes for English laws. The committee also called for urgent action to reform the Barnett Formula which distributes central government cash, regarded by many as unfair to poorer regions of England compared with Scotland and Wales. In an inquiry timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 1999 devolution in Scotland and Wales, the committee questioned ministers, MPs, members of devolved assemblies, academics, campaigners and civil servants on the English question. Sir Alan Beith, the committee chairman, said: "England is the unfinished business of devolution - stuck in a pre-devolution time-warp, while the rest of the UK has moved on." The cross-party committee advised against an English parliament and first minister because of the difficulty of balancing their powers with those of the Government and Prime Minister. But they added: "It may become necessary to [consider it] if the English questions are seen as increasingly significant and other solutions are rejected or fail."
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Today, for no discernible reason, I was thinking about those quintessentially English works, the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan. We rarely think of the writers separately, more like gilbertandsullivan. They didn't even get on very well. Sullivan, tall and fair, considered himself (perhaps rightly) a composer somewhat above comic opera, and the shorter, rotunder Gilbert to be a mere scribbler. But together they created a dozen or so comic masterpieces that have triumphantly stood the test of time and are still performed all over the world. Together with Richard D'Oyly Carte, their manager, they formed the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, one of the most successful and creative partnerships ever. Gilbert's jokes and satire still ring true and can easily be applied to modern times, and Sullivan's tunes, which complement the lyrics perfectly, are known to most of us and sung or hummed every day somewhere. Who is there who can't sing something from The Mikado or HMS Pinafore? Or quote "What never? Well, hardly ever....", or "Let the punishment fit the crime"?
Friday, 22 May 2009
As the Chelsea Flower Show draws to a close, here is another little rhyme from Green Fingers by Reginald Arkell: Table Flowers When I select some special bloom To decorate my drawing room, I wonder, in my artless way, What all the other flowers say. Do lesser blossoms, which remain To face the sunshine and the rain, Reflect with envy and with pride Upon their fellow who has died? It may be so. And yet again, Perhaps they sorrow for the slain, And murmur, as I wander past: "Poor Emily has gone at last."
Thursday, 21 May 2009
There is undoubtedly a huge amount of public anger at the current goings-on in Westminster and I have seen G. K. Chesterton's poem The Secret People quoted once or twice. This poem speaks of some of the terrible things done in this country by those in power over the centuries and compares us and our apparent apathy to the French and Russians and their revolutions. It is a little long to reproduce here in its entirety, but these are the last lines: "They have given us into the hands of new unhappy lords, Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords. They fight by shuffling papers; they have have bright, dead alien eyes; They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies. And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs, Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs. We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet, Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street. It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first, Our wrath come after Russia's wrath and our wrath be the worst. It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest God's scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best. But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet. Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget." It seems to me that his words could apply equally to our current Parliament and to the dreaded European Commission.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Arthur Onslow, known as The Great Speaker, held that office from 1728 - 1761, the third member of his family to be Speaker. His speakership was distinguished by his great integrity in a corrupt and jobbing age, and his lasting achievement as Speaker was to assert the independence, authority, and impartiality of the post. Onslow saw his role to be the protection and defence of Parliament in the tradition established by the Glorious Revolution, and he insisted on the rigid and detailed observation of parliamentary forms and procedure, which he viewed as a protection to independent MPs. He considered that "the forms and proceedings as instituted by our ancestors operated as a check and control on the actions of ministers, and were in many instances a shelter and protection to the minority against the attempts of power".
It seems to me that recent events have proved that Labour's disdain for history and tradition and what they teach us leads to the sort of nightmare we are currently witnessing in Westminster (which is by no means over). This is a good example. Combine it with Tony Blair's disastrous tinkering with the constitution and the fact that the House of Commons is totally emasculated by our involvement in Europe, it is no wonder Parliament is in a mess.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
IN a famous passage, the great 20th century historian AJP Taylor wrote that "in August 1914, a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the State beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission." Only 90 years have passed since he wrote those words and today the opposite is true. The growth of the State intrudes everywhere upon our lives and our liberties. We must set boundaries now, or our ancient freedoms - the very things which define us as English - will be lost for ever. We in England are at the crossroads of history in our nation's future as an independent nation state. We can either take account of our long and illustrious history and remain free, with the ability to serve not only our own country but Europe and the world, or become just a province of a supposed European Union which is already showing signs of collapse after only 50 years. For us and millions of subjects in our country the last option must never be accepted. No English writer in any age has ever expressed his faith in England with more impassioned ardour and greater eloquence than Milton. Inspiring almost all that he wrote was his passionate concern for liberty, and second only to that love was his faith in the English people as having for many generations striven more valiantly to win freedom and valued it more highly than any other modern people. When he was a young man in Italy and his Italian hosts professed to envy the Englishman’s freedom, he took it as “a pledge of future happiness, that other nations were so persuaded of England’s liberty". His prose treatises have long lost much of their topical interest, until the advent of Tony Blair and his cohorts of destroyers of everything English, and Blair’s successor's refusal to keep a promise to the English people. Milton bids the two nations, England and Scotland, "never to be disunited" but to make common cause to "settle the pure worship of God in his church, and justice in the state”. He asked his readers not to forget "what numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen" had gone overseas to find the religious freedom which was denied them at home. In 2009 we can look back over twelve years and see the flood of the English leaving their once-free homeland for the freedom to be found elsewhere in the world, of which the English, and later the British, had laid the foundations by their sacrifices in two World Wars in the 20th century and by their ancestors’ example in the years of the preceding centuries. Milton’s treatise ends with an eloquent prayer that God who did "build up this Britannic empire to a glorious and enviable height, with all her daughter-islands about her," and had scattered the Spanish armada, may now, "stay us in this felicity" and deliver England from tyranny at home.
Monday, 18 May 2009
The following is a sort of distillation from an article by Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph: "Nationalism is a divider. Patriotism is a multiplier. In Britain today we have too much of the first and too little of the second. On the face of it, nationalism might seem to be simply the political version of patriotism. What is wrong, you might ask, with a creed that puts your own country first? Certainly all nationalist politicians exploit the genuine love of country which most people feel. But nationalism is not just a way of mobilising positive feeling. It also mobilises resentment and makes a fetish of difference. Nationalism is obsessed with definition - whether you are "really" Scottish, Irish, etc. In extreme forms it turns such definitions into a matter of life and death. It is obsessed with possession. It has an endless need for enemies. The English do have real grievances. There are too many Scottish and Welsh MPs, compared with English, per head of population. The failure to answer the West Lothian Question means that Scottish MPs vote on English laws (but not on Scottish laws!) while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish ones. Above all, there is the problem of money. As the English see it, we pay the Scots so they can exercise the privilege of complaining about us. We now seethe with resentment when we hear (as we do every day) a Scottish accent among our political rulers. We let them have their own parliament, we tend to think, so why are they still cluttering up ours? These anomalies can be addressed within the context of the Union. A Tory government could deal robustly with all of them. David Cameron is trying to build modern politics in a way which is truly national, rather than pettily nationalistic. Because of the growth of the European Union - a well-meaning attempt to combat nationalism which has gone so far that it does the opposite - the British state has lost its authority. Disaffected places within the UK can now appeal over its head." We do not want the break-up of the United Kingdom, but it is essential to address the problems that worry the English. And to my mind it is also essential to have a referendum on whether we want to remain in the undemocratic, profligate, overbearing, corrupt European Union.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
I thought today I might remind you of a much-loved poem, which will be familiar to you all. The Soldier Rupert Brooke If I should die, think only this of me; That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less, Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds, dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learned of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
From Laurie Lee's book: The village to which our family had come was a scattering of some twenty to thirty houses down the south-east slope of a valley. The valley was narrow, steep, and almost entirely cut off; it was also a funnel for winds, a channel for the floods and a jungly, bird-crammed, insect-hopping sun-trap whenever there happened to be any sun. It was not high and open like the Windrush country, but had secret origins, having been gouged from the escarpment by the melting ice-caps some time before we got there. The old flood-terraces still showed on the slopes, along which the cows walked sideways. Like an island, it was possessed of curious survivals - rare orchids and Roman snails; and there were chemical qualities in the limestone springs which gave the women pre-Raphaelite goitres. The sides of the valley were heavily covered in beechwoods. Living down there was like living in a bean-pod; one could see nothing but the bed one lay in. Our horizon of woods was the limit of our world. For weeks on end the trees moved in the wind with a dry roaring that seemed a natural utterance of the landscape. In winter they ringed us with frozen spikes, and in summer they oozed over the lips of the hills like layers of thick green lava. Mornings, they steamed with mist or sunshine, and almost every evening threw streamers above us, reflecting sunsets we were too hidden to see.
Friday, 15 May 2009
The recent death of Anne Scott-James has reminded me of her late husband, Osbert Lancaster, one of the cleverest and wittiest of social commentators. Anyone who wants an overview of English social history over the past few centuries need only turn to Drayneflete Revealed, or The Littlehampton Bequest. Hard to imagine anything funnier or cleverer than the line-up of family portraits in the latter. Here is one of them. In the portrait we see Vanessa Countess of Littlehampton with her two daughters and "her devoted page, Hasrubal, who had been born on her father's estate in Jamaica". The text goes on to say: "This engaging blackamoor was held in the highest esteem by the whole family and his mistress took a particular pleasure in his company and insisted on his being always about her person". Then look at the younger daughter, Lady Euphemia, described as having "irrepressible gaiety and strangely exotic beauty".
Thursday, 14 May 2009
These are the words of Oliver Cromwell when he addressed what is known as the 'Rump Parliament' in April 1653: “...It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money. “Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? “Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd; your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse the Augean Stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings, and which by God's help and the strength He has given me, I now come to do. “I command ye, therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. You have sat here too long for the good you do. In the name of God, go!” Plus ça change.....!
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
This is a little poem from a book which belonged to my mother, published in 1934. It is called Green Fingers, by Reginald Arkell, and is a series of clever and amusing verses about gardening and its trials and tribulations, as well as its triumphs. Testimonial "The Director of Kew Is a gentleman who Knows more about flowers than my grandmother knew, And she, if the stories about her are true, Knew more about gardens than anyone knew. This speaks rather well For the gentleman who Has charge of the wonderful Gardens at Kew"
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Moccas Park in Herefordshire is one of the oldest surviving deer parks in England. The Rev. Francis Kilvert, in his diary of 1876, said this about its ancient trees: "I fear those grey old men of Moccas, those grey, gnarled, low-browed, knock-kneed, bowed, bent, huge, strange, long-armed, deformed, hunchbacked, misshapen old men that stand waiting and watching century after century, biding God's time with both feet in the grave and yet tiring down and seeing out generation after generation, with such tales to tell, as when they whisper them to each other in the midsummer nights, make the silver birches weep and the poplars and aspens shiver and the long ears of the hares and rabbits stand on end. No human hand set those oaks. They are 'the trees which the Lord hath planted'. They look as if they had been at the beginning and making of the world, and they will probably see its end."
Monday, 11 May 2009
Letter in The Daily Telegraph last week from Bryan Smalley of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire: "Sir - Supporters of the EU enjoy quoting extracts from Churchill's speeches, but usually omit the core of his message. In a speech in May 1953, Churchill said: "We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are associated, but not absorbed. And should any European statesman address us and say 'Shall we speak for thee?' we should reply 'Nay, Sir, for we live among our own people.'" Churchill always made it clear that he wanted a United States of Europe with Britain watching from the outside. He had no intention of deserting the Commonwealth"
Sunday, 10 May 2009
I have been sent the following verse which, while not quite up there with Shakespeare, does at least express something of what many of us feel, including most certainly me (which may not come as a surprise). ENGLAND MY ENGLAND Goodbye to my England, so long my old friend. Your days are numbered, being brought to an end. To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh that's fine, But don't say you're English, that's way out of line. The French and the Germans may call themselves such So may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch. You can say you are Russian or maybe a Dane But don't say you're English ever again. At Broadcasting House the word is taboo. In Brussels it's scrapped, in Parliament too. Even schools are affected, staff do as they're told They must not teach children about England of old. Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw, The pupils don't learn about them anymore. How about Agincourt, Hastings , Arnhem or Mons ? When England lost hosts of her very brave sons. We are not Europeans, how can we be? Europe is miles away, over the sea We're the English from England, let's all be proud Stand up and be counted - Shout it out loud ! Let's tell our Government and Brussels too We're proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue Fly the flag of Saint George or the Union Jack Let the world know - WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK !!!!
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Many of you will have seen Didier Drogba's outburst last week at the end of Chelsea's game against Barcelona. Chelsea were cruelly robbed of their victory, and yes, the referee was largely to blame, but where was the sportsmanship? Were we not all taught about how to lose gracefully? Are our sportsmen no longer taught that particular form of behaviour? The main reason why Drogba was so upset, I am sure, is that he felt that Chelsea's defeat was "unfair". One can understand that (it was), and it is a very basic feeling, that life should be "fair", when we all know it isn't. But look at what can be accomplished when things are set about the right way. Joanna Lumley felt that the Gurkhas were being treated unfairly, and ran a magnificent campaign on their behalf, which seems to have been ultimately successful. The English sense of fair play at its best!
Friday, 8 May 2009
I am reading at the moment Melvyn Bragg's novel, Remember Me. Some of the characters are French, and this is what one of them says about the English: "The English, said Louis, .... were the most strange people in Europe. Three very important things needed always to be remembered, he said, as he took a sip of wine and lectured them. Firstly, the English lived on an island and though this was an obvious fact, it was a key one psychologically. Secondly, and paradoxically, they had been invaded by many different peoples. Consequently they had a unique combination of the Romantic and the German and the Nordic, which was later enriched by exiles fleeing from Europe, so they were not a race but, much better, a people. Thirdly, to trade, they had to cross the water, so the English became masters of the seas and peoples from all over the world knew them and their language and came back to live there and so their island also became a little world of its own."
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Last year Brussels bureaucrats drew up a map of plans for new European regions, in which no mention is made at all of England, or indeed Britain. England in fact is to be divided into three zones, joined to areas in other countries. The "Manche" region covers part of southern England and northern France, the "Atlantic" region includes western parts of England, Portugal, Spain and Wales, while the "North Sea" region includes eastern England, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and parts of Germany. The English Channel is to be renamed "The Channel Sea". The plan is intended to "underlie the goal of a United Europe" and to "permanently overcome old borders". Below is a map of the "Manche Region", as mapped by the EU. I don't know about any of you, but this horrifies me. It should be more widely known and resisted, as I am sure it would be.
Many congratulations to Carol Ann Duffy on her appointment as our new Poet Laureate, and very many thanks to Andrew Motion for all his hard work and dedication during the last ten years, and all he has done for poetry in this country. Not all poets laureate have been huge successes - Alfred Austin is generally regarded with less than admiration (if you have heard of him at all). However, he did write this: SONNET WRITTEN IN MID-CHANNEL Now upon English soil I soon shall stand, Homeward from climes than fancy deems more fair; And well I know that there will greet me there No soft foam falling upon smiling strand, No scent of orange-groves, no zephyrs bland, But Amazonian March, with breast half-bare And sleety arrows whistling through the air, Will be my welcome from that burly land. Yet he who boasts his birthplace yonder lies, Owns in his heart a mood akin to scorn For sensuous slopes that bask 'neath Southern skies, Teeming with wine, and prodigal of corn, And, gazing through the mist with misty eyes, Blesses the brave, bleak land where he was born.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
The following are extracts from an article by Minette Marrin in the Sunday Times (some time ago, pre-Brown): "Generally speaking, most people in England quite like the Scots, even though they seem to hate us. ........ A feeling of English separatism is growing; the English hardly need Scotland and Wales and would be much freer and richer without them. It is not only those on the far right, now, who complain of the number of Scots at Westminster and their undue influence. ....... Scottish MPs are overmighty and a Scottish prime minister at Westminster, post devolution, would find himself in a false position. Remarkably slowly England's voters are beginning to wake up to all this. .......... These questions are not going to go away. There are ways of resolving them, of course. Why not try genuine devolution? Why not make the Commons English and only English? Why not create a new upper chamber to deal with matters British? ............. Our national sense of identity has been undermined by Labour party policies, both before and after Blair - by (among other things) the traditional left-wing contempt for patriotism; by the resulting suppression of national history; by the suppression of national traditions for fear of giving offence to newcomers; by aggressive multiculturalism and by fast mass immigration."
Monday, 4 May 2009
Sunday, 3 May 2009
The staff at Legge's, a butcher's shop in Bromyard, Herefordshire, paraded a prize Hereford bull outside their shop on St. George's Day, decked with a suitable flag. The shop owner, Anthony Legge, said: "A lot of emphasis in this country is put on St. Patrick's Day and similar events but there doesn't seem to be much attention paid to St. George's Day. I think we should be proud of what we have in this country and what better example is there than English meat?"
Saturday, 2 May 2009
After my outpourings on the subject of May yesterday, I am now recording some figures, which we should all think about. 1) In 2008 the total cost of British membership of the EU was £56 billion, the equivalent of £1,200 for every British taxpayer. The total cost of our contributions to the EU Budget is £230.4 billion. Think of the hospitals, schools and libraries we could have built for such sums! 2) The Common Agricultural Policy costs us nearly £17 billion per annum. 3) The Common Fisheries Policy, which has led to the virtual destruction of North Sea fish stocks and ruined the livelihoods of British fishing communities, costs us over £3 billion p.a. 3) 80% of our laws are made in Brussels. It is really not much good writing to your MP about anything, since he (or she) can do nothing about it anyway. 4) We are helping to subsidise Greece, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Estonia, Ireland, Belgium, Slovakia, Malta, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia, all of whom get more back in subsidies than they pay in. Can we honestly afford this?
Friday, 1 May 2009
The First of May! Evocative words! The air is full of promise, a promise made in early March with the daffodils and now being magnificently fulfilled. Spring rode in, "crowned like a carefree king", and now the grass has taken on that vivid, late-spring green, the woods are full of the intense, almost unearthly blue glow of the bluebells, and the lanes are filling with cow parsley and hawthorn. The chestnuts are in bloom, the wisteria is in its full glory, the lilacs are bursting - is there another moment of the year more beautiful? Is it possible that every year the blossom is more abundant and mesmerising than the year before? It certainly seems like it - every year we are taken by surprise all over again. What luck to live in such a country!