I had a very pressing reason for wanting to come back to England for a few weeks. I couldn’t wait for April, much less May. The March heat wave made me worry that already I might be too late: I needed to see daffodils.
Of course the French have daffodils in their gardens too. Well, some people do. You can even find them, delicate and lemon-hued up in the woods. But nothing to compare with our English exuberance.
Here, regiments of daffodils march down the edges of inner-city dual carriageways. Swathes of them along the verges announce the entrance to almost every town. Shopping centres have great tubs full. Gardens, whether tiny gravelled spaces in front of town terraces, cottage style plots, or more extensive lawned affairs, all boast generous clumps of brilliant yellow trumpets swaying in the breeze.
Nothing else makes me so aware that winter’s on the way out. Not the blossom slowly unfurling on the trees, nor the spears of green thrusting through the soil and moss on every country walk, and in every garden. Of course I love these too. But for me, nothing but those bright assertive confident flowers can state quite so definitely – even defiantly – ‘Spring is here!’