March was nearly over and so far there was no sign at all of spring 2013, at least in terms of weather. The days were still cold with the odd flake of snow and the skies were still a never ending grey. The flowers in the enchanted park seemed to know it should be spring though and we’re doing their best to brighten the city despite the chill and the lack of sun.
28 March 203
When I’m out walking lots of odd things go round in my head. Some of them about the things I see going on around me such as, how on earth do Southampton seagulls manage to fly when they eat so much rubbish or where do all the ants go in the winter? Today I was musing to myself about the skewed seasons, or, more to the point, what happened to spring? It was another grey morning, as if all the colour had been washed out of everything. Behind those leaden clouds there was blue sky, I knew it was there and I missed it terribly. The scientists and weathermen keep talking about climate change and global warming. From where I stand it seems to be more a case of global cooling, with a touch of dampening thrown in.
Seems to me those scientists and weathermen with their talk of drought and heat and ‘the hottest summer ever,’ year after year, are no different to the ones who said the earth was flat and the sun went round it. They use their weather stations and computers in the same way the old soothsayers consulted the runes or the oracle. They look at the signs and signals and then try to weave a story round them. In the end though, it’s nothing but a story, a guess based on things they think they understand but don’t, not really. I’m pretty sure Mother Nature knows what she’s doing and it can’t be winter forever, can it?
So these were the things going through my mind as I marched down to the river this morning. As I passed the trees and scrub at the rivers edge I looked for signs of spring. Every morning I look and every morning seems the same, the few flowers on the blackthorn, the odd clump of sorry looking daffodils but no new leaves on the trees, no little wild flowers springing up. Then, this morning there was a white hyacinth, suddenly there out of nowhere, a scraggy looking thing for sure but still. Maybe it was there yesterday and I didn’t see it but it was a sign of change at least.
A little further along a swan’s feather lay amongst the dead leaves and dirt, tangled in the leaves of some violets, yet to flower. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. There were a few Bar Tailed Godwits poking about in the mud. There were more yesterday so I’m hoping the others have flown north, sensing warmer weather coming. Then again it could be wishful thinking. There were still odd flecks of snow in the air after all. On the untidy verge by the corner of the level crossing road there were daisies, I didn’t imagine them. I love to see the daisies, they remind me of childhood Summers and daisy chains. Something is changing, even if not the sky or the cold.
As I was early I took a detour through the parks to pay my little rhododendron a visit. I haven’t walked through that park for a while and I was curious to see if it was still going strong or if it had finally run out of steam. Walking up towards the winding path Wordsworth came to mind. ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’ and there they were, a host of golden daffodils in great drifts on the grass. Right at the beginning of the winding path I spotted some tulips clustering behind a rock, one red one standing out amid all the white buds. A red tulip is a declaration of love, at least to the ancient Persians. Spring flowers in the cold of winter.
The rodhododendron did not let me down. There was one ragged pink flower surrounded by dried out brown petals. Where does it get its energy from? How does it keep surviving? The camellias are still blooming all along the path too, fallen petals and showly blooms everywhere. An azalea, covered in bud had two tiny flowers, like twins, side by side. I walked to the end of the path, where daffodils and heathers bloomed and looked back marvelling at this show of defiance against the snow and cold.
At the other end of the path the branches of the huge magnolia tree are encrusted with pink. The curled petals holding their faces up to a sun that isn’t there. There are many buds, unopened on the ground, still half covered by their furry bracts, fallen before they had a chance to bloom. This little garden really seems like an enchanted place, touched by spring and magic while the rest of the city is stuck under the spell of winter.
My walk may have been more about burning calories than anything but the enchanted garden lifted the dark mood that has hung over me for the last few days. When I reached the car park outside the office Arabella’s little red sports car was conspicuous in its absence. My heart sank. I’d prepared so much to go through with her, printed out all the spreadsheets, gathered all the information, listed it, made notes, all so we could get through everything outstanding before she flitted off again. Looked like it was all in vain and some things were becoming super urgent, keeping me awake at night.
At my desk I scanned my emails for something from her to tell me the plans had changed once again but there was nothing so I got on with the business of the Tuesday morning email influx and waited for a phone call. Just after ten, when I’d put the kettle on to make a coffee, I looked out the window and saw the little red car. Better late than never and what a relief!
The first thing I noticed as she got waylaid by Sue on her way to my desk was how much weight she’s lost. She was never big in the first place but she’s shrunk almost to frailty. Her hair was much shorter too and darker, unless I’ve remembered it wrong, it’s been so long since I’ve seen her. It took her a while to get away from Sue, who obviously had her own list of urgent things to go through but I did take her a cup of Earl Grey, just to make sure she knew I’d noticed her and remind her I existed.
Once Sue had finished with her she went down to her car to collect some paperwork. There was a part of me that didn’t expect her to come back, she’s like a mirage. She did come back though and I didn’t need telling twice. Like a flash I gathered up the huge pile of things for her to go through and was up on the mezanine. There was a bit of personal catching up before we started of course. She asked about the walking and I showed her the muddy photos on my phone. There goes any illusion she had that I’m sane then. She told me all about her time in dry dock, washing in cold water so dirty she wondered if she’d be cleaner without. I was right about her hair, it was ‘like straw’ because of the water and the cold so she’d had it all chopped off. Her skin was so dry it was flaking off. It’s hard to imagine her living like that, she’s so immaculate, so proper.
We got through tons of work and my arm felt as if it was going to drop off from so much dictation. It’s a relief to get things sorted though, at least the bulk of it. We stoopped for Earl Grey and coffee a couple of times but other than that it was all work. When it came to the films Arabella started going through the book and almost everything she came up with was already on my list, she watched me tick them off and smiled. Even without her input I’d made good choices. We added a few others I’d been unsure about but she thought were probably worth a try. Seems like she trusts my decisions.
Eventually the COO called her into his office and I went to my desk to start typing up all the dictation. Arabella stopped beside me on her way back from the COO’s office at about two thirty. “Ten minutes Ok?” She asked. “Fine,” I said thinking she had some more dictation or needed to discuss something else.
Around about ten minutes later, Arabella came back to my desk with her coat on, a bag of paperwork and a ream of copy paper.
“Oh, are you going to your car first?” I asked.
“I’m going to put this lot in the car because I’m going home after we’ve had lunch.”
That’s when I remembered she’d promised to take me to lunch today. Doh!
Somehow she managed to stuff all the papers, bags and things into the tiny boot of her little sports car. Honestly, I don’t know how she manages to get so much stuff in, when she’s out on the refits she gets tins of paint and goodness knows what else in there. It must be like a Tardis. Then we set off for Oxford street. There was me thinking we’d be going to John Lewis for a sandwich too!
Oxford street, for anyone who doesn’t know Southampton, is where all the very nice, very expensive restaurants are. We ended up in Prezzo’s. I ordered a goats cheese salad with caramelised onions and balsamic dressing and Arabella had pasta with a side salad. They had a light option on the menu these days For the pizzas and pastas so she chose that. What a good idea, smaller, more manageable portions, especially at lunch time. She tried to persuade me to have a glass of wine but, for one I’m not really a drinker and secondly I had another round of dictation deciphering when I got back to the office.
It was great being able to just sit and chat, not worrying about the time because, obviously, I was with the boss so I couldn’t possibly be told off for being late back (not that that would ever happen at Silver Helm, no one takes much notice of when you go to lunch and when you come back, mainly because no one abuses lunch breaks, most of us never take the full hour). We chatted about work and about this and that, our gardens, our kitchens, diets, husbands. She told me about the eight flights of stairs she’d had to run up and down twenty times a day when she was in dry dock. Half way up for a phone signal, to the top for Internet signal and at the bottom for every thing else. No wonder she’s lost so much weight. Having a nice boss is a great thing, especially one so interesting and well educated. She really is a quite remarkable woman.
Two hours later we were back at the office and she was zipping off in her little car. I felt like going to sleep. Eating a proper meal at lunch time does that to me. The dictation seemed more undecipherable than ever and my eyes were heavy. I got through a fair bit of it but at a slower pace than normal. There was a lot of paper shuffling. Luckily the magazine shipment turned up so I had something to do that didn’t involve any thinking. I spent a while de junk mailing them and sticking on the ship labels.
Alice was in a real Friday feeling mood. Very excitable and hyperactive. The rest of the afternoon was spent laughing and joking. Then it was time for Gigi and I to walk home. For the first time today the sun was visible behind the steel clouds. It was fleeting but it was there. By the time we’d crossed the bridge the clouds had swallowed it up but maybe, if I’m lucky, it will break free tomorrow.