In Food and drink, Nature, Philosophy, Science, Words


Day three: egg and beans on toast for lunch again.

Funny, isn’t it? You spend your life wishing the wheels would slow down, the traffic would stop, the noise would abate, wishing you could hear the birds sing, smell the flowers, have space to think… and when it happens, aaaaarrggh!

In case you’re in need of a pick-me-up – one that doesn’t involve Ainsley Harriott or pan-European simulcasts of that heart-freezing dirge that is You’ll Never Walk Alone on your otherwise favourite radio station (whose idea was that?!) – here’s something that may do the trick. Today is the first day of spring and Paul O’Grady is self-isolating. See? It’s not all bad news.

If you’re short of things to do over the coming weeks, you might want to contemplate the notion of sitting under a tree. It worked for Buddha. And Isaac Newton. You can learn a lot from trees. Right now the trees are coming out of their own period of social distancing, stretching their limbs and preparing to come into blossom.

In the eyes of all but us humans, it’s actually a glorious time. You can almost hear the pent up energy about to explode. My favourite is the pear tree. Firstly, pear trees are small, so if a branch breaks off and falls on your head, it’s a lot less painful than a mighty oak. Secondly, being a hardier tree than the apple, pears don’t need the warmth apples need to blossom and so they erupt into flower earlier. A bit like Ann Widdecombe’s transformation during Strictly, one minute it’s a gnarly, bare, dead looking tangle of grizzled wood, the next it’s a billowing white froth of raw sex appeal, casting pollen to the wind and wantonly wooing the bees, who must feel like Sir Galahad in Castle Anthrax in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

“I can handle this lot single-handed.”
“Yes, let him handle us single-handed!”

Like denuded supermarket shelves, blossoming pears are the sign that it’s time to grow your own. Get digging, folks. Now is the time to plant spuds, onions, lettuce, carrots, spinach… just about every vegetable you can think of, in fact. It’s all part of the alternative lifestyle that the world is being forced to explore. Dig in. Dig deep. Dig the new normal. Why rely on a supermarket for your carrots when you can grow one that actually tastes of carrot?

Right now, the human race is feeling what it’s like to be a tree in winter: having to consume less, regular visitors staying away, some branches being shed. But in that stillness, you notice things; things that normally pass you by. And you think. And you have ideas.

What we can learn from trees is that long months of dormancy are always followed by spectacular explosions of frothy, fecund fruitfulness. In the darkest depths of winter is when new buds begin to form. We’re already seeing some incredible ingenuity arising from this crisis. Saddle bags for dogs, so you can send them to the supermarket on your behalf. Hats with a two metre brim, to help you keep a safe distance from other people.

So keep your peckers up, folks, embrace the wider view and remember to share any noble truths, laws on universal gravitation etc that you might come up with. It’ll be a wiser, calmer, more sentient tree that blossoms after all this.


APOLOGY: Sorry about the Ann Widdecombe bit.

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