“Where are the snowdrops?” said the sun.
“Dead” said the frost, “Buried and lost, every one.”
“A foolish answer,” said the sun
“They did not die, asleep they lie, every one.
And I will awake them, I the sun,
Into the light, all clad in white, every one.”
“It’s rather dark in the earth today”
said one little bulb to its brother.
“But I thought that I felt a sunbeam’s ray.
We must strive and grow ’til we find our way”
and they nestled close to each other.
They struggled and strived by day and by night,
’til two little snowdrops in green and white
rose out of the darkness and into the light;
and softly kissed one another.
~Annie Mattheson, 1853-1924~
There was something so perfectly formed about snowdrop flowers. Small, white without a hint of colour, but in February, they were the most treasured and welcomed of the early flowers and heralding the end of the British wintertime. Although they used to be 'February's flower', climate change meant that they were now flowering as early as January. Even so, they were still considered to be the first flower of spring, symbolising purity and the cleansing of the earth after winter.
According to legend snowdrops first appeared when Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, after the Fall of Man, to a land where it was winter: cold, snowy, dark and barren. An angel consoled them by promising that, even here, spring would follow winter. As a token, he blew upon some falling snowflakes which, as they touched the ground, were transformed into snowdrops. In this way, Hope was born. Ever since then, snowdrops have appeared during the bleakest winter weeks as a sign of the better times to come. Aah…what a lovely tale.
Because of their presence in monastery churchyards, snowdrops share with other white flowers a folklore that represented 'the passing of sorrow'. Richard Mabey, in his Flora Britannica (1996), recorded that in some parts of the country single flowers especially are viewed as death-tokens. Even today, many people won’t take snowdrops indoors, and the sight of a single snowdrop blooming in the garden was taken as a sign of an impending disaster. You have been warned.
But I adore them. I was so envious of photographs of flower-carpeted woodlands of Galanthus nivalis, replacing the non-existence winter's blanket of snow. Even if there were snow, they may not wait for it to melt before emerging from their winter sleep, instead pushing right up through the snow, a delightful sight for the winter-weary. For me, when the snowdrop flower, spring surely can’t be far behind? We managed to find a few clumps here and there unlike the compact masses they were associated with. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
Apart from snowdrop hunting. I’d been very busy at work. I participated in another ALCTS e-forum on Authority Control in the Library Catalog. We agreed that searching styles and tools were changing but there were still the need for control of terminology. Authority control facilitated both social tagging and retrieval. Keyword searching was more successful when authorised forms of names and subjects appeared in the bibliographical record and were augmented by authority records with variants and additional information for disambiguation and identification. We as cataloguers, metadata experts and other information specialists were trained to accurately describe materials and were key to developing a catalogue in any format environment. Without the catalogue, the materials were just lost in a warehouse.
Then another ALCTS webinar on RDA : Revising, Developing and Assessing or, How the Instructions Evolve. There was a lengthy introduction on the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA and also how proposals were regulated and interpreted. We also found out that it took about 18 months for the Program for Cooperative Cataloguing (PCC) Task Group to identify any issues and have it published in the Toolkit. But cataloguers were allowed to apply any changes using their judgement but if there were any differences, they still need to resort to the PCC. We were made aware that there were significant changes made and will only be apply in April such as access points for a series of conferences and the restructuring/clarifying of relation designators where the editor of compilation was removed and the definition combined with editor. Some of the changes were quite major which we need to be aware of.
It was not all work and no play. I attended 2 leaving do’s. One was for a colleague, CF, who’d completed her 10 month contract with WRAP. I’d forgotten to defrost the vegetarian spring-rolls and resort to purchasing a dozen goey cupcakes from Tesco. We’d a lovely time polishing the food and there was so much that we were munching something the whole week. It didn’t helped when it was also JG’s birthday and she brought homemade sponge cakes with home-made strawberry jam, a very boozy fruit cake and 100% dark chocolate shortbread. Yum…yum. We also said good-bye and good luck to GX who was leaving us for new pastures. I’m going to miss him a lot because he was one of my rounders partner-in-crime. The very best wishes to CF and GX.
I took leave on Valentine’s Day. I made many plans but the weather was against us. In fact, more stormy weather headed across the Atlantic. Another 3 cm of rain hit the already saturated and soaked flood stricken South-West. The jet stream destructive weather left half a million families without power, claimed 3 lives and flooded thousands of homes, and left Somerset and Worcestershire further underwater. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
We celebrated by visiting our favourite playgrounds. First was the nearest, Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. We were stalked by the robins and as usual, we just had to feed them. At the moment, they were very territorial and were so busy chasing their opponents away. All you could hear were their sharp ‘tick’ or high-pitched ‘tsee’ which indicated territorial defence or alarm. The flood water had resided and it was lovely to walk on the very muddy path. A pit stop at Baldwin Hide and we saw that the island had totally disappeared even with the sluices fully opened, the pool was still to bursting point.
We continued on and spotted one of our favourite fungi, Sarcoscypha coccinea or commonly known as the scarlet elf cup, scarlet elf cap, scarlet cup or fairies’ baths. They grow on decaying sticks and branches in damp spots on the forest floors, often buried under leaf litter or in the soil. The cup-shaped fruit bodies were usually produced during the cooler months of winter and early spring. I loved that the red of the fungus stood out in dark contrast to the green, moss covered moss that it grew on. No wonder, in past times they were made into arrangements with moss and leaves and sold as table decorations.
We stopped at a nearly full East Marsh Hide of twitchers and photographers. Hmm… I wonder if there was anything interesting about. We couldn’t see any. But, most of the natives were here because the main island was flooded. We spotted a few displaced cormorants looking a bit loss. The Gulls were practicing their fishing techniques by picking sticks and throwing them back into the pool. A ring of roses made up of Shovellors, Galdwalls , Wigeons, Mallards and Teals were going round and round at the opposite end of the hide. Some Gulls were taking advantage of the situation and picking up anything that had been disturbed. We didn’t stay long because Babe wasn’t feeling too good.
After a good rest, the next day we checked out Draycote waters on the sunniest day of the year so far. And we weren’t alone because for the first time, we’d to use the overflow car-park and we managed to bag a space because someone was leaving. Perfect timing. We didn’t expect to see anything much because of the large number of people. Who can blame them? After nearly 3 months of rain, everyone wants to have a a little bit of tan and top up their Vitamin D. Since most of the crowd were walking towards Farborough bank, we decided to be brave and climb the Hensborough hill. From here, we’d stunning views of a windsurfing competition.
We continued downhill towards the Bank trying to dodge the oncoming joggers and cyclists. The glowing orb that had been peeping occasionally was out. Sunlight was streaming through the trees and the air smelt fresh and healthy. We chatted and photographed as we walked, while listening to the twitterings of the Robins, Chaffinches, Long-tail, Blue and Great tits flitting about on the canopy about us. When we sat on the embankment wall checking out the displaying Golden Eyes, a duck flew in and dispersing the flock. Oh hello…it was the long awaited Long Tail duck, the only species that we’d not seen here. I’m so pleased that finally we met the oldsquaw.
We continued on along Draycote Bank. We scanned the nearby fields for hares but we didn’t see any. On the horizon. a pair of Buzzards were riding the waves, their meowing calls echoing around us. On the rocks, a pair of Pied wagtails were playing hide-and-seek with us. We enjoyed watching them watching us with their looping flight and descending glide. In the lake, a Little Grebe was feeding right below us. A dumpy and short-necked bird in breeding plumage and the yellow spot on the bill was visible to us. When it spotted us, all we could see was a distinct splash as it dived.
‘Now up, now down again that hard it is to prove
Whether underwater most it liveth or above.
We walked towards the Valve Tower before taking a another breather on the wall. We recharged our batteries with a cold drink and a cheese and onion pasty. On the waters, we spotted a flock of Great Crested Grebes, Tufted ducks and Golden Eyes. We then turned back because Babe was exhausted and the heat was getting to us. We made a pit stop at The Overflow to see if we can see the Long Tail duck again. Unfortunately, it was fast asleep quite a distance away. A loud ‘teck-teck-teck’ trills of a wren caught our attention, We spotted it creeping among the dense vegetation.
Above us, the excited contact calls of the Long Tail tits reached us as they wandered through the trees. We watched the extended family partied among the thinner twigs of the trees, pecking in and around the buds. Then I spotted a vibrant yellow flirting among the foliage followed by a very high-pitched call. I rattled a few shots before I realised that it was a Gold-crest. Whoop…whoop. My first sighting in Draycote.
Our final trip was to Bradgate Park. But first a quick peep at Groby Pool. Except for a family of Mute Swans, most of the natives were chilling out in the middle of the pool. The island was teeming with Cormorants and Herons and I expected them to be busy as it was the breeding season. Then we joined the hundreds who were trying to find a parking space at Bradgate. We saw a car about to drive off and patiently waited for the space. As usual, I made use of the facilities and took a slow walk back to the car because along River Lin, I spotted clumps of flowering snowdrops.
We think the whole of Leicestershire was here. Everyone was taking advantage of the lovely weather on the last day of the school term holidays. I don’t blame them. We didn’t walk along the river because the ground was like a mud-bath. We scanned the fast-flowing river for our favourite Wigeon but he was no where to be seen. We spotted a herd of Red Deer on top of the hill, near Old John but they were just too far away for us to walk to. The herd quickly dispersed when a dog came to close. We continued on and spotted 3 Red stags resting below the deer sanctuary. We crept as close as we could and hid behind the trees while rattling hundreds of shots.
As crows fly
in the dawn light
on the cold hill
the deer are running
We didn’t stay long because a couple of walkers with a dog spooked them. We heard the cries of the Green woodpeckers echoing around us but they were just too fast to be photographed. We headed to the field beside the visitor centre where a herd of Fallow deer were having a siesta. A Pied wagtail flew in to say hello. A pity that Lady Jane Grey ruins were still closed for the winter because we often found some exotic birds taking shelter in the grounds. We left as more and more people were pouring into the park.
We’d a splendid early spring week and we hoped yours were brilliant too.
After clouds, the sunshine,
After the winter, the spring,
After the shower, the rainbow…
For life’s a changeable thing
~Helen Steiner Rice~