"Winds of March, we welcome you,
There is work for you to do.
Work and play and blow all day,
Blow the Winter wind away."
March was always known as the windy month and had been living up to its name. It had also been a strange month because several warmer sunnier days were alternating with bitter winds that cut through you, stormy weather and even snow in some places. It was the time of year where you experienced four seasons in one day. Mother Nature was nothing but unpredictable. She was running 2 weeks behind schedule after February’s cold snap slowed spring’s arrival. But still in the garden, numerous spring bulbs were poking their heads up while the blustery winds blew and the temperatures dipping low. I was surprised to see one or two daffodils beginning to break from the sheaths in which they had been folded like tightly rolled umbrellas. They greeted anyone who approached the casa with a smile from their bright yellow cheery trumpets just in time for St. David’s Day.
St David’s Day falls every year on March 1, the date patron saint of Wales, St. David who died in 589. But, it wasn’t until the 18 th century though that St David’s Day was declared a national day of celebration in Wales. He was typically depicted holding a dove, and often standing on a hillock with his symbol which was the leek. The Welsh for leek (the original national emblem) was Cenhinen, while the Welsh for daffodil is Cenhinen Pedr. Over the years things got confused until the daffodil was adopted as a second emblem of Wales. It was traditional to wear either a bright green leek or a yellow daffodil on your coat lapel and young girls dressed up in the national costume consisting of a tall black hat, white frilled cap and long black dress which dated back to the 18th century.
“Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.”
We celebrated the day by attending the national sport of Wales, rugby union, which was considered to be a large part of the Welsh culture. Unfortunately no Welsh teams were playing. It was the London Wasps taking on Gloucester Rugby in the Aviva Premiership. One of my colleagues informed me that there were free tickets from the Student Union to see the match and off course I took the opportunity to grab a pair. If not it would have cost us about £18 each including booking fees. We weren’t rugby fans at all but we wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Anyway, it was just a 30 minute walk from our casa. Instead of the usual 3 pm kick-off, it started at 1 pm so that fans could later watch the Six Nations rugby match between Ireland against England. on the widescreen.
We left the casa at about 12 pm and joined the hundreds walking along Longford Road. A few premises were making a brisk business from using their spaces as parking lots. As we neared the Ricoh, the place was buzzing. We’d to look twice when we saw the notice about the railway station being ready by June this year!!! That would be miracle because the place still looked like a rubble dump. We went straight to our seat but didn’t have it long before a trio told us that we’d the wrong seat. We went to search for a steward and found out that we were right. They didn’t even apologise.
Anyway, we’d an incredible view and really enjoyed checking out the spectators. We were seated among the Wasps fans and was drowned by the flutters of the orange and black flags. Before the introduction the team, the stadium was buzzing with the sound of a thousand wasps. And then the stadium erupted when the players emerged and everyone stood up with their flags fluttering away. It was an amazing sight and the sound of beating drums added to the throbbing atmosphere. And this was before the game even started. It was a real party atmosphere.
Wasps continued their fine form since arriving at the Ricoh Arena with a 32-21 win over Gloucester. They had beaten London Irish, Sale and Harlequins since they swapped Adams Park for the home of Coventry City, but were forced to come from behind to claim their fourth maximum points win of the campaign. Moriarty's converted try and a penalty from Hook had seen Gloucester leading 10-0 after 25 minutes, but Wasps roared back with tries from Young, Miller and Daly to go into the break 17-13 ahead. The host then added two more tries in the second half, Young again and replacement Thompson going over either side of a score from Gloucester wing Purdy, to seal a ninth Premiership win of the campaign.
Victory had lifted Wasps above Bath into fourth place, level on points with Saracens and Exeter above them, while Gloucester remained eighth, 12 points adrift of the top six. The club mascot, appropriately named Sting, was very busy dancing around the pitch, encouraging everyone and building up tension in anticipation of winning. The supporters, who mostly travelled all the way from London, kept waving their flags, overjoyed with the impressive win. Whether the game was played in Heaven or not remained to be seen, but in the meantime, it was certainly enjoyed by many people here on Earth. I’m hooked :-). Then we slowly made our way out of the stadium along with 14,058 people.
“Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmet or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer.”
We were also looking forward to checking out a free entry to Ragley’s House and Garden in Alcester, one of Warwickshire’s most stunning stately homes. They were using the weekend as staff training days for the coming tourist season and unfortunately they failed miserably. 40K people turned up, resulting in a very, very long queue edging slowly towards the gatehouse. After queuing in one of the warmest spring day of the year, we and thousand others were turned away at the entrance!!! Bl---y h—l. They’d to turn people away due to health and safety reasons.
What pissed me off was they should have put up notices miles down the road. We drove through a few roundabouts. Staff and notices should have been stationed here to inform visitors that the place was full so that we don’t have to be stuck in traffic for hours. I know its free but they should have anticipated it. Hundreds, moi included, went on social media to vent our frustration. It was a 2 day event and we thought of turning up the next day. But the earlier experiences turned us off.
Instead we went to Ashlawn Cuttings to see if the frogs had turned up. Unfortunately, not a single croak was heard. No one was in the mood for love :-0. Along the path, we were serenaded by bird songs. Long Tailed tits were skulking among the brambles, searching for places to build nests. Drifts of snowdrops were spotted below the thick undergrowth. I noticed that they were scattered along the slopes, hidden underneath the thick brambles. It was a shame that these weren’t cleared away so that these beautiful harbinger of spring would be visible. But I’m still very glad to have seen them here because the sight of them always continue to delight me.
At home, I experimented with a new recipe called Broken Glass Jell-o. I’d to modify a few of the ingredients because as a Muslim, I don’t use gelatine in my recipes. Instead, I use agar-agar flakes and because of the different textures, I adjusted a few things here and there. The Jell-o looked like a lot of work but it just took a few steps and you’ll have gorgeous cubes of flavourful Jell-o in no time. It was really a crowd pleaser and the colours and flavour options were endless. I used a silicone bundt pan and the result was stunning. Below was the recipe without the modification.
Broke Glass Jell-o
4 small boxes of jello (3 oz), different colours
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes unflavoured gelatine
Dissolve each box of jello separately, using one cup of boiling water per flavour. Pour into individual containers and chill overnight.
Once solid, cut the flavours of jello into small blocks and mix together carefully in a glass 9×13 pan.
In a separate bowl, dissolve 2 envelopes unflavoured gelatine in 2 cups hot water. Let cool a bit and stir in the condensed milk. Cool to touch and pour cooled milk mixture over jello and chill overnight.
Cut into squares and serve.
At work, I was busy training a colleague from another department who wanted to be a cataloguer. Woo…hoo. I’m all for anyone interested in cataloguing and classification. I have been a professional cataloguer for the past 3 decades but teaching was a different kettle of fish. I learnt from the bottom and slowly made my way to the top. I picked, learnt, absorbed and dissected a lot of tools of my trade. I’d left the basics so long that I borrowed a few cataloguing and classification text-books to familiarise myself. It was quite a daunting task. But thankfully, NW was a qualified librarian and had picked a few skills along the way. It made my task very much easier.
After all that training, I went to purchase my lunch at one of my favourite stall. It was the last Market day of the term and the Piazza was buzzing with everyone enjoying the Spring sunshine. I went out early hoping to be in front of the queue. Unfortunately, other people had the same idea and back to the queue I stood. The smells were amazing and my tummy was growling. I’d my usual Fried kway-teow and this time with seafood. I also bought chicken samosas for dinner. After all that food, I went for a gentle stroll before returning back to the office.
Drifts of colourful Crocus dotted the university grounds. When it seemed like winter will never lose its icy grip, these dainty, cheerful goblet-shaped crocus peeping through the frozen grounds to put on a show of colourful revival. These beauties offer a variety of colours that stood out against the bleak winter landscape. Many have strong perfumes that lure bees out of their hives and in this case hoverflies. In the language of flowers, crocus meant cheerfulness which was so true.
And all the woods are alive with the murmur and the sound of Spring
And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring
I would like to wish the 3 most wonderful women in my life A very Happy birthday, to my Mother, my sister and my only niece, Emil.
May your special day …
Surrounded with Happiness
Filled with laughter
Wrapped with pleasures
Brightened with fun
Blessed with love
Remembered with joy
Enriched with love.