Sunday, January 27, 2008

The crocus thief

In December, when the nights had drawn close and black about the world as it lumbered towards the darkest night, I planted crocus bulbs - amongst other things. In the depths of my depression, I needed many different ways to remind myself that the dark clouds would pass and the sun would return; the delicate softness of early spring flowers is always such a sensual reminder to me.

Well the world did indeed turn. Like a great bear shifting in her sleep, she rolled over and began to twitch, like you do just before you fully wake. On one such day, I discovered that soft and silky blooms had indeed poked up from the soil. Little snowdrops, winter-flowering pansies and the permanently cheerful daffodils had all begun to stretch, yawn and start to open.

But where were the crocuses I wondered? In my back garden, many lay sad and unmoving in the soil, beheaded or nipped by some hungry creature. Where others had been planted lay empty holes.

Saddened, I planted some crocus flowers, some around the garden and some in bowls on the garden table, the better for me to appreciate them. Lest they be lonely, I also planted more winter-flowering pansies and hyacinths. How lovely to run my fingers through their damp, silky petals; to imagine their delicate and resolutely cheerful colours against the darker green of the still slumbering garden.

Two days later, drawn to the garden by the new sense of light, by that imperceptible change in smell that comes at this time of year, I went to the bowls to stroke and admire the gentle flowers. To my horror, I found the plants cast this way and that, and great gaping holes where the crocuses had been!

I marched round the garden muttering darkly.

"Was it you who stole my crocuses?” I demanded of the birds as they swooped across the garden with their thwoh-thwoh-thwoh-thwoh-thwoh-thwoh wings fluttering in the cool morning air. Cheerfully they sang their innocence as they went upon their way.

"Was it you who stole my crocuses?" I enquired of the neighbourhood cats, stalking across the fences at the back. I imagined them raising proud denying heads as they pawed indignantly away.

Shouldn't the rest of the garden animals be in their beds, still sleeping? I sulked, thick lower lip jutting out in resentment. After all, despite the change in the air, it was still winter. Only after Imbolc should they shrug off sleep and appear, blinking in the light of the new day, roaring hungry for their breakfasts.

"Oi, was it you squirrel, who snuck out of bed to steal my lovely crocuses when you should have been a-sleeping, I snarled belligerently?" Silence. No creaking or rustling of branch or twig to say that squirrel had even moved. No thundering of paws on the fence or sounds of the charging of a small determined little body through the thicket that is the honeysuckle barring his progress could be heard. If it was squirrel, he did not own up to it.

Carefully, I repacked the pots with their flowers, rearranged the bulbs to cover up the gaping hole left by the purloined crocuses. Patting down the soil, I wondered whether global warming had driven the squirrels to criminal behaviour, or whether it was something I had done. Had I not installed a proper sense of manners in the garden creatures? Was I a negligent garden owner or did the other neighbourhood squirrels lead mine to the bad? Should I have put temptation out of paws way beyond chicken-wire?

I imagined the squirrels, a possy of surliness, hanging out amongst the ivy on the disused railway line behind the house, bored, hungry and unloved, their fur matted and unkempt, their gleaming eyes roaming around for things to eat. I imagined the neighbourhood creatures pointing at them, scuffling past them handbags clutched to chests, looking nervously over their shoulders. Were the squirrels indeed to blame or was I too falling victim to the culture of youth er, I mean squirrel-dissing?

So do you have any idea of who stole the crocuses?


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