On Thursday night I whizzed down to Oxford to stay with elder daughter and her family. I was there for a trustees' meeting of The Blackden Trust, held in Magdalen College. Magdalen (pronounced Maudlyn) is an impossibly beautiful place of golden stone, quiet cloisters and green quads. Many Oxford and Cambridge colleges are similarly beautiful. I have never forgotten my father, a working class boy from the North of England, wandering the colleges on his first visit when he was about fifty and saying, stunned and appreciative but with a touch of sadness "When I was a child, I couldn't even have imagined that places like this existed." Until he went away on National Service he did not realise that it was not simply a fact of life that if you touched a tree you came away with black on your hands. He and his generation thought that the sooty smudge was nature, not pollution. Oxford colleges dreaming in the sun were a world away from rainy Rochdale.
Bur before the meeting I spent a sunny, warm couple of hours wandering the Botanical Gardens with my daughter and her sixteen month old little boy. I took no photos. It was too perfect a morning to do anything but be in it, feeling the sun warm on your shoulders, warm on Joseph's blonde curly hair. The magnolia denudata was in flower, a towering cloud of white chalices on bare branches against the warm stone. There were daffodils and some tulips already out. A Japanese family sat by a perfect stone pool where a fountain splashed softly. A pair of ducks waddled across, to Joseph's delight. On the edge of another pond a tiny girl watched entranced as tens of goldfish thronged looking for food.
After the meeting younger daughter came over with her new puppy, also impossibly beautiful. It, she, is a Golden Labrador puppy, all brown eyes, soft gold fur, waggy tail and lollopy feet. The puppy has only been away from her litter six days. Daughter is sleep deprived, the puppy keen to please. Puppy care looks both wonderful and hard work, as so many worthwhile things are.
And home to a sunny hillside where the daffodils have blossomed in a yellow and cream wave while I have been away. There are calves and ponies over the stile in the field by the kitchen garden.
Climb the stile and their curiosity is too much for them.
In the kitchen the old incubator holds eleven Light Sussex hatching eggs. Yesterday they began to cheep. It is very odd to look down at eggs which look just like any eggs but which are emitting faint cheeping noises. They should hatch over the next day or so.
Spring is springing everywhere.