Natural Phenomena

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Coming slowly out of hibernation and venturing outside for the odd walk, it seems a good time to consider our national obsession with the weather and how we observe natural phenomena. A spate of recent or imminent books reflect this obsession.

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I was given Weatherland for Christmas. London Fog is another recent publication and Richard Mabey (often ahead of the game) gave us Turned Out Nice Again a few years ago. We have Rain by Melissa Harrison to look forward to shortly.

There is a long standing British tradition of nature diaries which are effectively a link between weather and nature, as daily and seasonal changes form the structure.

The Country Diary , published daily (with a few exceptions) in the Guardian since 1906, is a continuation of this tradition, with many well known nature writers contributing, including Arthur Ransome in the past and Mark Cocker at present. Many other newspapers also have their own variation. I have a book called Homeland, by the wonderfully named Percy Izzard, published in 1918, the diary of a country year, most of which was first published in the Daily Mail, presumably on a daily basis.

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Unusually the publication actually starts with March, being a more hopeful time of year, so the January and February entries come at the end of the book. However I thought I would feature some entries at intervals through 2016 noting any significant differences between then and now. This has been prompted by the recent focus on our ‘strange winter’ in terms of weather and the effects on nature.

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We have had endless rain but generally mild temperatures, and apart from snowdrops which did not seem early to me, signs of new life have been early (apologies to readers in less benign parts of the UK or elsewhere). I don’t remember seeing blackthorn blossom, or daffodils so early as this year. There is no mention of tree blossom this early a century ago, although there are gorse and winter jasmine flowers. I have heard the male fox barking and the first early morning birdsong, both of which are mentioned in January entries.

However as the Jan 22nd entry says “when January plays with April and the blackbird fills his throat for winter song, too often there is trouble in the end. The fields, the gardens and the orchards – the hour of their wide awakening is not yet.”

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To be continued…..

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