Town mouse on London’s springtime

Just how sunny is it? I ask myself this question, in contemplation of the various human responses to the fine weather. Young women are dressed as if for the Côte d’Azur, some men risk shorts. Yet office workers trudge on in suits, as if the benign meteorological aspect that is breathing fresh life into the world is a matter for other people. Poor things. Think of them crushed into the Tube every morning.

Coming back from a day trip the other day, I was moved to pity for the commuter’s lot. As I walked away from my early-evening train, a human stream was flowing the other way. Brisk walkers, with the gait of anxious chickens, risked overheating as they hurried for crowded carriages. I’ve been lucky.

Over the past week, I’ve seen fritillaries growing beneath oak trees; pigs in orchards; milkmaids (of the wildflower variety) blooming on a Devon castle motte; curled fronds of ferns, looking like bishops’ crooks; wayside primroses; and rare tulips, peonies, hellebores and iris grown wild in a plantsman’s garden.

London blunts the finer edge of spring, noted only for the strength of the Sun, not the stirrings of the earth. But Le Sacré du Printemps is playing fortissimo in the country. It compensates for a long commute.