It was the new banner on The Other Place that brought it home to me. Not only was the Swan emerging, glinting, from its hibernal cocoon of scaffolding and plastic sheeting; but I had looked forward to TOP’s coincident opening with the first day of spring for a while… – and now it was imminent.
Despite the chill breeze, the sun hinted that the days of padded jackets would soon be past. Holidaymakers picnicked on the grass by the Avon, revelling in this newfound freshness. And suddenly – although it is easy to mutter about the clutter of tourists, they are, of course, Stratford-upon-Avon’s lifeblood… – the place felt ‘right’. This is how it is meant to be. The ferry rattling across the river. The ice-cream vans. The RSC’s Riverside Café terrace filled with customers. It was as if the whole town had been painted with an instant smile. And my spirits, too, were lifted. Spring was in my very steps.
Still, it is good to have the place to oneself, occasionally – and, even during summer, one can pick a time, wisely, to achieve this. Just over a week ago, though – with the Rec deep under water; most of my well-trodden paths impassable; and the thick fog rendering the familiar mysterious (as if part of a delicate Romantic Japanese brush-scape) – after having tentatively tiptoed along flooded roads, this was almost solely my domain.
Walking the same route most times I visit Stratford, I find solace in the subtle changes brought by not just the seasons, but the weather; the moods of the river; the removal and planting of trees; the understated moulding of the built environment around me. Sometimes – although I know their familiarity is motivated by easy greed – it almost feels as if the swans are my friends, here: their presence a permanence; and also an accompanying, constant comfort.
In the dullness, though, most birds were silent. A week later, under clearing skies, blue and great tits sparkled in the hedges; and a group of redwings and fieldfares – a wonderful surprise – chattered in a small copse: greeting me with feigned annoyance, but not moving from their temporary camp. Rooks fought noisily for the smallest of twigs; and blackbirds scurried alongside me, foraging for food and bedding amongst the Avon’s freshly-deposited gifts.
Dog-walkers – and their excited pets – also seemed more energetic; although still wrapped against the wind.
Where winter had been all too evident – where the water had claimed and cleansed its widening banks, and scoured the bridges… – all that was left were those small hints of debris: wrack, dry as raffia, tangled into seatbacks; branches attempting escape downriver.
Spring has finally sprung; and, hopefully, my mood, too, will soon follow. Not that I don’t enjoy winter – I love it equally with its partner autumn – it’s just that the warmth is kinder to my aching body; and the growing days present more opportunities to witness the beauty around us.