THE VIEW FROM HERE
Clocks forward, daffodils in bloom, Easter just around the corner. Hurrah, spring is here, and with it the promise of long summer days ahead.
The shops are full of these happy signs of new life, as are vicars’ parish letters ("Dear Friends, As I write this, the birds are singing in the rectory garden …"), media fashion pages ("Pastel pool sliders are this year’s trend, worn with the skimpiest of jewelled sarongs") and gardening columns ("You should be mulching and pricking out.").
But these are not the real signs of spring. If you want to gauge seasonal awakening, you must go along to the tip, or, as the council likes to call it, the civic amenity site. The length of the traffic queue at the tip is the only reliable indicator of whether it is time yet to leave off your woolly vest and cardigan.
Like hedgehogs uncurling out of hibernation, we humans know when it is spring because our instincts tell us we must have a jolly good sort out and trundle down to the tip with our unwanted lumber. And thus, as the days lengthen, so do the queues.
When the traffic at the Lynnbottom Tip on Briddlesford Road stretches back to the Hare and Hounds pub, you can safely assume it is time to get the garden furniture out of the protective polythene in which it has overwintered.
The protective polythene, incidentally, will be looking rather tired, so you should take it to the tip.
It used to be said one swallow does not make a summer but this is a very old-fashioned way of assessing these things. No, the tip will tell you all you need to know about summer.
Once you’ve counted 20 other people throwing their polythene into the skip marked "Plastics", you should hurry home and assemble the barbecue.
Time spent in the queue is never wasted. Examine carefully the garden rubbish which has been loaded on to trailers. If it contains bindweed or ground elder, this is a hopeful sign you will be getting out your swimming costume at any moment.
Branches of leylandii poking out of rear windows should alert you to stock up on suncream.
There used to be some piffle about the oak being out before the ash and only having a splash. All you need to remember now is that "If cut-down ivy fills the Fiesta, climb on to the sun lounger and have a siesta".
And while the hedgehogs snuffle through the undergrowth, we snuffle through our domestic dross. The dusty, musty harvest of winter must be cleared and hurled into that wonderfully accommodating skip marked "Bulky household rubbish."
Forget about ne’er casting a clout till May be out. That’s so yesterday. Go down to the tip and if "Bulky household rubbish" contains a chest of drawers that actually has no drawers, a disgusting kitchen worktop circa 1967, a mattress with the springs poking out and a pair of smelly old curtains, then get casting your clouts for all you’re worth.
Clouts, of course, should be cast into the container marked "Textiles". But please ensure they’re bagged properly.
Happy retirement to our very own miracle workers
Best wishes for a very happy retirement to the six midwives who, as reported in last week’s CP, have just said farewell to the IW NHS Trust after clocking up combined careers of 217 years and delivering around 200,000 babies.
And congratulations, too, to all of them. As one who was glued to every episode of Call the Midwife, I have a fresh respect for anyone who brings new life into the world, particularly as it seems quite often to take place in a scenario that is rather more hard-core Quentin Tarantino than soft-focus coochy-coo.
If our six midwives have delivered 200,000 babies, I wonder how many swear words they’ve heard over the years?
I’m afraid there’s something about giving birth that turns us women, even if temporarily, into an undignified welter of sweat, shrieks and disgraceful language that should not be heard before the watershed. Not after the watershed, either, come to that.
Where on earth did we learn those words?
As for all the blood and stuff, well, we won’t even think about that.
The Kray gang used to think they were tough. Nonsense. Those six midwives have seen things which would have made Reggie and Ronnie turn pale.
What’s a stupid little sawn-off shotgun compared to clanking great forceps?
But anyone expecting a baby shouldn’t worry. Those six midwives were also miracle workers and so are those who will follow in their footsteps. Because, at the end of all the palaver, there’s the best thing in the world. A delicious bundle of love and hope and happiness and that’s the only thing really worth remembering.
So thank you to midwives everywhere and especially to our six Island retirees for 217 stalwart years of yelling and cursing and muck and, most of all, miracles.