Skip’s ode to blossoms

Community spirit blossoms as the lockdown marathon continues Picture: Trevor Allen

Community spirit blossoms as the lockdown marathon continues Picture: Trevor Allen - Credit: Archant

Keith Skipper wonders what future generations will make of our currrent history and ponders over blossoms.

I can’t help wondering how history will size up myriad causes and effects of our current global pandemic.

Perhaps its significance could be underlined by stark references like “In the early 21st century BC (Before Coronavirus), the world was far more concerned with making a lucrative living than living a safer life”.

Such deep ponderings seem out of place on a bright April morning dotted with blackbird trills above, a pigeon coocophany in distant trees, butterflies and bees dancing over flowerpots and snatches of complete silence we hardly expected to hear again.

Suddenly, I realise there are certain words carrying sufficient power and purpose to lift the heart and banish mountains of fears that too many splinters still await those sliding down the bannister of life as summer unfolds.

“Blossom” falls perfectly into that uplifting category at this time of year despite odd warnings of ground frost and spiteful winds designed to send nature’s confetti on a mad whirl through city, town and country.

It is hard to imagine the word employed in a negative context – although one of my less gregarious schoolmasters did his best when he scribbled on my report: “Keith would do well to pay more attention in class if he wants latent talents to blossom”.

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I admit to drifting off now and again in the direction of musical and literary delights worthy of April adulation. I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time promised the Andrews Sisters. Eddie Calvert, The Man with the Golden Trumpet, let rip once again with Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.

The Orange Blossom Special train must have shunted into Swaffham station before the government instructed Dr Beeching to cast a nasty shadow over our highly sensible transport system. He put paid to many more lines than I ever managed in detention.

A Blossom Fell crooned Nat King Cole to suit the mood. Blossom Dearie laid down several sophisticated tracks before I paid enough attention to her talents as jazz singer and pianist.

I cleaned my school shoes with Cherry Blossom polish to show a certain master how a practical touch was emerging alongside dazzling contributions to class debates.

He seemed almost impressed by my introduction of Joe Blossom as a character from the works of PG Wodehouse but refused to devote a whole period to nicknames decorating pages from Charles Dickens after my discovery of David Copperfield’s first wife Dora being hailed as Little Blossom.

Scattergun adventures to sharpen an interest in our language well beyond general requirements for GCE passes.

I gloried in being dubbed a rapscallion, demanded a second opinion over blackguard and blamed Shakespeare for earning me the status of a scurvy knave.

Joy knew no bounds when I realised abstentious and facetious could be the only words in English with all vowels on show in the right order. Others may have come to light since my research in the early 1960s but these two have served me well enough when turning down a drink because it might make me too loquacious.

Then it dawned on me I could easily end up bilingual as I tuned in eagerly to dialect words and phrases used plentifully in our household, among many neighbours and across other swathes of Norfolk as a newspaper reporting career broadened my canvas.

Just for fun, I have jotted down favourite orthodox words encountered over the years, most of them finding a home in newspaper articles, diary pages since 1984 and the little notebook always nestling in my pocket.

All these give me a tingle … autumnal, avuncular, beetroot, bucolic, cowslip, crepuscular, curmudgeon, desultory, ebullience, evocative, fecundity, garland, gleaming, harmony, harvest, homecoming, inimitable, juxtaposition, kindle, lilt, quiet, redolent, rhubarb, sanguine, serene, soliloquy, transcend, tarry, undaunted, vivacity, woodland, yodel.

Of course, the real test would be to weave that little lot into an epic poem or short story with a pronounced Norfolk flavour.

Roll on those evenings when it gets late earlier.

In the meantime, I will leave the last word for now with a lad who showed real promise as novelist, critic, and essayist. Marcel Proust waxed: “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”.

I’m sure we can all point to family, friends and folk who were strangers not long ago worthy of places on that special allotment helping us to dig in for survival.