Primrose time

Apr 14th, 2012 | By | Category: High Ham and Somerset

The Easter card on the window sill of the house found a resonance deep in the recesses of the memory, not anything religious, but that sense of irrational optimism that filled childhood years; that sense of the springtime of the year bringing days hugely different to those of winter in our country village. There was a momentary sense of something having been lost, and gone forever beyond recovery.

The card radiated a spring brightness; its depiction of spring flowers declaring the return of the light evenings, of trees shrouded in blossom, of nature rousing itself from its slumbers. The primroses seemed always the greatest of spring flowers.

Primroses were the flower of Easter at home. In the mild climate of the English West Country, the daffodils were past and no one had yet thought of selling mass-produced lilies at entrances to supermarkets.

Primroses grew under the hedgerows along the roads around our village. They were the flowers used to decorate little Easter gardens made from moss and stones, with crosses fashioned from ice-lolly sticks. In my whole life, I have only attended church in England once at Easter, so the primroses are what recall the Easter story that was told in our primary school year by year.

The sight of primroses, flourishes of yellow along the green banks of country lanes, always brought back poignant memories of Miss Rabbage, our schoolteacher who lived alone and drove a little Austin A35 car. Miss Rabbage would have loved primroses.

One spring evening in the mid-Noughties, I decided to search for Miss Rabbage in the BT Phone Book, I had this vain hope of finding her to say ‘thank you’. She retired at the age of sixty in 1972. Even then, she would have been in her nineties, if she were still alive. My efforts were in vain, I could find no number, and, even if there had been a number, what would I have said? What do you say after forty years?

Pondering the primroses, I became aware of not following the conversation in the house. Non-committal answers had to suffice until the thread was recovered.

There was a moment’s temptation to talk about the primroses, and to talk about Miss Rabbage and all the things she had taught us, and to talk about the spring and how much it meant to a small boy in a little village deep in rural England.

Of course, I said nothing. We do not say things. It would be like finding Miss Rabbage’s number and picking up the phone; the thoughts are all there, but they won’t fit into words.

It’s a fine time for primroses.


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  1. Primroses always remind me of the Schools Ascension Day service in Ham Church when we would take our bunches of flowers up and put them in to the big painted crown which would be hoisted up on the Church screen, then the highlight…..being allowed up the Church tower.
    I think Miss Rabbage spent the rest of her life living in Low Ham at I think, at her Brothers or a close relation(I cant recall his name) who farmed the Council Farm which is near the junction at the bottom of the hill from Sams Cross. (on the Long Street road).

  2. My mum was telling me that she retired to Yeovil Marsh initially and then came back to Low Ham. Her brother-in-law had the farm there.

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