Monty Don has reappeared on BBC television. Admittedly, his Friday night programme was one that was pre-recorded last year and was from gardens in Japan, which he visited for the cherry blossom festival at the beginning of April, but nevertheless a sighting of Monty Don on a Friday evening is like a glimpse of the black and white plumage of the first swallow to return from the winter migration. One swallow does not make a summer, but the appearance of Monty Don does make a spring.
The return to the schedules of the weekly Friday night gardening programme is an indicator that longer days and warmer weather are approaching. There are the familiar signs of nature, buds and blossom on the trees, crocuses and daffodils along the verges, birdsong in the air, but there are other signs of the seasons changing.
Longer days and the passing of frosty weather mean the arrival of the coming season’s road works. On the M5, works stretch from Junction 23 to Junction 22. Well, the cones and the lane closures stretch that far, the work seems to occupy a tiny space. Yellow signs advise motorists that the work will last twenty-six weeks, well into the summer with the prospect of causing disruption to the holiday traffic.
The prospect of holidays brings the sight of mobile homes being borne southward on the back of lorries, caravans bound for sites in the south or south-west of the country. Watching their progress brings thoughts of the memories they provide for those who will travel the same route to spend a week at the seaside, the prosaic metal boxes becoming places that are magical for children coming to them for their holidays.
The approach of spring means a refreshing of signposts announcing local attractions. No-one’s attention is going to be caught by fading paint or outdated information. The approach of spring is marked by the appearance of posters announcing events that are still months hence. Shows and festivals and concerts in that will draw crowds in their thousands or tens of thousands are fixed in the minds of those who see the dates advertised on roadside hoardings.
It is as if there is a stirring from a slumber of months, a waking from long winter’s sleep. The weeks leading to Easter will be filled with a flurry of vernal activity and, among it all, the new season of gardening will really begin.