2018 has been good to me, so far anyway.
When I was a school girl in China, we had no computers, iPhones and whatever gadgets children these days are bombarded with. I don’t even remember having any Barbie dolls or fancy toys. So I spent a lot of my spare time running in the corn and rape fields behind my school, chasing butterflies and catching dragon flies. I did not suffer from the unpleasant hay fever back then :-).
While studying in Scotland, I used to walk through the lovely Glasgow Botanic Gardens, as I made my daily trips between the fabulous University of Glasgow campus and my temporary lodging. The smell of freshly cut grass, and its soothing softness had a calming effect. The glass houses contained a selection of amazing plants and flowers from far and wide, not to mention the cute and cool Scottish squirrels, who, just like the Scottish people, were friendly and easy to approach.
I am a naturally cheerful and optimistic person, and I am even happier when I am surrounded by the greens, pinks, reds, oranges, purples and all colours in between that Nature has bestowed upon us. In recent years, especially with the ever-improving quality of iPhone cameras, I find myself obsessively taking shots of the flowers bursting out almost all year around, all about us.
I sometimes wonder what kind of thoughts are going through my neighbours’ heads when they look out from their houses, and see a Chinese woman kneeling down outside their front yard, her phone pointing at their flowerbeds. Thankfully so far no one has ever told me off yet, and many of their carefully planted flowers and garden treasures have delighted my family and friends all over my social media. British gardens, to those of my far-away relatives and virtual contacts, are always blooming, and one of my Chinese friends once commented: ‘For those who have never been to the UK and who read your posts (on WeChat), they would think that UK is everywhere beautiful and is blessed with fantastic weather all year round’.
She made a good point there :-).
The seasons are distinct in China. I was born in the springtime when the temperature was mild and the fields dressed in green and emerald, with rice paddy fields and young bamboo leaves which my native pandas like to chew constantly.
Temperatures would rise steadily and eventually reached a steamy 40+ degrees in August, when farmers and workers toiled only in their shorts and many families slept outdoors on their bamboo bed sheets, fanning themselves non-stop and waiting for the night breeze which seemed reluctant to grace the poor mortals, prior to the intervention of indoor air-con these days.
Autumn ushers in a welcoming change, warm and cool in equal measure. Then there is winter, with or without snow.
In the UK, the changing of seasons is less distinctive. As my English text book once told me me: In Great Britain, we have summer in the winter, or vice versa. You may also experience four seasons in one day.
No kidding! No wonder the Brits like to tirelessly talk about weather. You know why? Because it’s changing all the time and never quite predictable enough as to what to wear at the start of the day :-).
Despite its unpredictable, ever changeable weather, the seasons in the UK, like everywhere else, follow a pre-destined pattern. Mother Nature has been repeating this enchanting melody of Four Seasons, just like the namesake of Vivaldi’s violin concerto, played year after year, in beautiful harmony and synchronicity.
Every year, daffodils, tulips and cherry trees of various shades of pink and white burst into bloom, announcing the arrival of Spring, a time for renewal and revitalisation. The eternal clock of nature greets us each year, without fail.
Lucky me this year – I get to experience a much extended spring, of four countries, from the East to the West, and South to North over 3 months.
In March I travelled to China for business, and I returned to a few cities I knew well: Chengdu, Chongqing and Nanjing. I also visited two cities for the first time, Tianjin and Zhengzhou. From Southwestern China where the spring arrived a little earlier than the north, I saw magnificent spring flowers everywhere I went, cherry trees, magnolias, camellias and apple/peach/pear/plum blossoms.
Spring followed me further north to Seoul in South Korea. Not only the campuses I visited were full of stunning colours, but also the city itself was basked in the glory of fabulous spring. On the day before I flew back to the UK, a cherry blossom festival along the Hangang River gave the spectators a most amazing show of nature, as I joined many locals and tourists under canopy of cherry trees. I took numerous pictures and videos as I walked for miles, delighted by the beauty and energetic buzz surrounding me.
On returning to England, the winter chill seemed to have gone and the air was filled with a mixture of sweet fragrances. The rain still poured as the dark clouds gathered from time to time, but when they disappeared and the sun made a sudden appearance, the English countryside was decorated with colour and vitality.
A couple of weeks ago, we headed to the northern part of Scotland, the furthest we’ve ever been to: part of the Scottish Highlands and Orkney Isles. Due to its location, Spring arrived later than the rest of the mainland, so we were presented with rows and rows of yellow daffodils, framing the blue lochs and hills of various shades.
Inverewe Gardens basks in the warmth of the Gulf Stream where it reaches the West Coast and this creates an ideal micro-climate for growing plants from all over the World – even in the depths of a Scottish Highlands winter.
I love the spring. The vibrant colours transform both cities and countryside. Right now near me, new flowers, both domestic and wild, are bursting out, lilacs, irises, daisies, you name it. The different colours, sizes and shapes are enchanting and mesmerising.
Many blooms are unknown to me. I treated myself to a little souvenir from Orkney: Wild Flowers Britain and Europe. Eventually I may be able to name them, as well as photograph them!