Rugby Cafe Writers were challenged to write a story, poem or article on the theme of Spring. Here is a selection of their contributions.
Hot Cross Buns by Christine Hancock
Spring means Easter, and the start of Easter is Good Friday, which means Hot Cross Buns. I got married in 1977, in May, but that Easter, I came up from Essex to help get the house ready. Painting kitchen cupboards was the main job, but I had found a recipe. I would demonstrate my culinary credentials and make some hot cross buns.
As you can imagine, with a half-built kitchen, it was a difficult operation and I forgot to add the final ingredient – an egg. They still tasted fine.
Of course, having started a tradition, I had to continue. Every year, whatever happened, I made hot cross buns, and traditionally every year, my husband always asks, “Did you remember the egg?”.
Several years we went camping in the New Forest, the hot cross buns came too. If we visited relatives, it was my job to provide them. Once, not that long ago, I had to look after my mother after an operation and my husband had to send a copy of my recipe for me to make them there.
Every year, until… Well, I expect you remember last year, and Lockdown One; the empty shelves, the shortage of toilet rolls and baked beans. And flour. And yeast. I was unprepared. I might have scraped together the flour, but hot cross buns without yeast? I looked everywhere, there was none to be had. I had to BUY hot cross buns – it wasn’t the same.
This year I’m prepared, and after this meeting I will prepare the dough (not forgetting the egg) and let it rise. I will knock it back and it will rise again, add the crosses and bake. If my timing is right, we will have hot cross buns for tea, warm from the oven, sliced and thickly spread with butter.
Spring has arrived and all is well.
Sounds from the Garden by Theresa Le Flem
There’s a bird
piercing the puffy pincushion
of the sky with boldness, its voice
a call for all the world to hear
from its tiny throat
and I imagine what source
other sounds come from,
the anonymous thrum
of a leaf-blower perhaps,
so estranged from the kindly brush
and broom of old,
the distant plaintive buzz
of a light aircraft coming in to land,
and the occasional burst of a power drill
dying away into the monotonous hum
of our busy town;
but above it all
at the very top of the tallest tree
solitary against the sky
the blackbird owns the day
First Day of Spring by Ruth Hughes
I could feel spring coming a good few weeks ago. I could smell it, hear it in the urgency of the bird song, also the nights were drawing out. I notice this because I have hens at the bottom of my garden and I shut them up when it goes dark.
Now we have passed the official. First day of spring.
I love the sound of all the birds singing, I thought they sang from joy as I do but I learned from a nature programme that they have to sing to entice a mate, also to protect their territory. I was disappointed. I thought that God had made them sing for our pleasure but no,
As I go for my daily walk down to The Cross. Roads and back, I appreciate all the appearing spring flowers growing now, Primroses,cowslips, violets Celandines, the wild cherry is covered with white blossom.
The hedges are beginning to shoot green now I can almost see changes each day. Then there are swathes of daffodils that groups of villagers have planted over the years. I am told there is plenty of frog spawn down the Great Central Way too.
Fresh as a daisy by Steve Redshaw
Spring has sprung, de grass is riz,
Oi wonder where dem birdies is.
Dem birds is on de wing, now dat’s absurd,
I always t’ought de wings were on de bird.
My Mum used to recite this, not only to herald this hopeful season, but on many a warm and sunny day and often in response to someone’s comment about how delightful the weather was, whatever the time of year.
I can’t guarantee that these were my Mum’s exact words, I do remember she attempted to affect an American drawl. Recently, I have wondered where on earth these words may have originated, so, like the nesting birds, I have been gathering useful materials.
One the one hand, this short verse can be dismissed as a schoolboy poem; childish, inconsequential, certainly authored by Anon. On the other, it has been attributed to ee cummings, Ogden Nash, even Spike Milligan has been implicated. It certainly appealed to him, he recited it several times on the Goon Show apparently. Perhaps it can reliably be traced back to this Ogden Nash poem;
Spring has newly sprung
The hills are full of grass
And along comes a billy-goat
Sliding on his overcoat
Down the summer pass
Ogden Nash has also been credited with this advertising slogan for an insurance company, displayed on a billboard at a large bend in the road;
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, where last year’s careless driver is
But returning to my Mum’s recitation, I came across some fascinating comments on an internet forum. Peter states, “I’m a 48 year old scotsman who was taught this poem when I was 8 years old and it has always stuck in my head for some reason.” It has spread globally too – Geoff, “Australia also…first time heard was 1976.” And Angela, “Down-under in Australia, and the version we had here began;
Spring has sprung, And the world’s begun, Anew
I always think it when I see the first spring flowers – to me that line perfectly embodies Spring.”
And while we are exploring different versions;
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the daisies is or how about,
…I wonder where my sweetheart is
Dotty M. recalls; “In the 1950s, one of my elementary school classmates recited a version:
Spring is sprung, The grass is riz, I wonder what that white stuff is This is perfect for Colorado!”
And in a similar vein Phoebe’s husband’s grandma, from rural Idaho, used to say, Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where my blanket is
So, did this ditty spring from the USA? There are several references to its correct title being ‘Spring in the Bronx’ and, according to Roy (internet forum), Tony Curtis did the definitive version on a chat show;
Spring is sprung, de grass is riz,
I wonder where dem boidies is,
Are de on de wing?
Dat’s absoid I taut de wings was on de tiny boid
But how did he come across it? Alan (on yet another internet forum) writes, “I believe this comes from a Marx Brothers’ film.”
It is intriguing – well to me at least! – how snippets of humour and such like are passed from person to person, generation to generation, country to country, evolving, morphing, being adapted along the way. To me, this short humorous verse is a treasured inheritance, a family heirloom. I hope I have passed it on to my children, who now have children of their own. Thank you Mum, I can hear you cheekily reciting this, I can see your gleeful smile, but I never did ask you, “Where did you get it from?”
Springtime by Simon Parker
Spring has sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the flowers is?
The bird is on the wing I’ve heard
But that’s absurd
I always thought the wing was on the bird!
So goes the zany rhyme that my mother used to recite, to announce the coming of spring in our part of the world. It was always a bit of fun, and if her motivation for saying it every year was to shake us out of our winter torpor, well, it worked!
Every living thing on the planet looks forward to spring: a time of renewal, so essential to the rhythm of life. This year, the season is even more special, as springtime 2020 never really happened, with the lockdowns that we’ve had to endure. The end of a 24-month winter is finally in sight, with many experiencing twice as much anticipation and twice the enlivening effect of the new season. We can all draw even greater pleasure from imbibing the warmth of the longer days!
Looking back, the drawn-out period of enforced isolation may have had a positive effect. Many have found that the things we took for granted weren’t actually essential to our enjoyment of or engagement in life. The restaurant visits have been replaced with more home cooking. The cinema trips have made way for playing family games and reading more often. Others have found that, rather than consuming media content, that they get more pleasure and fulfilment from creating it. All of this is to the good in boosting one’s own self-reliance and ability to cope with whatever life might throw at us in the future.
So here’s to springtime 2021! May we all enjoy it to the full, as we cautiously tread our own paths into an uncertain but exciting future.