The showers arrived, and they were late. In April the soil was cold and hard. Cracks appeared underfoot, small and thirsty valleys. We took to train to Hertfordshire and walked on chalky white paths. It felt like looking down at late summer, not early spring. Every blue-skied day gnawed a little; instead of the dizzying heat of last year, I turned the fan heater on several times a day. Hot ankles, three jumpers. The tulips were stubborn green buds that opened one warmer week. Cold nights kept them tall and late.
When the rain came, we were in the Cotswolds, in a bloody hut with a wood burner that wouldn’t hold enough to last the night. I woke up at 2.30am, shivering, and fumbled around with matches. A brief flare, and then nothing. So we clung together, all elbows and knees, on a hard mattress. M slept through, I held aches across my shoulder blades. I drowsed through the rain, woke during the dawn chorus in the dark, then drifted to a damp, grey morning, with none of the energy to boil nettles into my tea.
We drove through it across the border into Wales, where the roads warned ARAF and the trees showed off their bright new leaves. Off the motorway and into a valley, the curve of the Wye below us. One swooping exhale as we remembered what it was to be elsewhere, properly elsewhere, and together, after a year inside.
Then home where there were gales coming. I dropped my bags, kept on the coat and went out with the kitchen scissors, slipping the blades around the stems above as much leaf as possible. A precious handful of tulips on the cusp of blown out, petals fat and heavy. A girls’ night out three rounds in; smeary and delicious. Sat them in the jug, in the dark, where M had set up the ironing board, and settled in as the sash windows rattled. I peered out the window for the water to come, tetchy with impatience.
It did, and it lasted. Tuesday morning was clear but with none of that threatening haze. Once a shower had passed I went out and chucked seed about, roughly at the gaps but with the wind it was anyone’s guess, really. Finally, moist soil for them to bed into, and a hit of sunshine to warm them up. Cut a couple more tulips weary from the wind.
By day, I sit and watch the light catch the grass, the clouds roll in, the paving slabs wear that tell-tale darkening. There was thunder, lightning, big rain. Mac on just to take in the novelty of it; puddles forming on the lawn. The tulips, unfurling now - swapping lipstick with strangers in the ladies - catch teaspoons of it. And sun, and sun, and sun, beaming from the west. They catch that, too. All lit up.