2nd May


Finally, spring had arrived. The early-morning air was chilly, but by eleven the sun had real heat in it. Buds were on every shrub and tree in the garden, bulbs were pushing their shoots up urgently, birds were everywhere, collecting for nests, chattering and cheeping, having to make up for lost time and telling the world about it. Renewal, hope: she felt it as she always did, as she always feared she wouldn’t in the middle of winter.

She got her bike out, pumped up the tyres, sprayed the chain and gears. Four miles along the top road – a bit of a climb but she’d be fine if she paced herself – was a crossroads. The daffodil farm always put bunches of surplus flowers out in a wooden box at this spot, with an honesty box fixed to a gatepost. Twenty-five pence a bunch. They were beautiful, all different varieties, and she wanted some today, for the house. Some for next door too. She put four pound coins in her pocket. Sixteen bunches of delight, that was what she wanted.

The phone went just as she was locking the front door. She thought about going back in, decided against it. She’d only be away an hour. Whoever it was would leave a message if it was important. But nothing was more important for her right then than being out, cycling past the castle, the Pictish stone, the horses in their field, the sheep in theirs. She needed to feel the sun on her back, the breeze in her face, the muscles stretch in her legs and arms; to pause for a minute, looking out at the snow on the northern hills, then freewheel down to the crossroads and pick her sixteen bunches. It was good to be alive on such a day.

As she dropped the coins through the slot of the honesty box, and carefully placed the unopened daffodils in the pannier, the sound of the ringing phone through the locked door came back to her. There was no reason to expect bad news, but she knew it was out there somewhere. Yet still the sun shone down. She turned the bike, started for home.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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