Last week I visited the Aged Parents (not an appellation that they would approve but, since I came down with a cold while I was there, I'm not feeling exactly spritely myself). Every afternoon I retired to my room to sniffle and catch up on my email, or a bit of typesetting, only to find that the super high speed connection which should be provided by my Vodafone gadget would only offer something akin to the speed of light through treacle. So instead I spent a good deal of time gazing out of my drafty attic window and watching the rooks, jackdaws and the occasional raven in trees that have achieved quite terrifying proportions in the 100 or so years that the grounds became a proper garden. On each of my visits my mother and I embark on a sort of Royal Progress: she with stick for swiping the "brimbles", and secateurs to stem the encroachment of the laurel bushes (a losing battle), while I follow behind like a footman, carrying any other necessaries (bag for fir cones destined for kindling, camera to record goodies, the odd armful of prunings destined for the compost heap) and murmuring agreement to such pronouncements as "I think that branch needs to come out" or "That azalea has done very well since I rescued it". The weekend Progress was limited by awful weather and, by Sunday, a pathetic disinclination on my part to move from the warm spot by the Aga.
The greatest treasures at this time of year are the cyclamen which carpet the ground, to be replaced in spring by crocuses and snowdrops. In a garden which still contains the occasional plant so exotic that no one can remember what it is, these tiny jewels still give the most pleasure.