Spring may be here. It is always a tentative thing on this fair isle. And it has been a funny year, weather wise. Balmy at Christmas, freezing winds and rain in the early new year, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, sunny in the mornings, ice cold by lunchtime, woolens, t-shirts, the full spectrum of British climate, and now a hint of spring. And daffodils. I wrote last year of my love for this most unique of flowers, with its funny happy face and sweet soft smell. It doesn’t offer itself year round, but jumps out, for a short time only, from what is oft unlikely and forsaken ground. Rarely alone, daffs like to sway in groups, not at all fussy about their surroundings. Gardens, traffic circles, tiny patches of earth between slabs of concrete. And then they go. But while they are here, I take advantage. I fill my house with them. I fill my milk bottles with them. Yes, I have milk bottles. Because I have a milkman. Who leaves pints of milk on my doorstep every morning but Wednesday and Sunday. He drives a funny, electric cart. I often hear it stopping, with a pnuematic whosh, on the road at some impossibly early hour of the morning. But sometimes the milk comes during waking hours. I could, if I wished, have a variety of items left with the milk: cheese, bread, vegetables, pretty much any cupboard staple. But the simplicity of the bottles, all in a row, on a frosty winter morning has become too iconic an image for me to ever tamper with, even for convenience sake. The one draw back of delivered milk is that it tends to have a shorter life than grocery story milk. This means there is sometimes frantic expiration date checking and wasteful pouring out, especially when something has happened to upset the delicate milk-use balance. Occasionally there is a thick stopper of cream in neck of the bottle. A few hard shakes usually does the trick. When I first moved to England a proper country matron told me how she would carefully remove this mass and serve it up to her children with fruit as cream. Yikes. The thought still makes me feel vaguely sick. Rather like eating the freezer burnt scraps of ice cream in an empty tub. But to each their own.
My milkman is lovely. His name is Simon. He has never travelled to my country but would very much like to. He is knowledgeable about the current state of affairs there, always much to discuss with this presidential race going on. Well read too. He greeted me one morning with the question, “have you ever read Go Ask Alice?” Have I ever? A staple of my pre-teen years. How random. How divine. To talk about books on ones doorstep. I know his daughter enjoys outdoor adventure like abseiling and kayaking. He is always cheerful. And he delivers my milk. In gorgeous, traditional, glass milk bottles. Which, when empty, I leave out for him to collect….except for this time of year. When I keep back six, wash them up, and fill them with daffodils.
Because that is the beauty of spring in London.