A rose by any other name – lockdown diaries 2nd May

I went for a walk in the rain today. It was generally a beautiful day, with blue skies and scudding white clouds. But a low pressure anchored off Scotland’s east coast brought a steady westerly gale, driving a series of intense rainstorms across Wiltshire like bullets from a stuttering gun. “April showers” sounds such a wonderful phrase, but “May downpours” is far nearer the truth, albeit less poetic. Most of the wildlife today was smarter than me and was keeping to the depth of the hedgerows and the bottom of the grass tussocks to stay out of the rain. A bit of grey plastic caught in a riverbank hedge resolved itself into a large grey heron, irate at being disturbed, who lofted with an indolent flap of wings and then scolded me for perhaps a quarter of a mile with its brassy, vuvuzela bugles of outrage. A few wandering whitethroat buzzed from hedgerows, and in between the storms, a lone buzzed circled, taking advantage of thermals caused by rain evaporating under a moderate sun.

Hawthorn flower in sunnier times

With little else to do, I amused myself by trying to describe the smell of the wet landscape, and in doing so I suddenly caught a hint of a pleasant, perfume-like odour. I spent some time trying to track it down, by the simple method of sniffing everything around me – grass, tree bark, ivy – hoping that nobody else on a walk arrived to catch me doing it. In the end I tracked it down the flowers of the hawthorn. Perhaps I’m simply unobservant, but I have never noticed the smell of hawthorn before. I sniffed the flowers deeply, and came up a very faint flutter of the scent of… roses. I thought I was being foolish until I got back home and checked – and yes, the hawthorn and the rose are very distant relations, both members of the family Rosacea. And so another day closes where I have found out something new about the world around me. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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