Wednesday, 7 March 2012
The gorse is out, or fyrs as it was called in Anglo Saxon times - I understand that in some parts of the country it is still called furze now.
We have two bushes of it down our lane. They are both in bloom. It is windy today so you really don't catch the smell, but on a still day the distinctive musty smell reaches your nostrils long before you see the plant.
I understand that when the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus, saw the gorse in bloom in 1736, he fell to his knees in wonder. Now we see it as a terrible pest.
Rou nd here there are still quite a few big patches of the stuff. The farmers try grubbing it out but it takes some doing. Even with modern machinery the gorse often grows back. How much harder - indeed, how impossible - it must have been in early times.
Ronald Blythe talks about it in Hardy's Return of the Native, where Hardy suggests that gorse defined the community - if a village was surrounded by gorse then it was entrapped by it. I suppose when you think about it, early generations would be defined by the flora of the area to a large extent. Gorse would make an excellent sheep-proof fence round a village but it would also have a similar effect on the local population. And in even earlier times it wouldn't make a bad defence fence either. I understand it was a wonderful way to clean out the chimney every Summer.
Thinking about earlier times reminds me that I am reading 'The Seven Daughters of Eve'. mainly because I am thinking of buying the farmer a DNA test for his birthday, so that he can see which of the original seven he is descended from. Reading it one is struck by the incredible strides in the discovery of DNA that have been made since the war and how often the discovery was helped by a small, seemingly irrelevant happening that just triggered the right response from one of the researchers. A perfect case of 'Fortune favours the Prepared Mind' I would say.
My sister, in the nineteen forties, lost several children before they were a fortnight old because she and her husband had an incompatibility of blood groups. Thankfully research has now consigned that kind of death to a thing of the past but I well remember the distress it caused at the time although I was only a very small child.
Well, seeing a gorse bush seems to have taken me on a rambling course but I suppose there is a link and that link is the past. We can't escape it, however much we try but often it does make us thankful that we live in the present.