When I go for a walk with the dog, it’s to put my writer’s jumble of thoughts into some semblance of order. My family marvel at a cat lover’s ability to tolerate a canine walking partner. Odd, I agree, but I’m over it, and as dogs go, this one is most agreeable…
Some of my best poetry and short story ideas come to me as we traipse through the muddy lanes hereabouts, jumping puddles, heads down against the worst of the wind and rain.
But while walking, I’m often distracted by my unlikely knowledge of wild flowers – I have no recollection of learning the names of so many plants, but somehow I can recognise them and recall their common names.
One of my most treasured possessions is a 50-year-old, well-thumbed copy of the Observer’s Book of Wild Flowers. I would have learnt some of the flowers from that book, although I don’t remember the process of learning them, not like I recall the thrill of Mrs Lane teaching me to read with a Janet and John book in Infants School, or Sister Virgilius schooling me in the seven times table in Junior School.
And I still remember Sister Edwards’ frustration at me, as a pre- teen in Senior School, trying to work a neat chain stitch in Embroidering classes in Form One St Anne’s. I have distinct memories of putting a lot of teenage effort into learning Latin, trigonometry and calculus, and then learning to play the guitar as a 15 year old. But learning all those flowers, when on earth did that happen?
The knowledge was unlikely to have come from my parents. They were both townies, not terribly impressed by the lack of street lighting and dearth of public transport that comes from moving to the countryside, as we did when I was nine years old. They wouldn’t have known a dandelion from a daisy (well they might, they were keen gardeners, but even so…).
And while I can’t now remember much else of what I learnt as a schoolgirl all those years ago, somehow I can still identify a Wood Anemone or a Good King Henry, a Lesser Celandine or a Germander Speedwell. And although I was brought up in rural Worcestershire in England, it’s very satisfying to see the same familiar plants in the Irish hedgerows here in County Roscommon, distracting though they can be when I’m supposed to be thinking of writing.
PS: They’re last year’s ox-eye daisies, if you’re wondering…