We have just spent a strenuous afternoon engaged in one of those seasonal middleaged sort of things, viz. planting bulbs. This always takes the same course; a huge box arrives from Peter Nyssen and we stare into it appalled; there is a hundred of this, two hundred of that. It is the busiest time of year; how the hell are we going to find time to get these little bastards underground? Well, it has been a nice sunny day. Laying aside 5 lectures, somebody’s PhD, a 700-page book for review, a malfunctioning Hoover, the inkle loom, this year’s Christmas book and a batch of bread dough (to mention only the things on my jobsheet for the weekend), the Northern Professor and I stormed out and got planting. We did this with considerable efficiency: 135 tulips, 100 iris reticulata, 30 dark pink lilies, 30 hyacinths and 100 muscari now adorn the beds in front of the house, and I have planted two huge pots of lilies and one of allium schubertii. There is more to go, but that was the biggest job. With a place this size, you need to plant bulbs by the hundred or not at all. And the other thing is, as it goes on , you feel more and more cheerful. Eventually, it will be spring. And when it finally arrives, it will be greeted by hundreds of flowers. The skies will not be steel-grey, soggy and dark for ever.