Amidst the flurries of snow that blanketed Paris last week, there have been small harbingers that winter may be slowly waning. We usually wake up every morning to the sound of pigeons burbling and murmuring from their perching posts on top of the chimneys that rise up from the Passage Choiseul. They sit there, feathers puffed up, perhaps getting a little warm air from heating vents below. Late last week, though, for the first time, we heard a songbird trilling away. Maybe a blackbird, we couldn't see the bird so can't say for sure. Perhaps it's our imagination, but it also seems as though the sunlight (when it appears) is a bit brighter. Certainly, the sun's a little higher in the sky, and there are definitely signs of buds on the tree in the courtyard below our living room window. At the moment, it's a mystery tree, whose identity will slowly emerge in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, over in England, which has been enduring the most severe winter in over 50 years, the snow has finally given way to rain, at least in London. As the #26 double-decker bus lumbered over to Hackney/Bethnel Green, the wet streets gleamed softly under the street lamps, and pedestrians no longer walked with heads bowed, swathed and muffled against the cold.
I spent the weekend visiting family and seeing Alex's new sculpture show of hand-carved books at the MOT International gallery (http://www.motinternational.org/exhibitions-current.html). If you click on the small button at the bottom, you'll get a close up look at these beautiful works.
Sunday morning, after a delicious, cholestrol-busting breakfast of eggs and serrano ham and a "milky coffee", I stepped outside the front door of Alex and Sonia's flat on Columbia Road, and found myself smack-dab in the middle of the popular Flower Market that takes up the whole street every Sunday.
Choked with throngs of people, as far as the eye could see, I could barely make my way past the stalls displaying endless little pots that held promises of spring: snowdrops, lily-of-the-valley, daffodils, hyacinths, primroses and primulas.
Today's big sellers, though, were the bright-colored bouquets of roses and exotic orchids -- it was February 14th, Valentine's Day. The hawkers did themselves proud with their bellowing shouts: "'Ere yer go, 'ere yer go -- 'ave a look, twenny red roses fer only 15 pounds!" "Come on then, fellers, get yer roses now - she don't want yer kisses tonight, she wants 'er red roses!"
Meanwhile, at the far end of the street a retro skiffle group entertained the passers-by. On closer inspection, I suspect they might have been an original skiffle group. Instead of a washboard, though, the drummer chap had a metal baking tray, a colander and a kid's drum set. And sang away with gusto, as though he knew the days of winter were numbered.
Or, as the hawkers at the Columbia Road flower market would say: TTFN (ta-ta-fer-now!)