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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Hope of spring is in winter air

“IF WINTER comes can spring be far behind?” This is the line with which the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley ends his poem Ode to The West Wind.

This line always comes to mind when we’re in the throes of a severe winter. I can take some comfort from the fact that spring, my favourite time of the year, isn’t so far off.

But this year it seems a long time coming and yet the first signs are there, despite it being still bitterly cold and the weather forecasters threatening us with more snow before the month’s out.

I had heard from Elaine Anderson that the oystercatchers had returned to the Esk on Valentine’s Day but then had disappeared, as they usually do.

She said it was normal to see them on that day and then not again until March 2.

But, as I walked along George Street last Friday, there were four of them on the banking below Reid & Taylor. Lording it over them was one of our ever present grey herons. As I passed the Kilngreen another heron had taken up prime position on top of one of the picnic tables.

Further downstream I’d spotted a dipper flying under the suspension bridge. They used to be a common sight on the Esk but last year I saw only an occasional one.

I’m beginning to sound like the Wanderer so, like Alex used to, I took to the hills, deciding, on a glorious though bitterly cold day, to tackle the Castle Hill and on to the Potholm Hill.

Returning by way of the Langfauld, I noticed that the rhododendrons were already budded and those furthest out had been nipped by the frost.

I went down through the snowdrop-carpeted wood at Holmhead, hoping I might spot a red squirrel. It’s about time they were coming out of their winter hideouts to retrieve their caches of nuts squirrelled away during the autumn.

But there was none around. They’d more sense than to emerge while the big freeze continues. Besides, they’ll miss being so well catered for by the late Arthur.

Walking back into the town over the Jubilee bridge, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of litter behind the sports centre.

The one basket put up for this purpose was filled to overflowing and the ground littered with the usual array of sweetie papers, crisp packets and the odd cigarette packet and even an empty tobacco packet. Who is responsible for cleaning up behind the sports centre and down the banking?

Our river banks are showing their first signs of the daffodils planted over the last few years by various voluntary groups.

It’s such a shame that some civic-minded people take pride in the appearance of the town, taking time and making the effort to clean and brighten it up, whereas there are always the few who couldn’t care less and even some who delight in spoiling it.

A question was asked of me the other day. When was the last time the siren was sounded at the police station in Langholm?

Now I had forgotten that the siren was tested every Saturday morning at the same time. But, having been reminded, I do recollect the blare which sounded very loud to me as I lived on Henry Street.

It was being tested to make sure it was in working order so as to alert the town in an emergency, such as enemy aircraft during the war or, after the war, a fire. Firefighters could be summoned from any part of the town.

The townsfolk could set their watches by it just as the citizens of Edinburgh set theirs by the one o’clock gun. It became redundant, of course, with the arrival of modern technology.

Can anyone remember the last time it sounded?

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