Anyhow. Today Dan (short for Dante, aka the SP – I figure now he’s 21 I no longer need to protect his RL identity) and I went up to the hill fort. And the banks of the Cauldron (aka the Chimney – no, I don’t protect the RL identity of a steep path – it’s just the name James gave to the hollow way) were studded with primroses. Flashes of spring. At last.
Proper wild primroses, shy soft yellow - not brash fake egg yolk like the ones you get from garden centres. Dotted over the banks. And, in a heartbeat I was seven years old again and just vibrating with excitement at the thought of primrosing.
For some reason, I forget why, I was staying with my grandparents in Castle Cary. They lived in a small cottage opposite the famous round-house, the town lock-up. And on the corner of the little street was a grocery. I can still smell that shop – hessian and earth and wood and dog and cat. There were sacks of grains and what have you – usually with a cat or two curled up on top. Miss Drummond, the proprietor, was an animal lover, to put it mildly. She had about eight cats and two extremely large Labradors. To walk into the shop was to be besieged by animals. Heaven. Okay, so probably hygiene hell but never seemed to hurt any of us, to be honest.
And one day she leaned down over the counter and asked, very solemnly, if I’d like to go primrosing with her one morning. When I think back, it seems a strange thing to do. But wait…maybe it was for church, for little posies to give out on Mothering Sunday. Maybe there was a reason. But a reason, if one existed, didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that I was going on an adventure. Because Miss Drummond had the ability to turn the most mundane into the magical. We would, she said, have to go early, very early, when the dew was still on the petals. Could I get up that early? I nodded earnestly.
And so we set off, at dawn, in her Mini Clubman (I think) and drove down deep lanes (the dogs in the back) until she found the exact right spot. Just this one, no other. And we picked primroses, reverently, being careful not to take too many from the same place. And stowed them with due ceremony and dedication in wicker baskets.
Then we drove back in time for a big breakfast which she cooked in the kitchen behind the shop – eggs and bacon and sausages, big thick slices of toast oozing with butter and big mugs of strong tea.
That memory has stayed with me so clearly, so freshly, down through all those years. Funny huh? Such a small silly thing it might seem, but somehow, so imbued with meaning and tingling with magic.
And it got me thinking about primroses. For example, I didn’t realize that both the flower and leaves are edible. And its symbolic meaning is courage, the sheer gumption to be the first to come out into the open, to face what could be a stark cold reception. The primrose is also a symbol of Freya, the ancient Norse goddess of love, youthfulness, fertility and beauty – and its themes include renewal, love and devotion. In the language of flowers it denotes ‘I can’t live without you’. And, then again and over and above, it apparently marks a landmark or gateway into the lands of fairie. Ah, now that does chime (fairie) bells. For that was a magic morning. And the Cauldron is indeed a gateway to other realms. J