Early spring may still be piercing cold. The crocus has already gone. The birds are debating whether the time is right. They look a bit lost. No arrivals from Africa yet, no clouds of starlings, the geese queue up for tickets to Canada, the more elderly knocking off lots and lots of air-miles from their credit cards. At the check-in, the screaming and honking lot poops all over the place. The youngsters test their runway skills against the slow flowing river and across the water reservoir. I do like geese and ducks – in every form and shape; basted and alive. Ducks know what they want and tell you so in no uncertain terms, impatiently pecking at your knee: "Hey you, look at me, I’m here, don’t pretend you don’t see me. Now are you going to share your sandwich, or what?" The role model for Donald.
You zip up the parka while precariously navigating around the patches of dirty slush. Not a good time for polished shoes. Passing cars splash at you. Lawns register accurate prints of your soles and smear mud onto your boots.
The calendar announces spring. The calendar lies. The pussy willows whisper it’s Easter time. The pussy willows lie. No rabbits yet, and no eggs. Promises, promises, and still the moaning winter winds, more snow and the unending April weather. The river, normally the town’s unassuming companion, quietly navigating the shallow rapids, over night has risen to street level (about eight meters at least) and tumbles along as a roaring drunk.
(Singaporeans have no idea how privileged they are.)
But by and by, the birds get their act together and start collecting twigs. Milder days allow for unzipping. People put up wheels on their roofs to welcome the stork. These birds remember their old nesting places and sail in with plans of extensive renovation. Storks partner up for life, but he is the first to sail in and getting everything ready for her. (It seems on their African holiday the gender separate and guys and girls have fun on their own. So it is always a big display, with clapping beaks, craning necks and strutting, when such couple finally reunites. We know all this for sure since we have put ringed markers on their ankles.) The wheel expresses the landlord’s hope for good luck and every year the feathered tenant adds a new floor for a better view. Over the years some of these nests become veritable towers. Smaller birds building on a smaller budget do the DIY together. Here and there appears a first clutch of eggs and the cuckoo commences plying its nefarious trade. (To be fair: of the many kinds of cuckoo birds only some are brood parasites. The road runner isn't – meep, meep.)
You stop and listen to the never-ending twitter in the air – spring has truly sprung. Finally! It is Narcissus-Amaryllis-Helianthemum-Hyacinth-Iris-Buttercup-time. They make pretty bouquets if you pluck them yourself, but are not suitable for the shop. They don’t keep.
But there is one thing really keeping well. The rumpot. It’s a project for the entire year. You need a rather large earthenware vessel, and all the fruit of the seasons. Winter, of course, has nothing to offer, so you buy exotic imports like pineapples, layer it out at the bottom of the vessel, and pour rum over it of 60%(!) proof. Let it rest. Comes spring we layer in the first berries, again cover with rum. Then summer with strawberries and cherries, autumn provides the pear and apple slices, not to forget the pitted and halved plums, each fruit forming a layer drowned in rum. Then, next winter bring out the big ladle and stir … … … – – – !!! Hide your car keys somewhere where you can’t find them and pour over ice cream or on a hot pudding. It is very, very potent. Especially the fruit. Yum.