Another day, another unsteady struggle home, wobbly from my cold (now in its second week, and building its role by adding on new symptoms like stabbing sinus pain and a chest infection) through the first sparks of spring. In the verge, the speckled green shields of Lords and Ladies leaves are prodding up through the mulch of dead twigs and tattered grass; above in the hedge, sparklers of blackthorn, pussy willow and plum blossom hang in the branches, glowing with light stolen from the dusk, the dawn, what slips between the clouds. Budburst on the elder, buds swelling on the hazel and the lilac. Catkins nodding from the alder and the birch. But it's still a bit thin and pale out in the natural world right now; the tattered last of the snowdrops nodding awkwardly at the pallid faces of the first primroses. You can almost feel the sigh of relief when a daffodil (escapee from a garden or a field of hope) turns up, rude, bright and enormously cheerful, nodding happily at everything, shattering winter's silence. March is daffodils, struggling uncertainly out of the thin grass and winter wormcasts. In the gardens (where the spring action comes earlier, in the turned soil and cosy mulches) they are already showing in all shapes and sizes, delicate narcissi peeking out from rockeries starred with Russian Snowdrops, Glory-of-the-Snow and Squill, Standard Trumpets nodding sensibly above crowds of drunkenly sprawling crocuses. The daffodils fade back to buds as I come back from Littlemore (up the hill, where the soil is lighter and the sun less obscured) past gardens where there are periwinkles starring up from fence and tangle, the browning red and pink flowers of camellias caught in a sheltering hedge, the first injudicious splash of forsythia, browned by the not-yet-past-danger-of frost. A tussock of aubretia in a warm corner purpled with the reckless declaration of spring. Windowbox primulas, some escaped into the garden; and even an early red tulip here and there! When I get home my cherry (one of the absurdly early Japanese miniature varieties) has cracked its first blossom. And as for the daffodils? They're hardly started. The yellow invasion has only just begun!