It is another bright morning, a fierce sun halfway up the sky, the wind cold and gusting from the west. Nothing but unravelled vapour trails mars the blue, which is pure and deep overhead but leaks flavour towards the horizon. Blossom has started to appear in Tall Tree Orchard, the flowers a rich, celebratory pink. Two pigeons bale out of an oak, the startled clatter of wings making the birds look guilty. My eyes adjusting to the light I see that leaves have started to form, the old tree steeling itself for another year. At times like this, and with age on my mind, the cycle of life looks exhausting.
The cuckoo pint attracts my attention for the first time in weeks, its presence taken for granted, its early exuberance upstaged. At first I think the thin green cylinder is a new leaf, yet to unfurl. Then I notice the same thing in other specimens, some of them quite immature. Is this the flower whose likeness to sexual organs has earned the plant its other name, Lords and Ladies? There is nothing for it but to open one up, their frequency in the lane excusing the intrusion. At first there does seem to be a leaf of some kind turned in upon itself, but on tearing at the outer folds I discover the thin, priapic organ known as the spadix, its purple skin concealing pale flesh which has been exposed where my thumb scraped the surface. Soon these cocky little spires will be visible everywhere, but exposing one like this makes me see how extraordinary they are, the upper part of the shaft slightly swollen like a club, the whole thing dense yet pliable. The function of this wand is another question, given that the flowers themselves are tiny and concealed at the base. I suppose it draws pollinators in – but how: by colour, shape or movement in a breeze? At least that is the male source of the epithet accounted for. The distaff side must be the sheath I have just broken into which unwraps to form a hood, shapely and secret within. The country folk who coined the plant’s name had dirty minds.