A row of freshly washed bottles is lined up in the window behind the kitchen sink. A parade of gleaming soldiers. It’s 0545am and the sun is already bouncing through the panes. Spring is here. SPRING!
I scoop sweet-smelling powder into a jug of warmed water, ready to whisk, pour and affix the rubbery teats. It’s breakfast time for the three orphaned lambs that I rashly agreed to care for - giddy with Spring joy. ‘The children will love it! What an experience for them…’ For them? Them? It turns out that I’m the sucker creeping out at midnight, a pair of rank tracksuit bottoms hauled over my pyjamas, head torch on, clutching an armful of warmed bottles. It’s my alarm that shrieks through my dreams as dawn breaks. I’m the one who smells faintly of lamb poo and whose day is dictated by their mewling and three-hourly feeds. I’m up way before the yoghurty mayhem of the kids’ breakfast and school run, before the dishwasher is emptied, before the dogs have had their pee, before that first mug of builders’ tea. But to tell you the truth, I don’t mind, not one bit. In fact, I truly love it. You see, these three orphaned lambs wobbling about on bandy legs looking like they’re wearing knitted flared trousers with little black pointed clogs encapsulate everything I have missed about Spring, and Spring is wonderful.
So, Spring really is a thing for me. For over twelve years we raised our family of three girls in the steamy tropics of Singapore, one of the most multicultural cities in the world. But in that time, we never experienced the absolute heart-lifting and soul-filling joy of Spring - or the magic of the changing seasons. Modern, and ruthlessly efficient, Singapore was a great place to live with its good infrastructure, schools, and its ease of travel around the region making it a magnet to expats like us. However, like the rest of South-east Asia, Singapore’s climate is hot and humid – lying only 1 degree north of the equator giving it a ‘glasshouse at Kew Gardens’ type of tropical rainforest vibe all year round. Heavy rain is almost an everyday phenomenon, even during the non-monsoon season. Beads of sweat would cling constantly to my top lip and leave salty tide marks in my bra, clothes and shoes furred with mould. Energy sapping, grump inducing heat. Its proximity to the equator also meant that daylight hours were reduced by only seven minutes during the year. In England, the variation is seven hours. With so little change in climate, there is little change in the flora and fauna too. Darkly lush and dense vegetation, harbouring snakes, monitor lizards and biting fire ants remained that way all year round. Darkly lush and impenetrable. With no seasons, there is nothing to mark time.
In much the same way as I yearned to escape the cloying heat and sultry same-sameness of Singapore, I’ve been desperate to shake off the bleak, muddy shackles of a British winter and welcome the tender promise of Spring. But Spring starts slowly, gently, teasingly with snowdrop swords piercing through the hard earth in February. And then I wait with increasing impatience for the splashy yellow daffodil trumpets to line the verges as I turn my face, eyes closed to feel a hint of warmth in the sun. March - the clocks go back! Hurrah for longer evenings! The dogs start to moult clumps of fur – a new phenomenon for a pair of Singapore street dogs - which is duly scooped up in the beaks of nesting birds as it tumbles about in the breeze. The hedgerows become a white frilly-knickered froth of hawthorn blossom, and then a pea-green haze. Birdsong becomes louder and more joyous, as bees begin a lazy thrum through the canary yellow fields of oil-seed rape. Swallows make their return and dart, and swoop, pasting muddy nests beneath the eaves. And then the bloated, waddling ewes in the fields around me start delivering their lambs – their gentle yet insistent bleats carried on the warmer breeze - signalling to me that Spring really is here.
Words & imagery by Tula Goodwin.
Tula Goodwin moved to Wiltshire in August 2020 after living and working in Singapore for over 12 years. She is a PR Consultant and freelance writer and mother to three daughters.