In the garden, the signs of spring are multiplying. The peeping flowers of the snowdrops now belie the strong spears that first pushed them up through the frozen clay; from an apparently empty patch of soil a hellebore flower slowly unfurls; and the woods beyond the house are carpeted with the bright yellow suns of the winter aconite.
Clearing the dead stems from sedums and aquilegia reveals whorls of new growth beneath, each one filled with pools of mercury.
Even so, a cold, north-easterly wind prevails, whipping the ivy leaves along the fence, and setting the ash trees a-swaying. Winter is not yet ready to leave us.
But retreating inside, I find it’s no longer the time of year to yearn for wintery afternoons in cosy comfort beside the fire, drinking mugs of tea. The sight of those first spring flowers has set me thinking ahead to daintier pleasures, afternoon teas with favourite pretty pieces of china, such as this Shelley tea set (dating to 1932-4) or Carlton Ware butter dish, which have been safely stored away during the building work.
And so, while the flowers outside in the garden continue to emerge from the soil, inside, their hand-painted counterparts surface from under layers of tissue paper, as our more fragile possessions are returned to the house.
Gradually, more pieces will be unpacked and rediscovered, and enjoyed all over again.