Sunday, 22 April 2012


Saturday April 21st
Walking along the streets, in bright, warm sunshine, it's like the whole city is waking up from winter sleep ...

The trees are coming into leaf, pale green and fresh, or blossoming white. The cathedral spire shines brilliantly white and gold against a deep blue sky, its bells ringing out a sweet arpeggio.

People are out and about, many, many people, strolling in leisurely fashion along the broad, tree-lined roads, and the main pedestrian street, Deribasovskaya. And everyone is wearing light clothes - the scarves, gloves, thick coats and fur hats of the very cold winter now seemingly a distant memory - and looking relaxed and happy with the change.

In the parks and gardens people are lounging on benches, chatting, couples have their arms wrapped round each other, and children are running in every direction, freed from the layer upon layer of clothes they are swathed in during the winter.

The fountain in Gorodski Sad (City Garden) sends freshening sprays of water into the air for the first time this year, and a small orchestra tunes up on the bandstand - the tuba's august tone, as it seems to me, sounding a fanfare for the arrival of spring.

The planet reaches that stage of its annual journey through space, where its axial tilt of 23 degrees takes the northern hemisphere that little bit closer to the sun, and the increase in solar warmth works its quickening magic on every cell. Or, as the ancients would have said, the unconquerable sun returns to warm the earth.

"It's time for spring", "When is summer coming?", "I want the winter to end", have been standard refrains in conversation for several weeks now. We have our wish ...