Crows, lawnmowers and signs of spring

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How do we know when spring is really here? Easy! All you need do is tick off the following check-list.You know spring is coming when:

1. People say: "Shouldn't we put some food out for the birds?"

2. Egg-shaped bits of chocolate appear in the shops in nasty bits of silver paper.

3. Calendars are reduced in price.

4. You start asking people: "Do we put the clocks back or forward in spring? I can never remember."

5. Country lanes are closed by road works and signs saying WAIT HERE WHEN LIGHT IS RED.

6. You come across a circular from your local garden machinery depot urging you to get your lawnmower serviced four months ago.

7. It starts being light at some incredibly late hour such as 6 pm.

8. You start spotting cobwebs round the house which must have been there all winter.

9. You hear a strange buzzing sound and realise it is a fly.

10. Someone says, "It's not food that's so important to put out for the birds as water, in case it freezes."

11. One day, when it's been raining all day, a water authority announces that shortages are so bad it is thinking of imposing a hosepipe ban.

12. You think you see the first daffodil on the lawn, but it's only a piece of yellow wrapping paper.

13. You take your lawnmower in for a service.

14. You hear someone say: "I wonder why they call it Mother's Day when it is really Mothering Sunday?"

15. It snows unexpectedly.

16. Headlines say: "Freak snow brings Britain to a halt".

17. You think you see a yellowhammer in the garden, but it's only a daffodil.

18. It thaws unexpectedly.

19. Headlines say: "Freak thaw brings Britain to wet standstill".

20. Someone says: "I think you're meant to stop putting food out for the birds after a while, otherwise they become dependent."

21. The man at the lawnmower place says, "Mm, if you'd brought it to us in November, it would have been ready by now. As it is, a lot of people have brought their mowers in late like you, so you'll be lucky to have it by ..."

22. Looking at all the forsythia, you wonder idly who Forsyth was.

23. The England cricket team fly in from wherever they've been for four months, but are not crushed by welcoming crowds at Heathrow.

24. They look very brown as they get off the plane.

25. Which reminds you that you haven't even thought about booking your summer holiday yet.

26. You hear ghostly noises in your chimney.

27. Bits of stick start falling into your fireplace.

28. You neighbour says, "I suppose you know you've got crows building a nest in your chimney?"

29. You look up "Chimney Sweep" in the Yellow Pages.

30. Long-lost footballs come out of hibernation in the garden.

31. Each one of which, without fail, has acquired a puncture.

32. That long-lost Christmas present which your relatives in Canada swore they had sent off in early December finally turns up.

33. Containing a ghastly shirt.

34. Football managers, as their team is knocked out of the FA Cup, all say they are glad to have a chance to concentrate on the League.

35. The sweep arrives.

36. He says: "I suppose you know those crows up the chimney have got a nest full of babies?"

37. You ask him what should be done about it.

38. He says: "Light a fire. That should settle the little beggars."

39. You say nothing.

40. He sweeps the chimney and goes away.

41. In an idle moment you look up forsythia and find that it was named after a Mr Forsyth, once head of parks in Kensington.

42. You start wondering if wistaria is named after a Mr Wistar.

43. You find it was indeed named after a Professor Caspar Wistar.

44. You start wondering if buddleia, aubrietia and fuchsia were named after Buddle, Aubriet and Fuchs.

45. Your partner expresses concern that the lawn is unmown, the yard is full of deflated footballs, the house is cold and botanical dictionaries are lying open all over the house.

46. You start to explain why.

47. But when you find yourself saying that the house is cold because you haven't the heart to broil some baby crows, you fade into silence.

48. You stop putting food out for the birds because they're not eating it.

49. The forsythia blooms start falling.

50. It's nearly time for summer.