Hit & Run: Where are all the daffodils?

Thursday 18 March 2010 01:00

First it was Valentine's Day (14 February). Then it was Shrove Tuesday (16 February). Then it was St David's Day (1 March). Then it was Mothering Sunday (14 March). Spot the connection? It's a dismal one. All of these spring feast days of one kind and another have had to be celebrated, in 2010, without daffodils.

Dutch tulips, lipstick-like in their colour schemes, are all very well, but where are our bunches of gold? Across the country, people have started to complain loudly about the painful absence of our most popular early spring flowers. In the past fifteen years or so, warmer and warmer winters have meant that daffodils have been available on flower stalls and have begun blooming in gardens as early as January (I've even seen them in December), and we've got used to that, but this year, with March more than half over, they are barely visible.

In London's parks, for example, snowdrops can still be seen – at an incredibly late date – but virtually all daffodils are only at the bud stage. Yesterday you could spot the odd flash of yellow – just about. It's even worse three hundred miles north, in the Lake District, immortally associated with daffodils because of Wordsworth's poem about them dancing in the breeze on the shores of Ullswater; daffodils have been so thin on the ground that this week, local tourism officials asked visitors to report any daffodil sightings on Twitter.

The reason, of course, is the coldest winter for 30 years, from which we are just emerging: it has set back the spring, or at least the spring as we have recently become accustomed to it, by anything up to a month. (When temperatures fall below 6C, daffodils stop growing.) Many other spring flowers and blossoms have been delayed this year, such as magnolias, two to three weeks late, and plum blossom, more than a month late in some places, but somehow, the absence of daffodils seems to be paining people the most. We consume such enormous amounts – some farms in Cornwall grow more than 200 million stems every spring, and we produce half the world's daffodil bulbs, annually exporting 10,000 tonnes – that it seems the yellow trumpet has gone into our psyches as a part of spring we can't do without.

Botanically, daffodils are members of the narcissus family (the scientific name for the wild daffodil which Wordsworth saw is Narcissus pseudonarcissus. There are more than 2,500 cultivated varieties. The name probably derives from that of another flower, the asphodel, and the traditional flowering time, as the poet A E Housman expressed it (he of "A Shropshire Lad"), is Lent: to him it was "The Lenten lily/That has not long to stay/And dies on Easter Day."

With Easter falling on 4 April this year, his timing will be just about right.

Michael McCarthy

Pop videos with a punchline

Comedians and rock stars have traditionally had lechery and alcoholism in common, although comedians' self-deprecation has never sat well with the usual narcissism of those with a record in the charts. For unconventional musicians, it's a more obvious partnership.

Take the recent work of comedian Peter Serafinowicz, who has directed the music video for geeky-looking Hot Chip's (above) track "I Feel Better", currently trending on Twitter. The film sees an idiotic boy band playing the members of Hot Chip, the message being: "Hot Chip might look like dorks, but you can be dorks and be in a band". BBC 6 Music's Adam Buxton famously got Radiohead to film each other wearing stupid-looking cycle helmets and the IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade has brought the likes of Arctic Monkeys down to Earth.

It can, however, go disastrously wrong. The last thing we need – just ask the Young Ones and Cliff Richard – is another "Living Doll".

Rob Sharp

Hairdryers in dire straights

The Office for National Statistics's cost-of-living basket has become a sleeker place. Where once the hairdryer reigned supreme, hair straighteners have stolen its heated glory. While both are likely to cause a sharp increase in split ends, straighteners are a shortcut to the tresses our Sixties sisters only achieved with the help of an iron. And therein lies their appeal – unless you have a BTEC in hairdressing, chances are your skills with a hair dryer are limited. Without an extra pair of hands, a salon-style blow dry is impossible to achieve. Straighteners are easy to use, effective and even let you tame the back of your hair. No wonder the ONS has gone straight – everyone else has.

Rebecca Armstrong

Martin cold shoulders Glee plea

Glee doesn't just put grins on the faces of its millions of viewers; it also puts a spring in the step of record company execs. The high-school glee-club cover versions of songs featured in the show go on iTunes as they're broadcast, a method that made Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" into a gold single three decades years after its original release, and bumped sales of Rihanna's "Take A Bow" by 189 per cent. Yet at least one musical superstar seems unconvinced. Chris Martin and Coldplay supposedly declined to include their compositions in Glee's forthcoming second series, even as Mrs Martin's one-time gym buddy Madonna assented to an entire episode in tribute to her career, featuring 10 of her singles. Lady Gaga, too, let Glee's producers cover her songs. Surely Chris isn't the type to suffer from a sense of humour failure? He appeared in Extras as an ego-crazed caricature of himself, after all. Perhaps he simply hasn't had a chance to watch the show. If he had, he'd know that, despite being a popcultural juggernaut powered by the complex machinery of a multinational corporation, Glee is very difficult to dislike. Or maybe Coldplay wants to spite their record company, EMI, by denying them the financial windfall from a Glee cover of "Viva la Vida"; the band and their paymasters reportedly differ on the release date of Coldplay's fifth album. Bryan Adams sadly turned down the Glee treatment, too. An a cappella "Summer of '69"? Now that we'd like to hear.

Tim Walker

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