7:45 am found me sitting in my car, in an alley, eating muesli out of a tupperware box. I like to get into the city early as it means I spend less time sitting going nowhere on the car park they call the M2 motorway. Today was my annual visit to University. They wheel me out and dust me off every year to deliver a workshop on the use of ICT in science teaching. This year I felt the same as last year, I felt like a bit of a fraud. After delivering the same material year after year it feels lacking in innovation. Then I convince myself that the purpose is not to be innovative, it is to be practical, instructive, and if I can manage it, a little bit inspirational. I convince myself, then I power up my laptop and remind myself that my powerpoint has one hundred and fourteen slides. I have to make sure they don’t see that at the start, that could crush them on a Monday morning. A cruel twist is that one of the first slides is all about the misuse of powerpoint. Leaving the car and the alley way, I head to Botanic Avenue to fuel up with strong black coffee.

The day went well, I no longer feel like a fraud. I met a group of enthusiastic and inquisitive teachers, and I feel encouraged by all their questions.

After the day is over I rush home to try and chase the light, try and turn over some soil. I am just in time to catch some bees returning home with tiny amounts of snowdrop pollen. This is the first I have seen them out and about since the autumn of last year. It is an unexpected sight as some minuscule patches of un-thawed ice are still lying in the northerly shadows of the garden.

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The bee’s industriousness inspires me to throw myself into the garden. The biggest vegetable patch is dug over. The little man turns up and helps with the digging. He meticulously turns over a small corner. After a while his mind turns to poking various parts of the soil with sticks. I feel like he is assessing my work. The greenhouse is stripped out and washed, and my mind turns to planting. I have plans to begin the tomato seeds and broad beans in the greenhouse. The lovely Sharon tells me that it is far too early this far north. Having taught horticulture I really should listen to her, but I can feel the pull of spring and am mesmerised by its promises.

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Before it is too late I plant cloves of garlic. They say that garlic must be planted before the last frost. I have read that it needs to feel the icy grip of the waning winter before it launches itself from the earth. I suspect that there are only a few more frosts left, so we might be just in time.

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the sun sets in the west

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the moon rises in the east

The sun sets, and I turn the soil, the moon rises, and I turn the soil. Gardening into the darkness has a strange romance about it. The light changes dramatically. Even the smell in the air changes. Cool earthy soil turns into icy wood smoke as fires are lit and the still air sinks around the cottage. Along with a cold face and hands, there are other disadvantages to gardening in the dark as the temperature drops. The ritualistic chore of cleaning the tools takes on a new dimension. The habit is lost tonight and they are left in an abandoned mess, all clotted with frozen earth.

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