Stitchwort, periwinkles and politicians

I’ve continued with daily rural walks with Mrs TD – our permitted exercise during the present CV19 crisis. We’re averaging about 4-5 miles per day, so get to see how new growth is burgeoning as spring warms the earth, watering it with April’s sweet showers.



I downloaded a plant identifying app, as I was becoming frustrated by not knowing what so many of these fresh new flowers were. These delicate little white ones are everywhere in the hedgerows and field fringes at the moment. My app tells me they’re greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), a species of chickweeds.

Various sites online inform me that this wild flower is strongly associated in folklore with fairies. Whoever picks it will be ‘pixie-led’, or enchanted by the bitter-sweet realm of faerie, and become disorientated. One of its local names is adder’s meat, apparently because children were warned that if they picked this flower they were sure to be bitten by this lurking snake. Another consequence of picking it was said to be thunder or lightning. It was also known as satin flower and easter-bell starwort – the latter because of the configuration of the flower’s five petals.

The name stitchwort derives from the old belief that the plant could cure a stitch in the abdomen. A more ancient Greek herbalist claimed that if a pregnant woman drank a potion made from it, she would give birth to a son.

As for ‘wort’: this is from the OE ‘wyrt’ meaning root, vegetable, plant, spice. In the past it tended to be an element appended to the part of the body or the ailment for which the herb or plant was supposed to benefit when taken medicinally. Alternatively, it was an element attached to the time of year at which it flowered (as in easter startwort or St John’s wort – around 24 June).



In an earlier post I included a picture of a pale blue-violet periwinkle growing in the hedge at the bottom of my garden. Recently we’ve come across many clusters of them. The OED online gives its etymology as from post-classical Latin pervinca, with various explanatory suggestions – that it’s from a magical formula, or associated with pervicus, ‘stubborn’, possibly from pervincere, ‘to conquer completely’ (with “various suggestions” but no details). Another online etymology suggests it was in Middle English associated with beauty, a paragon, but also, weirdly, with evil.

Ancient yew tree in the grounds of Epiphany House

Ancient yew tree in the grounds of Epiphany House

It’s a member of the genus Vinca, but I have no idea what this name might signify. It does seem to accord with the ‘conquer’ meaning of the Latin which it resembles, but this may be coincidence.

Mrs TD asked for her thoughts to be included in today’s post. I’ll add some more pictures from our recent walks to lighten the mood a little.

She’s upset with our government’s apparently worsening response to the pandemic. Measures to suppress the spread of the virus, as done in parts of Asia and in Germany, such as testing, tracking and isolating, weren’t taken, and those that were came too late.

The notion of ‘herd immunity’ was poorly judged. Let the weaker members of the community be sacrificed for the good of the rest, seemed to be the strategy. A chilling form of eugenics, in fact.

Here's a red campion to brighten this part of the post

Here’s a red campion to brighten this part of the post

Our prime minister was successful in the election because of his bluff, blustering ‘Get Brexit done’ approach. He’s not the man for a crisis that threatens people’s lives. What’s needed now is a different kind of leadership, based on honesty and integrity.

She wanted to add that she dislikes the rhetoric and imagery from the field of the military that’s used everywhere by politicians and the media: we ‘battle’ or ‘fight’ this ‘invisible enemy’. When the PM was in intensive care, infected by the virus, his stand-in said he was ‘in good spirits’– this while thousands of others were dying. This implies that those who don’t survive the horrible disease lack the ‘spirit’ or fight to combat it. Why can’t our politicians be straight with us, and use appropriate language? Treat us like adults, not children. Stop massaging the truth. Be transparent and honest.

She also feels disempowered. Who do we contact to say we’re unhappy with the way things are going? Parliament sat (in virtual form, mostly) for the first time in weeks yesterday, so those in charge have acted with impunity.

Blossom beneath the Carvedras viaduct (see earlier post)

Blossom beneath the Carvedras viaduct (see earlier post)

One good development, she says, is that the social care system is finally getting the recognition and attention it deserves. Whenever we mention (and praise) the excellent work done by the NHS, we should include the care sector. We’d both like to thank all of those working so hard for us: in the health and care sectors, but also vital workers like deliverers of goods, postal workers, those who work in the shops and supermarkets that are still open, and many more who tend to be taken for granted (and are poorly paid).

We understand that our government has had a huge task in trying to deal with this crisis. Some things have been done well. But they need to change the way they communicate with us.

Here, to end on a brighter note, is another fine gatepost.

Trewinnard gatepost

Trewinnard gatepost



10 thoughts on “Stitchwort, periwinkles and politicians

  1. Will return to read in more detail later, but just wanted to note that I really like the adjective “fine.”

    Also, I am trying to dig out my copy of “The End of the Affair” for the great section on Being A Novelist During Wartime. Stay tuned for a Twitter thread on it!

    Cheers to you both… thanks to Mrs. TDS for sharing her thoughtful remarks.

  2. Thank you for sharing the lovely pictures from your walk, Simon – we do have a small garden, but no countryside within walking distance so it’s nice to visit by proxy.

    And I entirely agree with Mrs TD – she’s spot on with her thoughts and it’s depressing to be constantly met with such idiocy from those supposedly in charge. Which is why I avoid the news like the plague nowadays!

    • We left a note on our dustbin to thank our bin men this last few weeks, and try to thank all those essential workers who continue to make our lives as normal as possible. The daily ‘briefings’ are a farce – platitudes and evasions from the government and the ‘science’ they claim to be led by

  3. Lovely pictures. I am thanking shop staff, care home workers I see near care homes, bus drivers, delivery people and waste operatives from a safe distance when out running or on a rare shopping trip. I have similar feelings to Mrs TD.

  4. A lovely post as usual, Simon, I am beginning to ache for the sight of some bushland…
    It’s no comfort to you or Mrs TD but my heart aches for the UK. I have three nieces in London: two are permanent residents and one of those has severe health problems. The other after working in the UK for some years is having her first baby and was due to fly home when the borders were closed. (As I understand it, she could have come home, but not her partner who’s British not Australian). The plan then was for her parents to fly over the birth, but now they can’t do that either. So we are anxious about all three of them.
    Our federal leadership is no better yours, but some of our state premiers have been outstanding, and while we won’t know in our lifetime because cabinet papers are keep confidential for 50 years, we all know who stepped up and showed leadership in the federal cabinet and that is why Australia is in the relatively good position it’s in today. Fingers crossed it stays that way…

    • Thanks, Lisa. I’m in a similar position: I have two nieces living in WA, both with young families. It’s reassuring to know that your country has avoided the death toll we in the UK are enduring – fifth highest number of cases in the world. As with some state governors in the USA, who are able to countermand some of the crazier suggestions of their President, you have federal leaders with common sense and integrity. The PM of NZ seems also to have a sensible approach to the crisis. I don’t know if you have access to BBC Radio 4 online, but I just heard a powerful talk by the playwright David Hare on the morning news show, Today (it’s about five minutes from the end of the programme). He’s recovered from the virus, and gave a withering account of our government’s incompetent management of the crisis so far. Like Mrs TD, he called on them to reciprocate the trust the public are showing in them by adhering to the lockdown measures, and to speak to us honestly and openly, admit their mistakes and stop the waffle, evasions and platitudes. Still, we could always do as Trump says and inject ourselves with bleach or UV light to clean out our lungs…Stay safe.

  5. Agree totally, Mrs TD. Small consolation, is that our leadership doesn’t suggest injecting disinfectant as a cure for Covid19. High time those in low paid (but vital) jobs were valued by society. Our carers especially, do a wonderful job.

    • Rebecca: agree with you about proper recompense for low-paid workers. Of course, many won’t be allowed into the country once P Patel’s nasty immigration restrictions come in. So much for ‘key workers’. As for the bleach advice – what stupidity!

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