First Day of Spring

Cherry blossom petals flew past Kingsbere rectory window, driven by a freezing north easterly. Spring had abruptly halted and a spiteful winter was returning. No fruit this year, thought Reverend Timothy Hardy, as he switched on the television to check the 9AM weather forecast.

Most Englishmen check the weather forecast each day, if only to gather information for the inevitable conversations later in the day. But Reverend Hardy had an ulterior motive for the daily ritual of the 9AM weather check. Keen observers of BBC forecasts may spot that the towns on the map often change. But only Reverend Hardy and a select few in MI6 understood the real significance of Kingsbere appearing on the forecast map.

Today Kingsbere appeared on the map with snow symbols moving south. Reverend Hardy understood and knew the routine well. Train to Heathrow by midday, flight to Khartoum, train to Nyala Darfur, a short taxi ride to the Baptist Mission. Then a quick unobserved visit to the CIA interrogation cell within the Amel Center, another terror suspect to cross examine.

Reverend Hardy had no qualms about this. Overseas Christian missions and the secret service had been intertwined for decades. Humanitarian work, the Doctrine of love, operating to disrupt terrorism and proliferation, they’re all part of building Jerusalem. Why limit the construction to England’s green and pleasant land?

Hardy rose to collect his bag from upstairs, and then sighed to himself as he caught a glimpse of Dorothy Blake striding up the path. This better be quick. Dorothy had been a rare blessing ever since she arrived three years ago. She virtually ran the church, sorting flower arrangements, rotas for Sunday readers. What would the summer fête be without her amazing baking on the cake stall? No one would even come if it wasn’t for those cakes. Yet she could gossip on for hours and now wasn’t really the time. He opened the door before it rang.

“Oh Tim – sorry to rush in so early in the morning but I’ve got some spare Almond Sponge from yesterday’s Bingo. Thought you might like some.”

“Love to – I’ll have a slice right now, in a real rush you see, got some standby flights to visit the mission in Nyala, bargain prices. I thought I could check on progress with the new orphans school,” as he munched away.

“The mission, I know it’s so important to you.”


“Made with Joyce’s raspberry jam. Spring is in the air today don’t you think? Maybe I’ll make some blossom cupcakes later. Pity you’ll not be here to have some.”

Spring is in the air – odd thing to say. It was freezing and the forecast was for more snow showers. “I love your optimism but the forecast suggested a return to snow.”

“Oh yes, spring is coming, Tim, right across the world. The papers are full of talk about a spring in the Arab world, you know. ”

Getting odder, the only paper Dorothy ever referred to before was the monthly parish magazine.

“Didn’t know you took an interest in politics, Dorothy, are you a secret Daily Telegraph reader?”

“We all have our little secrets, don’t we, Tim. Take my surname, Blake - my family's really from Azerbaijan, my father changed his name when he emigrated.”

“And I always thought you were born in Wessex. All that apple cake, blackberry crumble, Dorset knobs...” The reverend's mind was wandering, flooded with images of huge sponge cakes floating across the fields in front, very confusing.

Dorothy laughed. “Traditional baking, I love it. It was my father’s hobby. He taught me all his other cooking secrets. Like how to extract cyanide from wild cherry pits and mask the taste in an almond sponge. Spring is arriving from the south this year, Timothy. It’s just a pity you will miss it.”