Magnolia with shades

Photo by Gunnar Langfahl
Last month we interviewed for new students to move into our house for the next academic year. On various days over two weeks we sat in a sitting room by a window looking out on to our splendid magnolia tree. During the first few interviews the tree was still in bud, with only a few flowers beginning to peek through, so the interviewees probably barely noticed it. By the time we saw the bulk of the interviewees, though, it was looking magnificent, a great frothy mass of pearly-pink flowers bathed in sunshine only a few feet from where we sat.

Not surprisingly, several of the interviewees gazed out of the window at various points while considering their answers, as if seeking inspiration from the loveliness outside. When asked, at the end, do you have any questions for us? one simply gestured and asked is it always this lovely? (The answer, sadly, is no, it only lasts a short time)

I too found myself looking out of the window a lot when we met to make our final decision. And my eye was caught by one particular bud which seemed to be wearing sunglasses! He looked a cheeky chappie (and yes, he was definitely a he - a bud rather than a little flower!); a cartoon character with a jaunty air. I pointed him out to the students deliberating with me, and one of them took a photo through the window with his phone. Thank God he did, because when I eventually returned the next day with my camera, he had cast off his shades and joined the crowd of blossoms. No longer a cheeky chappie, he now blended in with the rest.

And that, it seems, is an effect of growth and progress...

Shades in close-up - from Gunnar's photo