14 January 2016, The Tablet

Glimpses of Eden

The gorse was in bloom at the top of the hill. Unable to resist a closer look I vaulted the gate and climbed the steep slope of rough pasture to where the thorny bushes crowned the summit like the ramparts of some Iron Age hill fort. Yet dense, sharp and prickly as the evergreen shrub was, its yellow flowers were as exquisite as any hothouse creation. A pair of linnets chimed from deep within the spiny expanse of green and gold. Gorse blooms the year round, which probably explains why it was once a symbol of love – “when gorse goes out of season, kissing falls out of fashion”, as the saying goes. People also believed it kept evil away. In summer, chimneys were stuffed with its branches to keep the devil out. Scientists too have been susceptible to its charms. Eighteenth-
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