This is Hepatica nobilis, known by us rather unpoetically for such a beauty as liver leaf or crystal wort and by Estonians simply as 'blue flower', my friend Andres Kaljuste told me. He has a place on the Lohusalu peninsula not far from Laulasmaa, Arvo Pärt's preferred retreat since he and his wife Nora returned to their beloved homeland from Berlin, bringing all their stuff with them. A new home for that abundance of material was why, on a second visit to Estonian Music Days, Tallinn's big spring festival of new music, a happy band of us were taken to see work on the new Arvo Pärt Centre, to a glorious design of glass and wood by the winning Spanish architects, close to the retreat. Hence one of several photos of Hepatica in the nearby forest.
This isn't the time and place to expand on the trip - I have yet to write up the experience of four fabulous days for The Arts Desk, as I did last year - but a few more nature perspectives in Laulasmaa might not go amiss. From the room at Aliina (for so the house is called, after the first piece Pärt wrote following his long official silence) with a piano,
downwards to one of many lichens on the ground,
and upwards to the larches (note the crane creeping into the picture - that area will be partly cleared, but there's a fine fusion promised between design and nature).
On our way to Laulasmaa, we stopped for a short wander along the cliff above Dagmar Beach.
Here there was no cold wind, and the bushes were more advanced than elsewhere in their budding.
Even so, inland looked forbidding beneath massed clouds.
The spring which had burst in London was not even incipient in Tallinn, where snowdrops still flourish in clumps beneath the tower of Pikk (Tall) Hermann.
This was just before 7pm on my first evening, heading from the hotel to the Niguliste Museum for the first concert along a memorable road I'd not taken before. Moon was up.
With only shoots on the trees, you could still catch atmospheric glimpses of old buildings like Kiek in de Kök.
Been an exhausting week-plus. I returned from Estonia last Sunday night, had only half a day at home to catch up on some work and flew - eventually, since non-running Gatwick Express trains made me miss my first flight - to Amsterdam for a second stint - as Chairman, this time - judging Dutch school orchestras in the Concertgebouw for Orkestival 2017. More on that anon: as with last year, I owe each of the spirited groups of participants a few helpful notes. Flowers remain the theme here, so here's our dear friend Machteld driving me in convoy with her sister Eline, my now-godson Charlie and beloved lapdog Johnny past tulip fields, a spectacular sight even on a grey day.
The excursion followed a leisurely morning at and around mein hosts' home in the Sapharti Park, recorded at a different time elsewhere.
Now the park was green, white and pink
with tulips growing around the monument.
Eline had the inspiration that we should go for lunch in the farmhouse of Keukenhof Manor, a road and a quiet world away from the coaches and cars parked around the famous gardens. It was a delightful interlude, made all the more memorable by our jovial waitress who joined us for a photo outside. I like the slightly chaotic and not entirely flattering spontaneity of this one, which gives us more than li'l Johnny's rear.
There was only time for a quick spin around the grounds as the rain began,
and a glimpse of the sweet old thatched cottage hired out for private functions,
before walking past the last of the magnolias
back to the car for the whizz to the airport. In light of what followed - one and a half hours of unannounced flight delay, then no trains at Luton Airport station, so bus, train, tube - it was an ideal tonic.
Finally, full bloom ahead at Chelsea Physic Garden on the first open Sunday of the year.
Here's a range of exotic Mediterranean and Turkish tulips
the tiniest of narcissi,
early peonies incipient
and one out
as well as the annual blossoming of the Judas Tree
and of the Paulownia lilacensis.
Today's at home for Good Friday, maybe an excursion to Westminster Abbey for 3pm liturgy, and reflection around the (eventually) revelatory Dvořák Requiem I've just reviewed: writing a note on Beethoven's Missa Solemnis for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and listening to Bach yesterday proved perfect preparation.
17/4 Thought the below was a nice addendum, sent to me by Andres' partner Sophia. They're back at Lohusalu for Easter, though all is not entirely tranquil: the building mania that is plaguing the Estonian coast east of Tallinn is threatening an unwelcome addition on the peninsula. Corruption is not unknown in that mostly admirable little country... Anyway, this is how it was over the weekend - sun and snow.