There is a big clump of royal fern, Osmunda regalis, growing in the railway cutting at Edgeley Junction, just outside Stockport. Seeing its burst of fronds for the first time on my way to Manchester for a job interview was an unexpected delight. It was the bright May morning following the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017; the joy of spring shadowed by grief and trauma; the membrane between beauty and horror so porous. Auspicious, ominous, extraordinary, beautiful, royal fern has a presence and bearing that, for me, crosses language ...


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