Archive for September, 2012

Hello Again, Old Friend.

Today my part of the world bent its head into the wind, turned up a collar and headed towards autumn. We have had more rain than you could beat with a long ash stick this summer, but yesterday it was noticeably colder. The wind had a sting that reached through shirt and skin and plucked the bones. Evenings are getting darker. Sooner. The day still lasts twenty four hours but biological clocks are easily fooled.
There are fewer swallows hawking for fewer insects. They need to take a hint and start out for the south. Soon.
So time to think about adjusting the clothing.
I opened the wardrobe door to look for my “avalanche coat. Bought –almost – on a whim from a store in Birmingham that just happened to be having a sale on a day we were heading to re-visit the pre-Raphaelite collection in the superb Museum and Art Gallery.
We also, incidentally bought up what seemed like a couple of shelves of books from Watersmiths (or something like that)
Avalanche coat? It is deep russet red, fully lined to a standard tog rating beyond our winter duvet. Great pockets – and plenty of ‘em…. And a device in the shoulder that if hit by an avalanche begins a transponder signal that works on a frequency used by European mountain rescue teams.
Impressive eh? OK, unlikely to be needed, but you never know do you? I took it to Brasov in October, because the locals said there would be snow: there was until the day I got there and I was basking in glorious mountain sunshine for the duration. True some locals were concerned to see me wandering around in just a short sleeved T shirt, but as my mother would (still) say:
“Where’ there’s no sense there’s no feeling!”
But I pulled the coat out of the wardrobe, shrugged into it: it really almost falls into place immediately. It’s heavy I guess (all that space age technology lining and quilting) but never feels it.
The undeniable impression is one of comfort, of warmth, of never being cold when wearing it. Wind-cheating, heat-saving body armour, reassuring and comfortable, like meeting an old friend again. The colour of autumn leaves, the inside of oak bark and steady embers, must be visible for miles in the snow and radiating smooth confidence.
(Of course, so far this is only a relatively young coat, for rough work outside I still have my thrice-waxed Barbour: cartridge pocket full of baling string and odd gloves: another well-respected old friend.
I love the colours and drama of autumn, remembering what was, allegedly, once said by a Norwegian –“there’s no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothes” The fall season is here, bring it on!
24th September, 2012

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Thrushes, Ted Hughes*

 Terrifying are the attent sleek thrushes on the lawn,

More coiled steel than living – a poised

Dark deadly eye, those delicate legs

Triggered to stirrings beyond sense – with a start, a bounce, a stab

Overtake the instant and drag out some writhing thing. 

No indolent procrastinations and no yawning states,

No sighs or head-scratchings.

Nothing but bounce and stab

And a ravening second.

Is it their single-mind-sized skulls, or a trained

Body, or genius, or a nestful of brats

Gives their days this bullet and automatic

Purpose? Mozart’s brain had it, and the shark’s mouth

That hungers down the blood-smell even to a leak of its own

Side and devouring of itself: efficiency which

Strikes too streamlined for any doubt to pluck at it

Or obstruction deflect.

With a man it is otherwise.

Heroisms on horseback,

Outstripping his desk-diary at a broad desk,

Carving at a tiny ivory ornament

For years: his act worships itself – while for him,

Though he bends to be blent in the prayer, how loud and above what

Furious spaces of fire do the distracting devils

Orgy and hosannah, under what wilderness

Of black silent waters weep.

Ted Hughes

 

Had to post this one – after looking it up – prompted by the birds in our garden earlier; certainly a non-traditional way to view thrushes eh?

Just after we moved into this house we moved a self-seeded mountain ash (rowan) that was had germinated in a pile of builder’s sand. Put it into the “shady border”. Today it is enormous: a fine tree loaded with bright orange berries, with leaves throwing themselves to the lawn below. Strange how suddenly autumn has arrived this year. The long, wet summer prolonged the green in the leaves for some weeks longer, but now we have colder day-time temperatures, the leaves are sacrificing themselves to save the trees – as they do every year of course.

But, before we have too long to enjoy the sights of the berries the thrushes are there, balancing impossibly on flexing whips of outer branches, tearing like little dinosaurs at the bunches of berries. Blackbirds queue up, two brown hens and a smaller male. The ladies get first pick (peck?); he waits while they feast. Is this usual?
Then they are joined by a song thrush. Pale chested, matt brown backed. I am reminded of a Ted Hughes poem (have to look that one up later) Then another. In their greedy rush they do not seem to realise that many berries drop to the floor. It would, surely, be worth one of them “hoovering” these up? It would certainly save energy I am thinking.
But I appreciate the sight, these large, confident garden birds taking stock, fattening themselves up for whatever the colder, darker months of the year throw at us.

A couple of days later, however I am not so impressed. There are hardly any berries left on the rowans (the other is an ornamental variety in our neighbour’s garden) and the birds have started taking the last of our blueberries.
Did I say that these birds lack intelligence?
How wrong can a man be?
17/9/2012

The Way Through the Woods

 

THEY shut the road through the woods

Seventy years ago.

Weather and rain have undone it again,

And now you would never know

There was once a road through the woods

Before they planted the trees.

It is underneath the coppice and heath,

And the thin anemones.

Only the keeper sees

That, where the ring-dove broods,

And the badgers roll at ease,

There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods

Of a summer evening late,

When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools

Where the otter whistles his mate,

(They fear not men in the woods,

Because they see so few.)

You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,

And the swish of a skirt in the dew,

Steadily cantering through

The misty solitudes,

As though they perfectly knew

The old lost road through the woods.

But there is no road through the woods.

 

Rudyard Kipling

 

Bird Song

Bird Song The “shed” at the end of our garden is a sectional, double-doored garage, with electricity, lights and power points. If I were more of a craftsman it could be more of a workshop but it holds and hides a multitude of sins and jobs-in-waiting  and one is edge of the space at the bottom of the garden, over the lawns, past the Beauty of Bath apple tree and overshadowed by next-doors spreading laburnum tree. This eight foot wall bordered space has become the dell where we sit around the fire pit, when conditions allow. There is a well-scrounged and well stocked log-pile against the wall and when the sun is going down little more than the hum of distant traffic and the occasional passing of a railway train (which always sounds much closer than it can actually be somehow) disturbs the therapeutic tranquillity. Toads have been known to creep by in that toad-waddle fashion and hedgehogs often snuffle by and from the bedroom, late at night I have seen a fox patrol across this out-of-the way area.

But this evening I was assaulted by one of the loudest sounds from one of our smallest creatures: the wren. There are, of course a few straggling bushes in the area, struggling for light beneath the small-leaved lime: a forsythia, a small purple leaved acer and a stray spirea. The bird was somewhere behind me as I relaxed, doing a little early evening reading, but its movements rattled the dry twigs and its song was almost metallic. I am used to the calls of some birds, alarm calls usually, the tut-tut, tchouk-chuck sounds of the blackbirds, the comforting but driving-to-distraction coo – coo of the collared doves, the ashy throated cra-aar-rrk of the intelligent jackdaws (almost always present, but not always visible) and the laughable, excitable heckle and haggle of magpie parliaments (so perfectly named). But this sound (certainly not a tune) was indecipherable, contained all of the aggressive certainty and power of undisputed possession and the fierce challenges of a sentry, first from one piece of cover, then another, similar but not repeated.

Perhaps the wren was reacting to the fire? To my presence? Maybe a new kid on the block, seeking to establish a territory?

To my complete surprise the bird came closer, closer, closer until it was eventually and unbelievably sitting on the arm of the metal framed chair with me, a hand’s span from my elbow … and very close to the crackling flames! Seriously, had it just come for a closer look? It body-bobbed; its tiny immaculately feathered head jerking around, tail like a signal post, upright, level, upright level again. The wings can move so quickly. I could feel the tiny disturbances of the air caused by the movement. There are spiders in this part of the garden, webs dusty and collecting as much sunlight as midges, Perhaps the bird was hunting?

Unalarmed it zipped onto the log-pile (disturbed when I took some fuel off for the fire, skipped a few steps, then zoomed, a small brown dart-arrow into the laurel by the greenhouse. Leaving me pleased and surprised by this approach, confidence and audacity.

 

N.B Fox image from www.zoochat.com; wren image from www.nemesisbird.com.

6th September, 2012

Caprice

Autumn light has a chunky, otherworldly quality: the sunlight comes from a lowering star; the warmth arrives slowly and goes so quickly, dead-on-the-dot at sundown.
This morning, looking through the leaded panes of our double glazed windows, the light was like slabs of hotel butter stacked on the tiles of the opposite houses, chimney stacks making long aerial scarecrow shadows.
But the wind was violent, capricious and switching direction by the moment. The big Union flag in the house across the way was whirligigging round and the whole white flagpole swaying like the mast of a schooner in a 1950s film.
The telephone wires that radiate out from the pole across the street, usually immune to wind were whips; demon’s skipping ropes jerking and line graphing as if they were being walked by the finest of Chinese acrobats, invisible ones at that!
The wind carried a huge whales entrails of cloud over the estate; grey-purple and malevolent. The ground became a darker, enchanted by dark spells, but the wind charged on, ricocheting from invisible walls. The tall Lombardy poplars swayed, aspen branches panicked, throwing their white gloved hands to the sky in alarm.
“No chance of getting up to the allotment this morning, then,” I decided as huge bullets of rain hammered the panes, making snakes of water that chased and joined, chased and joined down the glass. The ghostly sounds of wind moaning and whistling a melody to the rain’s fast bass.
Ten minutes later the rain had cleared, the butter sunlight was back and I spent a good two hours digging and sorting potatoes. We are having a poor year for potatoes this time around. The cold weather, blight and some almost-mutant strain of underground slugs has frustrated growth and holed the tubers.
I need to find out more about these slugs. Firstly because I am curious … and secondly to find a way to deter them!
I would have loved to see a friendly blackbird, thrush or robin out on the ground, making a natural snack of these critters, but the wind was still rushing about and, apart from one fast-flying woodpigeon, there were no birds to be seen.
1th September, 2012

Hello world!

I have had an allotment now for about fifteen years (who’s counting, right?) and been inspired by the people on the site, the things I have seen (some planned, some not), by the

awesome magic of germination and the rushes of harvest.

I am hoping to post some photos, perhaps, thoughts and stories (names may be changed to protect the innocent) and would love your feedback.

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