Well, Autumn is definitely here. We come back damp from our daily dawdle – not because the rain is falling, but more because the rain hasn’t got round to falling. It just stands around, chatting, and not really paying attention – a common local practice – and we bump into it by accident.
The sun is currently putting in long hours down in the southern hemisphere. He pops up and peeps over the windowsill now and again, just to make sure we’re all right, but we really don’t see much of him. On heavily overcast days, it is quite dark at three o’clock and we drive everywhere with our lights on all the time – just to make sure that we can be seen in the gloom.
The natural world has rolled up the awnings, pulled down the shutters and is sitting, with the heating turned up, in the comfy armchair looking at next years holiday brochures. All except the ivy. Because it is a law unto itself, ivy has chosen this time of year to display ripe berries. The only reason that we can discern for this behaviour, is that it gives pigeons the opportunity to play Spiderman. Pigeons have an exaggerated opinion of their own athletic build. In practice, they do not have the slim, lightweight proportions of joggers in yoghurt adverts. They are dumpy and plump. While this doesn’t stop them eating the berries while swinging on the end of a long, delicate ivy tendril – they really do look ridiculous.
‘Did you hear? It just bounced off!’
‘Yes, I didn’t expect much else, to be honest. It was bound to be harder than they expected.’
‘Well, at least it managed to find the place.’
‘True. True. We mustn’t belittle the achievement. It certainly took long enough, though.’
‘That just doesn’t grab me you know, wandering around, searching for the right place. Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack. How would you be sure you had actually arrived, it’s not as if you could expect a welcoming committee waiting to roll out the red carpet for you, now is it?’
‘Oh, it’s all automated now. Not like in my day. Why, most cats these days wouldn’t know what to do with a fiddle if they tripped over one.’
‘And they know it too! I’m tired of trying to talk to them about how we’re loosing all the old skills. Now they just cross the road to avoid talking to me.’
‘I’ve not seen a dish or a spoon lately, either.’
‘Well, I do have a dish.’
‘Yes, but all the technology is in the spoon, isn’t it? So a dish on it’s own isn’t going to get you far.’
‘They’re such a nuisance too. You have to watch them all the time – to make sure they don’t run off, just when they’re needed.’
‘True. Ah, well. Nice to talk to you. Thanks for dropping by.’
‘Bye, see you again.’
Cows, naturally, keep up with current events in space.
I was out shopping with my Gran the other day. We went and bought some sweets for me – and a hat, that you can wear to keep your ears warm, for Gran. Everything was going fine. It wasn’t too boring – although I had nearly finished the sweets. I had been told that I had to be careful when I was shopping with Gran as sometimes strange things happened, so I was wearing my lucky badge. I was just looking for a bin to put the empty sweet bag in, when we stopped in front of a shop that was full of clocks.
‘My Goodness,’ Gran said, ‘Look at that. It’s nearly eleven o’clock!’
Well I didn’t think much of it then – now, of course, I know better. A bit farther up the road I could see a rubbish bin, so I said to Gran, ‘I’m just going to go and put my empty sweet packet in that bin.’ You never know, she might have said ‘Oh, have you finished those sweets already? Let’s see if we can find a shop to buy some more’, but she didn’t, she just said ‘Stay on the pavement then, won’t you? I’ll wait here.’
I nodded and dodged in and out of the people as I ran up the road to where the rubbish bin was. I popped my empty sweet packet through the hole for rubbish and turned to go back.
It must have reached eleven o’clock just at that moment. As I stood there, looking back at Gran, something weird started to happen. Then I realised that we were in for it, the thing I had been warned about was going to happen – and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
There was a strange fizzing and popping and crackling sound and Gran seemed to be getting bigger and bigger – as if she was a balloon being blown up. She grew and expanded and grew some more and soon she was huge and green. Then she let out a ferocious roar – shouting ‘I’m Dinothirst!’ at the top of her voice, shattering all the windows.
People ran for cover as Gran rampaged down the street, knocking over lamp posts and squashing cars flat. Things were looking bad. I realised that I was going to need help – and quickly, so I pressed my lucky badge.
Superman, Spiderman and Batman appeared in the street next to me. Superman grabbed me, and we all dived for cover in a shop doorway.
‘What’s happened?’ yelled Spiderman over the noise and the shouting.
‘It’s Gran,’ I yelled back, ‘It’s eleven o’clock!’
‘Oh. Crumbs!’ Superman yelled. ‘Do your best, Batman – Spiderman you come with me, we’ll be back as soon as we can.’
They zoomed off, faster than the fastest light there is, over to Italy. There, Spiderman threw his web around an Italian coffee shop and Superman flew back with it and put it down in the street.
Luckily, Batman knew how to work the coffee machine and he rushed in and started making a cappuccino. As soon as the coffee smell reached the Dinothirst it started to shrink and before you could say ‘something-really-difficult-to-say’, Gran came in the door. She sat down, and Batman gave her the cappuccino.
Spiderman found some of those little biscuits under the counter and we had one each. Batman made Superman, Spiderman and me a milkshake and then Gran and I went and did some more shopping.
I have no idea what the connection is between the story and the picture – have you?
It is definitely autumn. The robin, who guards our bird feeder against all comers, has started singing his autumn song. (What is it with n? There are gnomes who never share their knowledge of mnemonics and now we have autumn to bring up the rear. The problem is that autumn gnomes, knowledgeably mnemonic, are back to front. This might be passable in the southern hemisphere, but in the upper part of the planet, mnemonic gnomes knowledge of autumn is bound to be more acceptable.)
Meanwhile our robin’s song is becoming more and more mournful as the end of the year approaches. What is he so put out about, do you think? We’ve wondered about the religious implications of Christmas, however he shows no sign of putting up decorations, nor has he forsaken his silver birch tree by the gate to move to the fir tree half way up the hill. Possibly, he may not be looking forward to spending an uncomfortable couple of months sitting next to the red berries amongst those irritatingly prickly holly leaves. He may, of course, be lamenting the commercialisation of the season. But we think it goes deeper than this. Robins are short on people skills. They only stay together as a couple for the period of the year required to mate, hatch the eggs and feed the chicks.
It’s the thought that he’s going to have to spend the early part of next year wondering what he said that upset her, that is the cause of his melancholy.
We are back. We have just travelled right down to he other end of the island for Auntie Herberta’s funeral, then all the way back up this end, home. It all happened mid week and, as everyone down there leads very busy lives, there was a chance that, apart from waving to each other at the funeral, we wouldn’t get to see any grandchildren at all. However, our family is nothing if not organised, and we managed a great get-together – thanks kids.
As I’m more mobile now, we went out for a walk together this morning, we took it easy. The Dog was on a retreat while we rushed up and down the country, and she needed extra time to reply to all her posts – and a few trees too.
I had hoped that, as this weekend our clocks do the opposite of whatever they did last time, the first of the autumn leaves would be on show. The wind however, in a very grumpy mood, can’t be bothered to wait for all that nonsense and has stripped most of the trees to their pyjamas and told them to get into bed and stay there.
So, for those of you who currently find yourselves knee-deep in acorns, we have a picture from May of the flowers on our oak trees. When you look at your acorns and ponder on the giant oak trees that may, one day, sprout from them – ponder also on the dictum that has dogged my life, ‘Whenever something has to be done – something else has to be done first’.
Summary of Volume 1 of my Dissertation on ‘The Great Work’.
Iolest (author of The Great Work)
Gender: Female. Ethnicity: unknown. Her existence is traceable back before the pan-galactic expansion of humankind, therefore, Old Galaxy. She refers to herself as ‘Personal and Business Assistant to Rak Strez’. She is very tidy by nature and likes her environment tidy too – she notes, “If I sleep in his bed, I don’t mess up my room”.
Rak Strez ( an associate of her early years)
Gender : Male. Ethnicity: unknown, presumed similar to Iolest. Only scraps of his writings remain. As a ‘Futures Investor’, he manipulates the good and bad luck surrounding business transactions to influence his personal wealth. He is not very successful. Iolest remarks he, “lacks focus”. He values her tidiness and that she maintains their business records “So scrupulously exact, that there isn’t a scrap of useful data left in them.” (his words.)
Following a serious loss of face amongst his colleagues, Rak Strez and Iolest obtained a space cruiser and departed for deep space.
After an uncertain pseudo-period, they arrived at a globular cluster consisting of a few thousand suns surrounding a black hole. To maximise the wealth associated with the massive energy gradient, several stars had been nudged into dangerous orbits round the black hole. The vast wealth, and implicit risks, attracted Rak Strez’s avarice.
Unfortunately, his role in the ‘bad luck’ that cause tens of stellar systems to slide over the gravitational line to destruction in the crushing maw of the black hole, was, of necessity, public. The hideous death of billions of sentients and the bankruptcy of half the galaxy left Rak Strez immensely wealthy. He and Iolest decided to retire. He remarks that he “left it to Iolest to tidy up behind them”. From her writings we know that, after a set of devious moves, they filed a claim on an uncharted star system and employed terraformers to constructed a planet to Iolest’s specification.
The planet was sterile. All local flora and fauna, synthesized on demand, was either beautiful or cuddly and could be put away tidily when not required. Here, they built a pleasure palace.
Rak Strez proposed a life of idleness and debauchery. Iolest poked her finger into his midriff fat and remarked the she trusted that she was still the sole beneficiary of his will.
Shortly, Rak Strez returned and proposed a natural, healthy life as woodcutter with a wife and family. Iolest demurred. The supplier of the low gravity gym had offered an introductory price on six menomorphs. ‘Guaranteed 100% functional. Medically confirmed sterile, Settings range from ‘Courtly Attentive’ to ‘Macho Demanding’. Each can be packed, tidily, in a storage case when not required’. However, there was the will, so she didn’t mention this to Rak Strez.
She seems to have enjoyed the rustic life – but soon her pregnancy began to intrude into the frolics. First ensuring that the, deviously copied, encryption keys worked in all his strong boxes, Iolest, bought him another wife, and retired to the pleasure palace. Further wives were added as required. But, the rural retreat had its attractions, there were many repeats in the cycle, Iolest, herself, contributed five children.
Then, possibly due to a computer glitch, Rak Strez managed to fell his first tree and was killed in the process.
Iolest withdrew his will, tidied it up, and obtained probate without problems. She convinced the the other wives that their continued standard of living depended on her. She bought a six-pack of the newest model menomorphs – complete with random argumentativeness for even greater realism – then she began The Great Work.
If you guessed, from the above, that the gout has me in pain, immobile and totally frustrated – you’re right!
I thought this went well with the rabbits, though.
Herberta de Man
11 April 1917 – 28 September 2014
Born, Herberta Algar, in London in 1917 – Can anyone imagine it? The BBC didn’t start public television broadcasts until 1936. She was nineteen before there was even any television, never mind Internet!
Her grandmother was disabled, her father didn’t survive WWI and her mother died when she was eleven. Her elder sister had moved away from home by then, so she and her brother were sent to different orphanages, she rarely saw him after that.
After the struggle to survive at home with a terminally ill parent, Auntie remembered her time in the orphanage with a mixture of pleasure and satisfaction. She went to school, for the first time and, from her remarks, she obviously did well. Not only did they teach her to read and write, but she was taught to clean, to iron and to make beds and “All sorts of useful things, not just that other stuff.” as she would tell us when we could get her to talk about her childhood. Useful things they were too! When she had to leave the orphanage she was able to find work as a chambermaid in a large London hotel.
Then came WWII, she went to work in a machine shop. This started the chain of events that led to hiding under the kitchen table to ‘escape’ the bombs, and her marriage to Uncle Pete. After the war, they moved out of London to one of the new towns, then being built to house those made homeless by bomb and fire. I think this was probably the happiest time for her.
Today’s picture is bluebells. Do you remember, Auntie, Uncle Pete planted them near the back door so you could see them through the kitchen window?