I have to confess, I’d hardly become accustomed to being in 2016, and here it is – or rather there is was – gone. I mean, it had hardly had time to unpack its stuff and put its things away in the drawer we cleared for it, and it is already going through the ironing pile to see if it can find its clean socks. It is thinking that it would be easier if it puts the clean stuff away in its suitcase now, because it won’t be needing those until it gets home.
We have to say, while it has been pleasant company for most of the time – now and again we have found it hard to get along with. It seems to have had a penchant for drama and a need for confrontation that we have found difficult to handle.
You know the sort of thing I mean – going into the kitchen and making itself a pile of sandwiches, when we’ll be having dinner in half an hour or wanting to watch things on the TV that we never watch, and that are on at the same time as programmes we do want to watch and needing the volume up much louder than we usually have it.
I wouldn’t like to say we’re counting the days until it goes, exactly – but it’s not long now, thank goodness.
In the autumn things stop growing. This leaves the farmers standing around with their hands in their pockets. To find something to do they take enthusiastically to tidying up. On our way out on our walk earlier this week we were struck by how spruce and neat everything had suddenly become. Particularly our fields, who had had their hedges done. Short, back and sides all round – and very smart they looked too.
We had become so used to the rather bedraggled look that goes with a year of busy growth, we had quite forgotten how nice the fields look with a little bit of spit and polish. The fruiting season for most of the hedgerow plants is long past so this is really the ideal time for this sort of thing.
Almost all our trees have now dropped, or otherwise disposed of, their leaves. We haven’t had so much wind this year, so lots of them are simply dumped in yellow and gold puddles on the ground. Walking under the trees – down the lane towards the gate – on a still day, you can hear the sound of the gentle rain of leaves trickling down through the branches high above.
The Ash Tree by the village green (in the picture) is a case in point – it’s just gone to bed leaving its clothes lying all over the place. I think it’s hoping the wind will come by and tidy up before it has to get up in spring.
‘Hmm, yes. It is quite unique, considering the other places we’ve looked at.’
‘Unique! Yes I suppose you could call it that.’
‘Shall we go and look inside?’
‘Why bother? This is hardly what we’re looking for is it?’
‘You can’t tell until you’ve had a look around inside. Be sensible, Dear.’
‘Be sensible! I thought we’d agreed we need somewhere modern. Somewhere we can just walk into. Low maintenance and low running costs and all that sort of thing.’
‘Yes. I’m sure you’re right, Dear. Do you have the key the agent gave us? Open the door then.’
‘Good grief! What a dark and draughty hole. Did people really live here? Careful there, the floor’s quite uneven and that staircase looks totally unsafe.’
‘Oh, you do fuss over such little things. There see, it looks so much better now I’ve switched the lights on. The stairs are just a bit shaky, that’s all.’
‘The bathroom quite old fashioned.’
‘Four bedrooms – and nice sized rooms, too.’
‘Thank goodness we’re back downstairs, I can’t believe people could try to sell a house with a staircase that would collapse with a good sneeze.’
‘Oh you do exaggerate. It probably just needs the screws tightening, or something.’
‘Come on. Let’s go. This place should be condemned!’
‘You do have the agent’s phone number, don’t you? I think we should phone and say we’ll take it right away, before someone else snaps it up.’
‘You can not be serious! You are actually suggesting that we to buy this, this, this pile of random debris?’
‘Yes, I’m sure you’re right, but it has so much character, Dear.’
‘We’re going to sit here until the issue is resolved. Aren’t we Girls? I said, aren’t we Girls?’
‘Oh, come on Ladies. We must stick together on this. We can’t let them trample all over us, me must stand united.’
‘Yes, but you can’t expect me to act as spokeswoman for the whole flock if my own committee isn’t united behind me, now can you?’
‘Yes, yes, I’m sure your right My Dear, we could just wait and see what happens, but if we make a stand now, then it will happen that much sooner, won’t it? It stands to reason.’
‘Yes, of course I’m sure. If you remember rightly, only yesterday, or was it the day before? I’m sure it doesn’t matter which day it was – let’s just say recently, shall we? Well. If you remember rightly, only recently there was a perfectly satisfactory hole in the hedge, right here, through which we could walk right into the field next door.
‘Then those men came – so we went off to the other end of the field so we could have a little privacy. When we came back the hole in the hedge, that had become so much part of who we are – so much a part of our identity, was gone. It is just too much!’
‘Quite right. So we are going to sit here, in solidarity, until they bring our hole back! Aren’t we Girls?’
‘I said, aren’t we Girls?’
You can tell it’s autumn – here we have a picture of a helicopter. It’s an Aerospatiale AS365 Dauphin, in the livery of our local Air Ambulance. You’d be surprised at the things it got up to when it was younger. It may look all responsible and official in its posh uniform but it has seen Life – with a capital L too, you’ll notice.
In a previous life, while it was pottering backwards and forwards doing its stuff, one of the labels that adorn the inside of all aircraft, in lieu of a nice wood-chip wallpaper, lost interest in hanging on to the vertical portion of the cabin’s interior. With a screech of fingernails it slide unhindered down to the floor. Here we must rely on conjecture. Did it stick to the underneath of the seat? Did it stick to the sole of some passenger’s shoe? Its fate must forever remain unknown.
Meanwhile, dropping his passengers at their destination, the pilot set off for home. As he crossed the Leeds to Liverpool canal on his final approach to Leeds airport – the front passenger door fell off into the canal.
The investigation found that one of the passengers at the last drop off had, on landing, attempted to open the door using the handle available on the inside.
The missing label? It read – DOOR JETTISON HANDLE, PULL TO JETTISON.
As November sneaks up on us, peeping furtively from behind reddening bunches of Hawthorn berries, those of our trees who are so inclined have turned a very nice shade of gold. Many other of our trees have already become thoroughly bored with the whole business – dumped their leaves unceremoniously on the ground, pulled up the shutters, turned off the lights and gone to bed.
Today’s picture is of The Robin-Down-By-The-Beck. He is a survivor. This time of year is when he shows his true colours. He needs to establish his territory – and all trace of the milk of human kindness has been leeched from his veins. He intends to share with no one. Kith or kin, man, woman or child, they will gain access to his winter resources, quite literally, only over his dead body.
The majority of robins do not survive beyond their first year – not due to predatory domestic pets, nor the destruction of his habitat by humans. No, they are slaughtered by their own kind in internecine warfare.
Indeed, far from being an angelic chorister, he (or she) is a belligerent, anti-social loud-mouth.
Wayne Ashmead de man 19-03-1964 – 16-10-2016
Wayne has gone. Why did this happen? I don’t think we can ever fully understand. When he entered the Prison Service he seemed to have found his niche. He soon made his mark amongst the prisoners – volunteering to teach reading and writing to those who were interested to learn.
Then, when routinely accompanying a prisoner to hospital for treatment, he found himself with a gun against his head while his charge was released from their shared handcuffs.
Facing violent death was a terrifying experience – but to face death at the hands of the very people he had befriended and encouraged towards a crime-free release from gaol stung almost as badly.
He never recovered. There were times when he seemed to be back to the same old Wayne – but the sense of keeping himself tightly under control was never far away.
On the 16th October this year he lost the battle.
If it is true that we are reborn – then you have surely earned yourself a better deal next time round, Wayne.
We love and miss you.