We’ve just had the autumn equinox. This is the time of year when the spot on the earth that is directly under the sun, moves to hover over a spot on the equator. There are various scientific explanations for this – but most people believe that it does it just to annoy us.
You see, you can’t call it the autumn equinox – even though that’s its name – as, down in the basement of the world – in the southern hemisphere, it heralds the beginning of spring. There has been some attempt to rename it to the September equinox but the minute you try to do that you have half a dozen people in different parts of the world standing up, waving to attract your attention, telling you that in their country this month is not called September. As a last resort it has been suggested that it be called the southward equinox, as the sun has crossed the equator heading south. This was first suggested a hundred years ago, but it hasn’t really caught on yet.
But, whatever – our trees are starting to try on their pretty autumn dresses and our hedges have all been nicely trimmed. Both are signs that the annual tasks are done, the fruit, seeds and berries are maturing nicely, and it’s time for a little relaxation before we go to bed for winter.
The world is a strange and intriguing place, is it not? Today we have a Speckled Wood butterfly. It is speckled, as you can see, and it flies around the fringes of woods. Or, as in this case, when the year grows older and the population of aphids in the tree tops declines, it is forced to scrabble around amongst the hedgerows. As a caterpillar, it liked nothing better than a patch of damp grass – Cocksfoot will do but Couch Grass is preferred. This enthusiasm wears off as soon as it emerges from its chrysalis and it flutters away to the trees, convinced that it is bound for greater things.
The male adopts one of two courting procedures. Early in the year he is most likely to find a nice warm sunny spot on the woodland floor and just hang out – do dumb stuff, and wolf whistle at every passing female. His other option is to get a smooth motor, then cruise up and down the edge of the wood and see what he can pull.
The females are well aware of this of course, and either make straight for the guy in the nearest sunny spot – or hang around on street corners to see what turns up.
It’s been a strange year. Spring arrived early, bustling Winter out of the door with flapping duster, rushing round pulling the furniture straight, and hurrying off before Summer had a chance to stand and chat.
As Summer was so early, she sat comfortably sipping her coffee for ages before she got into her stride. But then she left early, too – she needed to get her hair done before her appointment down in the southern hemisphere, she said. This has left us in a sort of seasonal hiatus. Autumn is only working a short week, and has mentioned that he feels a little put upon by Summer’s lack of commitment, so we are having to fill the days he isn’t available as best we can.
The sweet blackberries are all gone and those left on the bushes are tasteless or bitter, the holly berries are still green with only tinges of red, but the elderberries have done very well this year.
Elderberries are slightly poisonous and need to be brought to the boil and allowed to simmer for ten minutes – to make them safe. You then add an amount of sugar equal to the amount of liquid and you have a very nice syrup – said to be effective in warding off the coughs and sniffles.
On a more practical note – planting an elder bush near your house will keep The Devil at bay. Useful to know.
In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen, or so we’ve been led to believe. These facts are of little interest to those of you out there, in the path of this years individually identified, ferocious, weather patterns. There have been, and there will, no doubt, continue to be, fingers pointed and wise heads nodded, but, to be honest, I can’t see that blame for the past or predictions for the future are of much interest to you either. In fact, it’s hard to think of anything that matters to you at the moment, except the immediate issue of just getting through another day.
Out here in no-hurricane land, we feel frustrated at our inability to help. We wish with all our hearts we could tell it to stop. We wish we could promise you that we won’t let it happen again, but we can’t – and it will. All we can share with you is your helplessness in the face of the inhuman power of nature.
Word spread quickly. Although many spoke, few paid heed. Even should they be moved to action, none knew what action to take.
“We should prepare to defend ourselves!” some declared.
“We should flee!” others urged.
But flee where? Defend, how? Most stood, wrapped in a comfortable cloak of indecision, isolated from the urgency – and the urging to chose between heroism and cowardice.
Rumour abounded, but news was scarce. At last, those who favoured uncertain flight over uncertain dependence on the valour of their neighbours, would delay no longer. In the quiet hours before sunrise, they took their leave.
Those who remained, viewing their own diminished numbers, boosted their resolve by redistributing those personal belongings left behind in the haste of departure. They spoke bravely of building barricades, but each thought his own property should be behind the strongest fortification, and in common disagreement they built nothing.
Food became an important issue and there was much discussion on the sharing of resources. The next day it was found that those, who were considered to have the greatest stores, had decamped in the night. On examination of their, now vacant, premises it became obvious that they had taken their food and valuables with them.
This engendered much rage and one amongst their number, a hefty fellow named Brugg, declared himself to be in command and that his rules were to be obeyed – at risk of his great displeasure.
When the next day dawned, Brugg, his wife and children found themselves to be the sole occupants of the village. His wife became fearful, so a disgruntled Brugg and his family departed, on the heels of those who had just left, to seek safe refuge.
And did The Dragon ever come?
We can ask, but who will answer? The village stands empty.