Our days are becoming quite autumn-like. We still have gloriously warm and sunny times, and we try our best to schedule setting out on our daily dawdle to coincide with these – but they are becoming harder to synchronise to. The alternative is a cool, clammy mist, not overly unpleasant, but not that pleasant either. In the mist, our horizon shrinks to a few miles, our mountain vista is replaced by a few fields and hedges and the sun is replaced by a lighter patch of grey in the sky.
The rooks have started their autumn dance, large groups of them wheeling, diving and calling while, every so often, a small guerrilla band break away to harass the buzzards. They have moved their rookery from the woods near the railway crossing, half a mile away, to the woods behind our house. During the nesting and chick-rearing of early Spring this past year, we could hear the racket they made, even at this distance. Having them as near neighbours this coming Spring will be, shall we say – interesting.
Today’s picture represents another feature of autumn. Although it has fluffy seed heads, this is not a thistle. You might think we could identify it by its leaf shape, but the leaves are dried and withered and are now identifiable only as dead leaves. The flowers too, other than that they were yellow, hold no clues.
At this time of year, nature ticks very few boxes on the questionnaire.
As we walk our walk, The Dog and I notice the changes along our route. We don’t walk the same path every day but we do walk around in a fairly small, local area. As Autumn has approached, we have noticed the vegetation in our verges die back, not so much leaving bald patches, but there are quite definitely places in the roadside’s coiffure where its scalp is visible – perhaps a blue rinse might help? It gives the place a feeling that it is no longer so important to maintain appearances and that standards can be allowed to slip a little.
And today we have reached the Equinox. The few days when, in both hemispheres, the length of the day and night are equal. Up here on the top, we have the wind-down of the Autumn Equinox while down there on the bottom they have the Spring Equinox – and all the hustle and bustle that entails. The strange thing is, suddenly, our verges are hustling and bustling too. The light the die-back has allowed through to the soil underneath the verge vegetation, has caused no end of upheaval. While it would be nice to think that this portends an Indian Summer, I’m afraid that the plants in question can’t make up their minds.
The picture shows the new growth springing up from some Cow Parsley die-back, but which is already showing autumn colours.
The year is definitely on the turn. At this point I think I’d better mention that Ptolemy was one of Alexander The Great‘s generals and when Alexander died he was given Egypt to look after. Which his family did for nearly three hundred years until butterfingers Cleopatra dropped the ball in about 30 BC. Claudius Ptolemy, on the other hand, lived a hundred years later around 60 AD. The nice thing about Claudius Ptolemy is that he sorted astronomy out, once and for all – or at least for the next 1400 years. He sorted through odd bits and pieces going back 800 years and worked it all into formulae and tables. This made the whole thing very straightforward and it became really easy to foretell eclipses, the horoscopes of the king’s family, etc.
So, it was 1400 years later, people started picking holes in Ptolemy’s work. There’s always someone, isn’t there? The fact that the earth had stood still, in the middle of the Universe, for all that time irritated some Middle Aged mathematicians and they grumpily started doing things – like making the world turn – and before you knew it, the world, very out of condition from sitting in front of the television for all that time, had been elbowed out of the middle and had to run, panting, round the outside, like any common planet without a Company gym membership.
So you see the problem don’t you. The year is definitely on the turn – but is it the year that’s turning?
You could try blowing the Dandelion and see if you get a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’.
As the countryside eases into autumn, the pace of life and growth slow down and almost all the plant life is beginning to show signs of, at least relaxing a little and in a good few cases, dying back in preparation for the over-winter doze. We do seem to have been waiting for summer for such a long time, it is quite hard to accept that there’s a chance that we’ve had all we’re going to get. Admittedly it hasn’t turned cold on us yet, but it looks as if it is – when you peer out at it from behind the safety of a window.
One of the things that happen, here on the blog, in autumn and winter, is we fill up the space with pictures of trains. There are days when autumn leaves of assorted colours take their place, but trains are our staple diet though the bare times. Over the last year, through thick and thin, sleet and snow, rain and hail, the trains have kept going. Allowing for the slings and arrows that beset any company trying to provide a public service, at around twenty to the hour, the train from Newcastle to Carlisle trundles past our house. Shortly after, usually within five or six minutes, the train from Carlisle to Newcastle grunts, groans, huffs and puffs past, climbing up the long slope that goes to make up our embankment. Over the year we’ve been here, on two occasions, the two trains have actually passed each other as they passed in front of our house.
Things have a habit of moving on – some might say change is inevitable, but I do get a little irritated by it all. Things change – and we hardly get a chance to find out if it’s good or bad, if we like it or we don’t (which are not always related in a simple easy to understand way) and they go and change again.
So, since I saw you last, we’ve moved house. Oh, and we’ve been on holiday. And now suddenly it’s autumn.
What is going on? Why is there no time to sit and contemplate the complexities of the situation and arrive a rational decision, instead of just leaping from one frying pan to another trying to keep out of the fire by guesswork, a little luck and trust in the randomness of fate?
Anyway, here we are in autumn and to rub it in we have toadstools all over the place. They don’t look out of place among the browns and oranges of the past-their-use-by-date leaves that the trees are littering the place with. I may have said it before but in autumn it bears repeating – Nature abhors efficiency – there, you read it here first. It really is no wonder that mankind (that includes womankind) and nature are continually at loggerheads. Nature happily wades about spilling stuff right, left and centre and humans (there that’s more inclusive) rush around behind her, trying to tidy up. We weren’t the first to develop the throw-away society you know. Admittedly nature is more into recycling than we are.
As you can see from the dilapidated state of the toadstools in the picture – I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure if these were Gnome Homes or Gingerbread Cottages.