Milestone Mystery Tours

It’s happened – after looming large on the horizon for so long I have finally reached the milestone of fifty years on this planet. Millstone, milestone, I guess it’s all about perspective. Half a century and I’m still here.

My original plan to mark it was to take a trip over to Paris to visit the grave of one Jim Morrison (for what’s a Happy Birthday without a cemetery?) 😂

But, with all of the shifting sands of Covid requirements, I decided to postpone that for now to remain on this side of the Channel. And so my next couple of posts will be about what I did instead, including a few nights spent in the breezy Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

The first, though, will be about a tour I took my fourteen-year-old daughter on. A hopefully inspirational tour of a certain neighbouring northern city, centred upon a certain neighbouring northern pop group . . .

To Conker Her Fears

It was maybe an hour from dusk. A little girl was running ahead of her mother, kicking all of the yellow and brown leaves out of her way as she came.

“Where are all the conkers?” she asked me.

“Conkers?

“Yeah, there’s all these leaves but no conkers!” Her cheeks were red with either all of the running she’d been doing or the cold air. Maybe a combination of the two.

I gestured towards the bottom of the hill. “There’s a conker tree down there, on Wood Street. Right to the bottom then turn left.

She whirled around. “MUMMY!” She didn’t have to shout as her mother wasn’t really that far behind. “THERE’S A CONKER TREE DOWN THERE!”

Maybe her mother didn’t really need to hear that. I shrugged apologetically. “It’s about ten minutes away.”

She nodded her thanks and they went on their way. Or rather the girl did, speedily, and her mother followed the trail she left through the foliaged pathway.

That was one thing I missed. When my kids were primary age we used to pass the horse chestnut tree that I’d referred to on the school run, and at this time of year we’d forage for any fallen conkers along the way. Especially after a previous night’s storm.

But the kids are older now. High school age. When I was in high school conkers were still a thing. The playground was the battleground, and the more fair-minded (or more likely the naive) among us would come up against the devious cheats who had strengthened their conkers by baking them in the oven or coating them in nail varnish. Ways and means, with the assistance of conspiring adults.

That was in the days before the schools went on a health and safety overdrive and either banned them outright or insisted safety goggles had to be worn when playing.

So now they’re not a thing.

The last time any interest was shown in conkers in my house was when my daughter had come across the claim that spiders were scared of them. Before you could say show me the scientific proof there was a defensive line of them along her window ledge and more strategically placed upon her bedside cabinet.

They lasted until the night she encountered a spider that was big enough to juggle them.

Rosemary’s Bay Bees

What a beautiful day it was today.

In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.

So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.

Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.

Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.

Obvious, isn’t it?

One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.

When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.

That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.

From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.

(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)

And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.

That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.

You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.

Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.

I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.

Summer Lions

I’m sitting in the garden, once again, this time reading Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.

It’s summer. I can smell summer; taste summer. My jackdaws are lining up along the neighbour’s rooftop, tethered by the sun.

It’s in the autumn I’ll think of my father; my grandparents, see the young ghosts of my brother and I playing cricket in the ginnel, dwarfed by walls I can comfortably peer over.

For now, it’s my children, playing with the dog as I pause to watch, mid-sentence, laughing on the threshold of a great beyond.