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.

Still The Seasonal Vibes: Three Photos

I took this first photograph while waiting for a funeral cortège, a funeral we couldn’t attend. The mother of a friend had passed after catching Covid, despite being jabbed. We’d spoke with her once in our town centre, not long after lockdown had ended, and she was afraid of catching the virus. Despite following all advice and taking all necessary precautions, she caught it and having underlying health issues sadly succumbed.

My wife and I were waiting the results of our own PCR tests and so couldn’t attend the funeral. But, with it being local, we wanted to stand at the cemetery gates, away from everybody else, to show our respects as the hearse and family cars arrived. As we waited in the car, sheltering from the rain, the wind scattered leaves across the windscreen and this one caught for a few seconds.

The dark day had persuaded the streetlight sensor that night was falling.

The smell of wet leaves, that mulchy, earthy smell. This bench, on the cemetery edge, was waiting for Spring to bring with it regular occupants, to maybe bask in early sunshine and watch the world awaken. It helps to think of cycles and the natural order of things.

It reminded me a little of the more famous, Autumn bench that those four Swedes once sat on. I’ve actually seen that bench in Stockholm. Perhaps this one would attract someone of equal renown. Perhaps it already had. Who but the bench would know?

Another day and another break in the clouds. My wife, son and I all received negative results, but my daughter tested positive and so she’s isolating. With my Mum living next door, unable to remain out of our home due to her Alzheimer’s, we are having to navigate all that.

So far so good.

We nipped into Middleton and, in the midst of a deluge, the sun came out and I took this photograph. It could have been better but I was too slow – by the time I’d got my phone out the sun was already slipping behind a cloud.

At this time of year, a time of change and lengthening shadow, you have to be fast to catch any light.

Flea/Owl/Wasp

I picked this book up for just £2 on the local flea market. Seeing as though we soon learn in it that the sound of an owl calling your name foretells imminent death (according to the folklore of the tribe that the main character, a priest, goes to stay with), the title may be a bit of a spoiler.

Still – I loved it. It’s not a long book and it’s not a new book, but it’s a new favourite book, added to a select few. Two pounds well spent!

I was reading it outside in the garden as today was quite mild, making the most of the warm Autumn sunshine. Perhaps this will be the last day that we can sit comfortably outdoors like this. I’ve heard it mentioned that we may have some snow before the month is out. Never mind a white Christmas, could it be an unseasonal white Halloween?

These days you can take nothing for granted.

While I was reading, a wasp hovered briefly above my book and it reminded me to check out the guttering above my lad’s bedroom. I’d noticed that wasps were nesting in there some months back and I looked now to see if they’d since departed.

No – there was still some activity up there. We are in October, surely they’ll have to leave soon. Maybe sooner than they think.

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.