Autumn sniffles

Friday October 14, 2005

Shortly after we got back from Spilsby this morning Graham announced he felt a bit throaty, as if he was starting a cold.

“Right,” I said. “We’ll start on a course of Echinacea tablets with our dinner this evening, and you must take aspirin and a tot of rum before you go to bed. Don’t be mean with the rum and, meantime, keep the liquids flowing.”

“Ok,” he said, with not a hint of resistance.

That, between you and me, was all the reinforcement I need to let me know he’s not kidding about feeling a tad flaky. Normally he’ll resist taking anything at all for a minor malady, and he hates rum. Colds, however, we both take very seriously. And past experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of my standard cold and ‘flu remedy, over and over again. That’s about as far as he’ll go, however. I benefit in addition from my free annual ‘flu jab and, despite my earnest suggestion that he trot along to the clinic and pay the very reasonable fee for a private jab, he refuses flatly. Not even the present bird ‘flu scare will shift him on that.

It’s not really surprising that one or other of us should pick up a cold. Just about everywhere you go at the moment there’s someone coughing, sneezing and hacking carelessly with a late summer cold. Graham tells me it was the same in Somerset, and on the train. Isn’t it nice that people are so generous with their germs? And so careless with the basic hygiene rules that are so important in the seasonal bursts of the common cold?

I’m close to fanatical about it. Always carry a good supply of tissues with me in case I need to sneeze or cough. And, in my bag, a small bottle of antiseptic handwash I use after any contact with other people and, especially, after handling goods in a busy store. Not to mention the fiercely powerful eucalyptus lozenges I pop if there’s anyone about me displaying signs of being sickly. Doesn’t give me an absolute guarantee against infection of course but it does at least reassure me that it’s not down to my own carelessness and stupidity and that on the rare occasions I fall foul of a cold I’m doing the very best I can not to spread it around.

Hey ho. At my insistence we’ve had a quiet day today, with a good afternoon nap, a bottle of wine in the evening before dinner, and a good relax in front of the TV to follow. As we packed up for the night, Graham said he was feeling a lot better already.

On the writing front, I finished the new Tales from my garden story and blocked out the next one, which is to be the last in the series. Feedback from the writing group has been favourable, though I’ve been told the stories lack conflict and conflict-resolution. I’m happy with that, feeling that stories such as these aren’t about conflict in the classic definition of the term. There’s a situation there, in the sub-text, and it gets resolved, but the commonly accepted structure of the standard short story doesn’t apply. Leastways, I don’t think it does.

I’m working also on a much longer and meatier story for Halloween. That has enough conflict, struggle and resolution to suit anyone, I reckon. I hope to have it done in time to submit before the October 31 deadline but circumstances might make that difficult. I’m working in an exercise book on this one so’s I can take it to Somerset with me and keep it rolling. A good juicy horror story is well worth the effort now and again, even for writers who, like me, don’t really do fiction.

But, there you go. I’m happy enough with the new story in its first publishable version. It’ll revise nicely when I sit down with all six and stitch them together into a small book.


Fair enough

“Good morning,” I said, settling down on my seat by the pond as quietly as I could manage. “Hope you’ve had a good breakfast?”

“Morning, guv,” said the big grey heron, standing like a statue by the pondside. He covered his beak delicately with one half-open wing as he burped, heavily. “Yes. Very tasty, thanks. Mind you, it helps that you don’t grudge me a few of your goldfish. Adds to the flavour, does knowing that.”

“Oh, you’re very welcome. I don’t like goldfish and you do, so you’re doing me a favour.”

“Not many of them left now.”

“No. I’ve noticed. I shall miss you when they’ve all gone.”

“Oh, I’ll be back now and again, just to check in case you’ve got more fish.”

“Not very likely, I’m afraid. I hope you’ll be able to make up your catch elsewhere?”

“Oh, yes. There are several ponds along the lane here, the fish farms further up the road, and miles of open river. I’ll not go hungry.”


The heron resumed his beady-eyed stance, scanning the depths of the pond for an unwary goldfish. I sat, still and quiet, enjoying his company in the silence of the very early morning. Behind us the sky lightened slowly as the sun came closer and closer to the horizon before breaking over the hedges.

I suppose I should feel badly for the goldfish but I prefer not to think about it other than along the lines of my heron needing a hearty breakfast now and again. If I’d installed the fish as heron fodder it’d be another, much crueller matter, but these were in the pond when we moved into the house. It’s Nature in action in my garden, or so I reckon.

“I think I’ve about done here,” he said, stretching his wings.

“How’s that, then?”

“The fish go deeper as the light grows, hide under the weed out of sight and out of reach. No sensible angler fishes in thick weed.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

“Why should you? Like you told me last time, you’re not a fisherman.”

“True. I’m not. Where will you go from here?”

“Oh, up to the fish farm to top up with some troutlings, then back to the nest for a good long digest and nap.”

“Sounds nice. I’m quite fond of a decent trout myself. Don’t think I’d like ’em young, raw and bony, though.”

“The young ‘uns suit me well enough. Herons don’t notice bones.”

A glint of sunlight fell across the ground between the houses and from next door there came the first sounds of my neighbour waking and getting about his business.

“Oh, oh. Better be off.”

“Right you are. Happy fishing, and take care out there.”

“Quarnk!” he said, as he opened his wings and leapt into the air. “Quarnk!”

“Morning, John,” my neighbour called over the hedge as he opened his door to take the air. “You been talking to that heron again?”

“Morning. Well, yes, I confess it, I have. There’s no-one else to chat with at this time of day.”

“No harm in it. Just so long as he doesn’t answer back.”

“That’s for me to know, and you to ponder.”

“Fair enough.”



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