Monday October 17, 2005
Busy day. House cleaning and garden tidying. I did the house and Graham did the garden, trimming those dratted hedges at last.
I did my best to assist by picking up the clippings. I used the portable garden vacuum/shredder, one of those with a big hose and a collection bag that you sling over your shoulder. We bought it originally for clearing fallen leaves from the big oak tree in the last garden but it does a fair to average job of picking up the worst of hedge clippings, too. Except for the snag. There’s a problem built in to these portable shredders, you see. The more you vacuum and shred, the heavier the thing becomes. After struggling with it for a while I got sent indoors to make tea.
“I fear that the shredder is another of the things I don’t do any more,” I said.
“Not to worry. I’ll run the mower over the grass to pick ’em up.”
And my little electric mower came to the rescue once again.
It got dark before we were finished, sadly, so Graham cleared up the last of the clippings best he could while I repaired to the kitchen to get ready for dinner. We sat down to enjoy it—roast chicken with almost all of the trimmings—while we watched the second of a two-part episode of Waking the dead. Says something about us, that we really rather like watching ghoulish British drama over dinner, and I’m not convinced it’s entirely good.
On and off during the day I worked on the first draft of the last of the six Conversations in my Garden stories. I’d like to have had more time to spend on it but it has to be sent in to the writing group this week and today is likely to be the last chance I shall have. It’ll do. Room for improvement, but it’ll do. Yes, I know the working title for the collection keeps changing. I dont generally do titles until I’ve completed the work, you see, and it’ll doubtless change again before I finish.
Now the series is complete I’m looking forward greatly to weaving them into a small book, and working on the illustrations, too. That’s not a job that can be done in dribs and drabs, though. It needs a long, uninterrupted period when it can be my main activity. Looking at my calendar there is a possibility I’ll be able to do it sometime in November. I’d like that. If not, though, it’ll make a great project for January, when things quieten down once more. I rather fancy adding a closing story, ending the series at Christmas. There’s a rather interesting robin red breast comes to keep me company when I’m sitting out on a cold day.
It was one of those lovely early autumn evenings, quiet and cool, with the air washed clean by a shower in the late afternoon. I was sitting in the back garden, listening to the wild birds in the long hedge chuttling away to one another as they settled down for the night, and watching the sky turn to a pale shade of indigo over to the east. Nice, I thought. Peaceful.
Then, all of a sudden, the quiet was shattered by a frenzied flapping of downy wings and a sustained Qua-r-r-c-k! and before I’d realised what was happening a large, slightly over-weight duck came whizzing down from the sky, feet outstretched, skidded over the wet lawn, and ended up in the long grass by the wild corner. He recovered quickly, turned, and regarded me cautiously with one solemn eye.
“You’ll forgive me for saying so,” I said, suppressing a chuckle, “but that was the closest thing to a wizard prang I’ve witnessed in a long time.”
“Can’t get it right all the time, old chap. Grass was wetter than I’d thought.”
“No harm done, I hope?”
He stretched his neck up, shook his feathers back into place, and waddled out onto the lawn a little way.
“Nope. Everything seems tickety-boo. Bit out of breath, but that’s only to be expected after an emergency landing.”
“Well, I’m glad about that. What was the emergency? Travelled far?”
“Oh, not so far, really. Just a couple of miles. Spent the day on the marshes over by the river. I’m not as young as I was, though, and I ran out of puff on the way back. Needed to take a quick break and your garden looked inviting.”
“Tell me about it. I run out of puff myself these days. You’re welcome to rest up for as long as you need.”
“Can I get you something? Nice bit of bread and cheese, perhaps? I have some ready to put out on the bird table in the morning.”
“That’s very good of you but I’ll pass, thank you very much. More of a morning thing, is bread and cheese.”
“Know what you mean. Not my choice of supper, either. I’ll try to remember to drop a few bits on the grass in case you fancy a snack tomorrow morning when you fly over.”
“You’ll have to be up and about early to catch me.”
“Oh, I’m generally awake good and early. Like to see the sun come up, you know. And listen to the dawn chorus.”
He waddled out a little further, beaking his way through the grass. I was glad that this year’s family of little frogs tend to stay in the front garden, by the pond. Not that I’d really have grudged him a snack, you understand, but I’m rather fond of the little baby frogs and heaven knows they have enough trouble making it into adulthood as it is.
The quiet was shattered again as two RAF jets came winging across, not so low as to shake the ground, but loud enough to bring any conversation to a halt for a while.
“Now, those boys can fly,” the duck said appreciatively after they’d disappeared over the house and out of sight. “Noisy, but fast.”
“I’m rather fond of them myself,” I said. “They’re part of the Lincolnshire tradition. Not as pretty as you guys but they have a beauty of their own.”
“Pretty?” he preened. “Do you really think so?”
“Oh, yes. Pretty as the day is long.”
“Frightfully good of you to say so. Not that the days are so very long just now.”
“No, they’re not. No sooner do I finish watching the sun rise than the day’s over and I’m watching it set again.”
“Well, at least you can stay in one place between times. We have to fly from the roosting fields all the way over to the feeding places and back again, dawn and dusk. And move over to Leicestershire if the winter gets too bad.”
“You don’t do the big migration, then?”
“Goodness, no. I’m British through and through, old chap, just like you. Like to stay as close to home as I can. I have cousins who do the foreign travel, though. Never seen the point myself.”
“East, West, home’s best, eh?”
“Ah well. It’s getting a bit chilly for me. I’ll go back indoors now if you don’t mind.”
“Yes. I’d better be on my way, too. Would you like to see me take off?”
“Oh yes, please. I’d really enjoy that.”
“Right you are. See you again some time. Chocks away!”
And, pulling back into the corner he ran as fast as he could, diagonally across the lawn, flapping his wings furiously and lifting into the air just in time to miss the corner of the workshop. Overhead, he circled to gain height, sent me a loud Qua-r-r-c-k! in farewell, and wheeled off east, over the hedges and far away to the big open area of the fens.
“Toodle pip, old chap,” I called after him. “Safe landing!”