Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Who Stole the Road?

 


On Monday afternoon, Nigel strode into my study.

‘Clare!  Look outside! Somebody has stolen the road.’

We live at the end of a very long cul-de-sac.  Both of us working at home.  For the last month, most of our interactions whether work or social have been via Zoom or the phone.

I didn’t think we could get much more isolated until the road resurfacing team came and took away our route to anywhere.  Where once there was asphalt now there is only a lumpy, uneven surface.

Perhaps tomorrow I will look out of my window and see only mist and clouds, indicating that finally we have been entirely cut off from all time and space.

Like the tardis. 

I shall remain stoical, as long as the wi-fi still works.

But the promise is that by the end of the week, we shall have back not only our road, but some of our freedoms.

For a while anyway.

Friday, 27 November 2020

The Egg Incident


 At the weekend, Nigel was cultivating our smallish garden and I was inside, writing.  Every so often he would stride purposefully past the window carrying a spade or fork.

After 8 months of gardening, particularly intensive due to this year’s special circumstances, I wondered what could be left to do out there.

Suddenly he rapped on the glass, making me jump.

‘You’ll never guess what I’ve found!’

‘Is it a frog?’ Tetchily.  It is usually a frog.

But no, just by an iris, a complete chicken egg, partially buried.

‘Could it have been kids egging the house on Halloween?’ 

No – it was several feet from the house and not even cracked.  As if it had been laid down carefully.

Laid.

The Vicar next door sometimes kept chickens.  Occasionally the chickens got out.  Once in a blue moon they appeared in our garden.

We could think of no other source for this egg, so we shared the story with him.

He said that they haven’t had chickens recently due to the depredations of particularly active urban foxes.  So that egg had to be more than a year old.

Nigel shook it.  Something inside rattled.  Yep. This was an old egg.

So it makes you think, doesn’t it – if something as large and obvious as a chicken egg could remain unnoticed in our well-tended small garden, what other amazing creatures are there for us to discover on this great planet of ours?  And can we find them before they become extinct?

 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Gin Incident


 When the R number soared at the end of October, I booked in a series of online shops. 

For each one I put in a placeholder order of a high-value item which takes me over the £40 limit needed to get a delivery.

A couple of days before the delivery I go in and remove the high-value item and put in the list of what we really need.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now my high-value item of choice just happens to be three bottles of gin.  Doesn’t really matter which gin as I’m going to take it off the order. 

I had idly thought that the profile derived from my shopping habits would portray me as an acute alcoholic, purchasing three large bottles of spirits each week.

This Monday, when the doorbell rang, I went to receive my supermarket order from the young delivery man.

“Good morning.  Would you mind taking it through to the….”

The words died on my lips. 

At my feet was only one crate.

In the crate were three large bottles of gin.

“This isn’t my order!”

The young man smirked.  He had heard it all before. 

In retrospect, I gave in too quickly.  I should have insisted on seeing the paperwork or asked that he take it back.  But I knew deep down that it was my mistake – I had amended the wrong order.

Looking around nervously in case any of the neighbours was about, I grabbed my haul of gin and retreated indoors, clanking.

My shopping will come next week.  At least the gin will make the wait pleasant. 

Friday, 13 November 2020

The Goldfinger Incident


I’m a bit of a fidget.  If I’m talking on the phone I like to use a headset and find a task to keep my hands busy.

It was time to ring John, an elderly friend from church.  So I decided to make some Christmas decorations out of materials I already had, the remnants of previous projects.

“Hello, John.  How has your week been?”

Since John is confined to his house and my adventures have been curtailed by Lockdown, it is hard to make the conversation sparkle.

“It’s been mild for the time of year, hasn’t it?”

I laid out some cones gathered from a giant redwood and drilled holes in them.

“The Autumn colours have been lovely, but the leaves are falling now.”

So far, so good.  I was having a nice catch-up with John and being creative at the same time.  I felt positively smug.

Looking at the decorations however, they seemed very…brown.

A little gold paint would make it SO much better.

I found a half-used spray can. Unfortunately the gold paint had formed a crust which meant I couldn’t depress the nozzle. 

I pressed down harder.

Suddenly, there was a crunch and the nozzle was now stuck down, in spray mode.  Gold paint was bubbling everywhere and pooling on the worktop. 

I gave up trying to have a civilised conversation.

“Oh no.  This is the only gold paint I’ve got!  I have to use it.  So I’m putting my hands in it and rubbing it over the pine cones…It’s going everywhere.  I look as if I’ve been in a punch-up with Tinkerbell – and lost!”

Judging by the chuckles from the other end of the phone, I think John enjoyed my combination of craftwork and phone call rather more than our usual sedate chat.

And the paint did stop coming out eventually.

 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Unsung Heroes of Lockdown


The new Lockdown stole up on me unexpectedly.  I hadn’t been watching the ‘r’ number, and it did all seem to happen swiftly.  But I guess that’s all part of the exponential curve with which we’ve grown so familiar.

However, sometimes it is good things which arrive unheralded. 

This Autumn I’ve enjoyed seeing the bright fly agaric toadstools near our home which live most of the year invisible beneath the soil as hyphae.



Field maples are scrubby hedgerow trees, but around now their foliage is pure gold.



Spindle trees are insignificant bushes most of the year, but in Autumn their leaves turn fiery shades, and they yield fabulous pink berries which split to reveal orange seeds.

The wild stinking iris has a drab brown-purple flower, but right now its seed pods are splitting open and showing off their magnificent scarlet seeds.



So I guess there are wonderful things out there - we just have to wait for the time to be right and to keep looking out for them.

 

 

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Thursday, 29 October 2020

The Toilet Slime Incident

 


At the moment, when we think about our personal safety, we think of hand gel & face masks.

So it took me by surprise to find myself lying flat on my back at the bottom of some steps.  Nigel and I were having a half term break, walking near Falmouth.  My boots were very muddy and when I spotted the steps, I thought I’d go down to the river to get the worst off.  I noted with interest the strongly built home-made handrail.  However, I did not hold onto it.  I realised only as I described an arc through the air that this rail had been a sign that the steps were extremely slippery.

It had all happened so quickly that Nigel thought I had disappeared into thin air. 

‘I’m down here’ I called, hollowly.

Bruise on bottom and on elbow.

Two days later, we walked from Malpas along the Tresillian River.  I was now much more alert and successfully negotiated at speed a narrow path slick with puddles, lumpy with tree roots and blocked by fallen pines. 

On the way back, I decided to use the public loo at St Clements.  Set on a level concrete platform, it should have presented no hazard.  However as I turned sharply to enter, I felt the now familiar sensation of flying through the air. 

On close inspection (eye level, in fact) I could see the area was covered in green algae and was beyond slippery.

Bruise on knee and same elbow.

This time Nigel was at hand to haul me to my feet.

‘At least the last fall was sort-of wholesome and open-air,’ he opined, ‘Not like this time - slipping in toilet slime.’

Which I believe is known as ‘adding insult to injury.’

 

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Thursday, 22 October 2020

She Stoops to Conquer

 

Every year, we go to glean chestnuts in the local woods.  I use them in all sorts of vegetarian and vegan dishes over the winter.  We realised they were ripe now and if we didn’t go soon, we would miss out.

I’d committed to a teaching conference at the weekend (on Zoom), so we couldn’t get away to the woods until almost dusk on Saturday.  We would have to be quick or the car park would shut with our car inside. 

We headed for the best spot and began combing the ground for the green spiny cases.  They always remind me of the land-bound version of sea-urchins.  But the only land-urchins we found had already been split open.

Many people and even more deer had been there before us.  The deer always leave the case spread out with the silky lining showing, like a pale star, completely cleaned of chestnuts. People do a less thorough job and leave small nuts behind.

Empty-handed, we rushed back to the car before we got locked in.

The following day, the conference again stretched into the afternoon, but when I got out, I remembered a new spot.  I’d discovered it a couple of weeks earlier, by the usual expedient of spotting other foragers and asking them what they were collecting. 

However, it was a long walk to get there and would there still be chestnuts?

In the green gloom of the woods, it turned out that there were.  Plenty of them.

And it allowed Nigel to make the annual repetition of one of his favourite puns.  As I bent to pick up a chestnut, ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘She stoops to conker.’

NB Despite Nigel's terrible pun, conkers ( AKA) Horse chestnuts are not edible. It was the delicious sweet chestnuts that I was collecting. 

 

Lend your support to the campaign to save Symondshyde Woods

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Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill – please help your planet

Please follow the links below (which will take you swiftly and easily through to your MP’s email) and ask your MP to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which will be debated during this session of Parliament.

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