Winter has arrived at last. The promised eighty-five mile an hour gales never materialised here in the North of England, but we did have almost an inch of rain in around three hours yesterday evening. We went to a Birthday Party and parked at the bottom of a slope - along with a lot of other people. In the car headlights it looked as though we were parking in a river bed. By the time we came out four hours later the rain had stopped but the beck was full to overflowing in places. This morning the countryside has suddenly taken on the air of a dying year.
Opposite, on the horizon, the deciduous larches of our neightbour's farm have gone from being little beacons of light yesterday to being dank, brown needles today. This morning the outdoor heifers were fetched home to a warm barn full of sweet-smelling straw, leaving the field a quagmire. The five feed troughs are gone and the nine pheasants who had taken up residence in the hedge bottom close to an easy food source are wandering desultorily around the area, pecking at blades of grass and just waiting around to see if any food materialises.
The bird table outside the kitchen window is alive with feeding birds - spotted woodpeckers, great tits, coal tits, blue tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, hedge sparrows, house sparrows, collared doves, chaffinches - and an occasional flurry of long-tailed tits. On the ground beneath the table blackbirds scratch and peck at the one or two apples I have thrown there and in the hedge-bottom a wren flits furtively - never an easy bird to spot. The perky robin sits at the top of the fir tree and sings its beak off. That cheery little fellow never lets us down - it all sounds so lovely that it is best to forget that he is singing because he is so very territorial and his song is saying - keep away, this is my patch.
The farmer is out with his shooting pals today, shooting our land and our neighbours. Being a kind man who dislikes killing anything he doesn't shoot but goes along as a beater. I can hear the gun shot in the distance and there are six or seven pheasant under the bird table, refugees from the fields, trying to keep well out of range of the guns. Last time the guns were out, a fortnight ago, they had a magnificent view of a dog fox slinking along the hedgeside on his way back to his earth.
Today the sun is struggling to get out and not having a lot of success, so it is basically a grey day. The grey days before Christmas my mother would have called it. Christmas looms ever nearer and before long the house will bear that lovely smell of dried fruit, brandy mince pies and spices as I make the cakes and puddings. But I am putting it off as long as I can.
Finally, readers of my blog, even if they didn't participate, will know of TFE's wonderful Poetry Bus, which ran for six weeks or so and inspired us all to write a Monday poem. Sadly Joan O'Flynn (AKA Drama Queen) a passenger on that bus, passed away yesterday. If you have not already done so, please go go TFE's blog (see my blog list) and read the most wonderfully inspired poem, which was probably the last poem Joan wrote - "Wait for me." Reading it and realising that the writer has gone so soon after writing it is a very humbling experience - the
poem has stayed in my mind for the last twenty four hours. If you wish to leave your condolences to her family TFE's post will tell you how to do that too. Rest in peace Joan.