A damp but bright morning. Half way up the enormous horse chestnut tree, a squirrel stops its frantic run across the thick old branches to have a scratch. On the lawn, a blackbird scrabbles amongst a clinging fall of pale and dark brown leaves, turning them one by one, or occasionally, in a temper, a whole beakfull at a time, seeking wet worms and stabbing at rotten medlars.
Some of the lower branches of the tree were banging against the roof of the garage-cum-shed during two severe storms recently. The tree surgeon came and shortened them before any damage was done to either party.
Apparently horse chestnut trees are under severe pressure in the UK, being attacked by a range of diseases such as bleeding canker and also by the leaf miner moth, whose effect is capable of devastating the whole population. According to experts, all the country’s horse chestnuts could be wiped out over the next fifteen years.
The high winds were also responsible for blowing down one of our fence panels. Late one evening I found myself stretched against the old tattered panel, the really strong gale trying to wrap the fence around me, whilst, with a weird kind of amusement, I mentally recited those great words from King Lear:
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Actually, it wasn’t that bad, really – but my efforts were all in vain. Eventually the wind won the day (or, technically, the evening). I gave the fence repair man three chances, but he never did turn up to make the repair and I always stick to that traditional Welsh saying, “Three times for a Welshman”. That’s all he got and on his fourth approach I told him what he could do. I bought and erected a new panel for a quarter the cost of what he would have charged. Thankfully the weather was calm on the day. The only question now is, does it quite match the panels on either side? So, of course I’ll be researching creosote and/or fence paint.
Some people say to repair the roof when the sun’s shining; but in fact there are some jobs you need to do when the weather’s not so good. Our old but still wonderful Honda lawnmower broke down at the end of last summer. I worked out that the problem is with a small spring that’s sheared off and allows the engine to peter out after start up. I’ve managed to track down a replacement spring.
But I think I’ll get an expert in to fit it and at the same time he can (hopefully) fit the new blade that I bought many years ago. The retaining nut is so worn I can’t get it off – so best to leave it to the lawnmower man.
Having said that, he’ll only get three chances, of course …
Right at the end of December, I notice the squirrels are using a hole in the old tree. I’ll watch with interest over the next few months to see if it becomes their drey.