Monday, 29 October 2018


When the sun comes out in the late afternoon a mass of flying insects gathers around the ivy atop the old stone shed

I thought in previous years it was because the ivy was flowering, but this year it’s already gone to seed, yet still they swarm: flies, bees, wasps, hover flies - all manner of aerobatic beasties.

A big fan of fresh air, I’m forced to close all the windows for these brief sunny Autumnal hours, because the bluebottles swarm around the house. 

In fifteen minutes there’d be five of the noisy dive-bombing disease-spreading buggers in my living room: guaranteed to drive this colyoomist doolally.

Instead of feeling trapped inside I wander out, stand beside the ivy and take a look, while soaking up the sunshine, appreciating the rich deep colours of this season.

I truly love Autumn. In Jewish culture this is the start of the year; a time of beginning and restoration.

From the roof of the stone shed comes the music of a million insect orchestra. They’re all intensely excited about the ivy and

 - oh -              there!

High above I see a triangle of 12 swallows swoop past. For the last few weeks I felt a brief pulse of excitement each time I saw swallows, thinking that maybe my local brood were still around, but no.

Turns out this house is under some kind of swallow M1 motorway. The regulars who nest in the barn over the wall left weeks ago, and these are birds heading south from somewhere further north.

My brain swims as I try to work out how far they must have already flown, if they are only this far south now.

Migration is a hard taskmaster.

Bird word travels fast. Here come the crows, up from their colony in the high trees at the crossroads. They’re lining up on the telephone wires, eager to feast on the insect smörgåsbord dancing in the ivy.

It’s a good day for crows.

Every day seems to be a good day for magpies. On their mission to take over Ireland’s hedgerows and gardens, they’ve done away with a couple of my flighted friends.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed watching a pair of pied wagtails, who became very used to me. When I first moved in, Mr Wagster used to perch on top of the heating oil tank, but then, as I fed the birds through tough winters, he became almost tame, walking over to take food a mere few inches from me.

Then last Spring a pair of magpies arrived, kicked out the wagtails, along with the tits and sparrows, and now they truly rule the roost.

Mind you, the robin is hanging on in there. He won’t be budged, diving down from the trees as soon as he sees me in the garden. 

As the days become shorter I expect less from myself. As the wind speeds up, my mind slows down. Watching the clouds turn golden as a storm builds and then purple as it blasts through makes me feel calm and meditative.

This is the time of year for that magical blue and yellow spray can. WD40 is the stuff of Autumn, somehow both lubricating movement while repelling moisture and inhibiting rust.

That latch on the front gate is rusted and stiff, but a quick spray and it’s slip sliding away.

Next up, the windows need the full treatment. Attracted by the electric light inside all summer, their surrounds are veritable cities of spiders and anything else that’ll eat midges.

Hundreds of little brown clusters, some maybe stored dinners, others perchance gestating babies. Needs to be done but it’s not painless, destroying such a thriving ecosystem.

Then a spray of the WD on the stiff window handles, which are threatening to break off until ah, there, now they’re perfect. Another hefty spray onto the sliding metal window bars that are past their best.

Before I put the WD back into Joey SX, I spray his battery terminals and any other electric bits I see. That’ll protect them from damp and ease the demands of those cold morning starts on my car’s electrics.

Was a time I’d lift a car’s bonnet and be able to point out the distributor, spark plugs and HT leads, the alternator and carburettor.

Now it’s all moulded plastic and Japanese wizardry, designed to keep fools like me away and dealerships busy.

The lawn has been mowed and mulched for last time, and as I write that I know certain male folk of my acquaintance will be both chuckling and relieved.

All Summer every Summer they are bored and infuriated by my endless tales of woe with lawnmowers. No man ever had worse luck with various machines and a procession of companies that purport to mend said machines.

My god, it’s only a rotating blade. How hard can it be?

I (and by proxy those aforementioned giggling blokes) have suffered verbal abuse and obfuscation while trying to get the bloomin’ mower sorted. Three of the last six growing seasons I spent ‘waiting for parts.’

Apparently men become obsessed with their lawns. In truth, I couldn’t give a monkey’s if there are several different types of grass, moss, weed and wildflower growing in the lawn.

Instead I become fixated on the weather, and which day will be dry enough to get out there and cut it.

Okay: I’m obsessed with not being able to mow the lawn.

Doesn’t matter now. ’Tis done until Spring. With the clocks going back, mornings will light up a little, while at the other end of the day, the hastening of darkness allows self-employed scribblers to call it a day, light the fire and think of what to cook for dinner.

©Charlie Adley

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