Wednesday, 1 September 2010
One step outside the garden door, and autumn is there.
It is there in the goose-pimpling air, the heavy cold dew on the lawn. the filaments of cobwebs highlighted by the low level sun.
As the day warms it is there in the blushing tomatoes. the fattening grapes and the competitive scrambling of birds in the thickness of the vine.
The grapes are not good for people.
An enthusiastic friend made wine some years ago. It was awful; bitter, harsh.
I tipped the remainer of the bottle down the sink, where it fizzed and foamed and left the sink sparkling.
Good for stainless steel.
An American friend made grape jelly, but it was so sweet that we might as well have eaten a bag of sugar.
So now the grapes are there only for the birds, and I wait for the Fieldfares to come for their share.
In the meantime starlings, blackbirds and sparrows argue and scamble for fruit, nipping off ripe and unripe indiscriminately.
An athletic-looking cat, new to the neighbourhood, watches from a fence-top.
The blackbirds have spent the summer colonising the garden. They are proprietorial about its contents, spending so much time trying to prevent others from eating that they can hardly feed themselves. They posture and fight - male to male, female to male, father to daughter.
The other birds eat on, noisily, fussily.
Bounty for the sparrow-hawk, too, plummeting into the vine, pinioning a shrieking victim.
The other birds rush panic-striken away and the sparrow-hawk plucks and rips in silence.
Such passion and brutality in a small town garden.
Overhead, on the edge of the hills, a family of buzzards spiral and mew. Two adults with three offspring this year.
Their chance will come.
The sky is empty and silent of the scimitars of martins, swifts and swallows, screaming high in the summer evenings. I try to note the day they vanish, to wish them safety on their perilous, incredible journey back to warmth.
One night soon, if I am very lucky, in the still and chilly dark I will hear autumn in the rush of migrating birds, high, high in the cold starry sky, following flight paths older than Man.
The birds are always ahead of us in their knowledge of winds and weather for their unimaginably vast migrations.
Earth is making its slow tilt again; here towards darkness while the other side receives its share of warmth and light.