British Summer Time

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That last pretence of summer –
slanting sunlight, and the air
settling into velvet – has gone.

Street lamps stutter
pour their pools of steely light
and photoflash each passing face
before it fades in shadow.

We turn back the clocks
enjoying, for a moment, the conceit
that we can turn back time,
control that slippery, elusive hour
which we have lost
or maybe not yet lived.

The Lake – late October

 

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The geese are back ! I couldn’t believe it. Look at the way their numbers shot up, and then declined:

10/10/14 20
14/10/14 73
16/10/14 78
17/10/14 200
18/10/14 227
19/10/14 23

Of course, it’s all to do with the weather. We had a week of very late summer – warm days, no wind and no rain. That brought the geese up from town. I’ve never see the lake so crowded.

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Our geese are not migratory- unless you call a journey of three miles migratory. They are a local population who spend their summers at the lake, feeding off the surrounding fields, and the winters on the banks of the river which runs through the middle of the city. There they have a river, and the warmth of surrounding buildings as well. Food is readily accessible- all they have to do is go round the back of the local supermarket and take what they want. They are first rate scavengers.

It’s strange, but they have no fear of people. They step out into the road and the traffic stops for them (often for minutes at a time) until they get safely to the other side. They go into shops, they blag food from passersby. You don’t believe me ? Look here.

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The Lake- October

 

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It’s quiet on the lake. There’s a touch of mist on the water, and up at the far end there are thirty seven Canada geese who have stopped off for a rest before heading down to the river in town. It’s warmer there.
But for now, they’re happy enough to huddle together, chattering in their jazz-saxophone voices.

Then I spot the ducklings. There are seven of them. They’re a late brood. I saw them for the 1st time on the 10th of September so they’re just about five weeks old. I didn’t think that they would survive for long- the heron is a regular visitor- but somehow they’ve only lost one. They’re quite big, almost fully grown, and te they are still swimming around in a gang, with the mother ploughing along behind. As soon as I take the bag of breadcrumbs out of my pocket, they reverse course and come charging up the bank.

 

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And as soon as they’ve scrambled and bickered and eaten all the crumbs, then they scurry back to the water and head off for the middle of the lake, where it’s safer.

There’s something ridiculous about ducklings. They look like wind-up bathroom toys- and yet, they live dangerously. There’s always the heron waiting to pounce, and people say there are a couple of pike in the lake, and they’re looking for a few good meals before they sink down into the depths before winter comes.

Mist changes everything. It hides and discloses at the same time. I can’t see the end of the lake properly, and yet, suddenly, I’m surrounded by spider webs, hanging like exotic, delicate  jewellry from the bushes.  What I’m looking at here is an IDEA brought to fruition, it’s a killing machine, it’s a necklace.

 

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Late summer

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Like a guest
reluctant to depart
the summer lingers.
Trees cling
to their brassy leaves.
Grass, overgrown,
is rank and sour.
Heavy, lethargic, dull.
we wait
for scouring gales
to strip the trees to skeletons,
remember enviously
the smell of burning leaves,
the creak of snow under foot,
the luxury of shivering.

Summer/Autumn 1779

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This is the second part of a two-part poem based on the journals of Gilbert White. He was an 18th century clergyman, who became the founding father of natural history in England. He was interested in everything, from flies in the kitchen to sunsets. He had a superb eye, and natural writing skill. His book – ” The Natural History of Selborne” was compiled from his daily journals, and has never been out of print.

This poem, like the one before

See here:https://jackspratt823.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/winter-1778/
is made up of lines taken from his daily journals.

As I said before- I didn’t grow the flowers, I just arranged them in the vase.

Things freeze in the pantry.
Storm cock sings. Rock-like clouds.
A sudden thaw and paths get dry.
Snow all day, but melts as it falls.
Crocus make a gallant show. Green woodpecker
starts to laugh. Last night I heard the short quick note of birds
flying in the dark.
Swallows.

Nightingale sings; wood owl hoots; fern owl chatters.
Oats are sown. Apple trees well blown.
Timothy the tortoise comes out of the ground.
Wheat thrives.

When we call through the speaking trumpet to Timothy
he does not seem to regard the noise.
He retires under the rhubarb leaves.

Wheat housed.
Distant thunder.Distant lightning. Distant showers.
Vast rain for many hours.
Sharp air. Some few flakes of snow.

Timothy gone underground in the laurel hedge.