Autumn comes

Yesterday was hot. The yellow was golden, we kept in the shade and strolled home listening to the crackle of dried leaves.
The sunflower field looks desolate now, and the trees in front of the house along the stream look pale and thin.

The corn is in too, but the boar still come out to rummage.

Then today, the clouds came, the light was dull, and the yellow seemed more pronounced and drab. Like the box elder

the parched meadows

and the ‘garden’ reduced to yellow dust. The plants have died back or withered, the vine is wilted, the leaves curled and brown, and all we see on the roses are thorns.

At the end of this afternoon it rained. The start of the equinoctial change. High winds, unseasonably cool temperatures and rain are on the menu for the next fortnight. The mellow fruitfulness isn’t going to happen this year, I fear.


In memoriam a grand old lady

In memoriam a grand old lady

My great-grandmother was just ten weeks short of her hundredth birthday when she died, without any fuss, but with four generations about her bedside, in the council house she’d lived in for half a century. She brought up her own two children and ten orphaned nephews and nieces who she had also brought into the world in another council house a couple of doors down. She had run a pub and hated it, kept a dispensary for sick and injured birds that she loved, was unpaid child minder for family and neighbours.
She was a huge personality, a wonderful, compassionate woman and when she died, even the Protestants lined the street to see her off. There were no gun salutes, no national mourning, no outpourings of grief by millions who never knew her. But she is remembered for the things she did, despite poverty and discrimination, with the most basic of health care and no modern appliances to ease the work burden.
After so many years, her light still burns bright, though she will never be immortalized in history books, and only her grand-daughter, my mother, ever painted her portrait.

Birds fly
into the setting sun
their wings never burn.

End of summer walk

The weather is breaking, storms coming up from Spain, so we profited from the cooler temperature to take the dogs walking in the deep dark forest just over the river at Mas- d’Agenais and along the Garonne and the canal lateral à la Garonne.

The light was strange, the sky pale blue behind ragged pale grey cloud. We saw no one and nothing except birds.

A large stream runs right through the forest, cutting a deep gully as it winds around huge tree roots. It’s completely dry at the moment, full of dead leaves, crossed by fallen tree trunks, and here and there, deep pools full of brackish water.

We followed the dry stream for about a kilometer but the silence and the strange, flat light were oppressive. Even the photos have come out grainy.

We took the road along the Garonne home, stopping to walk a way along the river to watch the herons, egrets and swans. As usual, they were on the opposite bank.

At Lagruère, we joined the canal latéral, the Toulouse-Bordeaux section of the canal du Midi.

This is what I had resting on my shoulder most of the time.

Approaching town across the bridge. This time the photo suffers from the state of the roads.

We walked in the early morning

We walked in the early morning

We walked in the early morning
but no dew damped the grass
the heat already lay in wait

and we wondered if the earth had ever rested,
if the paws and feet that trod the night
had ever waded through a gentle sea

for the sun was a yellow devil
an eye unblinking and the tender blue
of spring a steely sheet of unbearable glare.

We walked the early morning
through a thin veil of dust
golden motes igniting the air

where dragonflies hover
hunting low impervious to the sun
their mechanism in tune
to this deathly stillness.

Morning walk

It’s too hot to be out for most of the day, so I take the dogs out earlyish. Walking too early can be problematic because there are still lots of wild animals about, so we wait until 8.30 when the night folk will be hidden away.

I stick to the lane when I’m alone, where the risk of distractions is less. Even at midday there are rabbits and deer about at the edge of the fields…

though Redmond often has to wait patiently while Bix investigates every grasshopper, lizard and mouse he sees in the ditch.

The woods at the side of the lane are full of interesting ‘things’.

and the edge of the corn field at the bottom of the hill is a favourite hang-out for wild boar.

Back home.

The meadows still look pretty, but the earth is bone dry and so fissured it’s hard to walk across.

Even the north side of the house is mainly dry stalks, but the chicory flowers still manage to make a picture.

Of mice and fish

We still have mice. As far as the cats are concerned, it’s a non-issue. Trixie is more interested in sardines. At 11 this morning, I started preparing them (the sardines) for lunch, keeping one eye on Trixie sitting on the sink next to me, the other on Bix and Redmond, hovering behind, waiting for a moment’s inattention.
Suddenly, Bix leapt away, around the table, skidding on the carpet, Redmond following. Trixie sat and watched while Bix crashed around in the veranda, overturning the furniture. He was bouncing about, trying to get behind a big wooden chest. I had a look. Mouse. The mouse made a dash for it, Bix on her tail, another chair knocked over. When Redmond saw what the fuss was about, he gave the canine equivalent of an eye roll and went back to watch the sardines.
That was 11am. It’s now 5.30pm. Redmond is asleep in his bed, Trixie is asleep outside in the porch, and Bix is still standing in the kitchen, staring at the place behind the potato crate where the mouse appeared. We still have mice, but at least now we have a mouser.

Heat cracks
brittle as bones
in a dry river bed
sky bright as mirror scales glitters

Mice and their cats

Mice and their cats

We have mice in the house. Field mice, not house mice. Why do we have field mice when the fields are full of things for mice to eat? Why do we have any mice when we have two cats and two dogs?

This house-boat leaks, broken tiles, mud walls, planking chewed and holed. Internal doors with pieces cut out at the base to let cats through, shutters in the attic with holes for the owls, a separate exit for the pigeons. Mouse highways.

So we put everything edible in plastic tubs or glass jars, keep the fruit in a meat safe, sweep up crumbs.

Yet we still have mice. We hear the scritch-scratch in the night while the cats sleep. See them scamper across the kitchen in the daytime while the cats sleep.

In the long ago and far away, a wise ancient had the bright idea of inviting cats into his granaries to eat the mice. I don’t suppose there are records of his success rate, graphs to show rodent populations, champion hunter tallies.

All we have are the memes, household cat gods, sleeping in the sun, by the stove, waiting for the next meal to appear from the fridge.

in the stars planets
the orbits of satellites
day and night plenty and famine
we strive
balancing on the tipping point
between too much and too little
what is and what should be
like the stars and their music
the deep tragic silence
of felled trees.

A day to remember

It’s our wedding anniversary today. We hadn’t prepared anything special, we had a weekend of ‘special’, but we did have a panettone. We made the mistake of leaving it in the kitchen while we ate supper.

Along with three plastic flower pots, only slightly chewed, I found the shredded cellophane wrapping and a few crumbs in Bix’s bed. I hope he enjoyed it.

Each year
another bead
bright as candles and gold-glitter
slips onto the thread
silk that never breaks.


Today, two of the children were visiting, bringing their talk and laughter. It was a day of chatting of everything and nothing, of singing and laughing and playing with dogs and cats, of walking up through the fields on tracks left by the harvesters following scents and listening to the quiet.

Some things I never tire of, the birds, the sky, walking with the ones I care about, and listening to the world turning slowly on its axis beneath the sun and the stars.

There’s a song thrush singing in the poplars
as the sun goes down,
and the willows are full of warblers
with a few last quiet words.
The sky’s adrift with cloud boats,
grey-hulled with sails of white,
and the blackbirds croon a lullaby
to resign us to the night.

A cat called Raymond

He breezed in one day, cat-roared in the street until I opened a window, and in he jumped. Cool as a cucumber, an expression coined by someone who must have met him in one of his former lives. He was a beautiful, stripy tom cat with a tiger tail and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. He had arrived on our little street a few days previously, said the odd-job man who had a shed on the vacant lot at the end. Picked fights with the homeless cats who camped there and obviously decided he was a cut above the local fauna.
We called him Raymond, and he turned the house upside down. It was like living with a tornado, a flash of long muscular limbs leaping from one piece of furniture to another, massacring the children’s soft toys, peeing everywhere, letting himself into every room, cupboard and the fridge. Stole an entire chicken once.
We would watch him from an upstairs window as he made his way across the rooftops, leaping up sheer walls with the ease of a big bird, laying claim to his territory. Although he caused havoc, we forgave him everything, and when, exactly one year to the day he arrived, he walked out, never to be seen again, we were grief-stricken. We kept hoping that he would be back, picking his way along the garden wall, his tiger tail held high.
Four weeks later, when Trixie waylaid the children on their way home from school one afternoon and followed them, wailing, all the way, crossing the main road, we knew that Raymond had moved on.
Every stripy tom cat will forever more be a Raymond, a species all to himself, and we haven’t given up hope that he might still, one day, leap back through an open window.

Tiger, Tiger,
somewhere in the night you made a choice,
stalked into a new story,
perhaps one more of many.

Perhaps you have a book now,
a frieze stitched in stars,
and if we look across to where the city lies,
we might pick it out
above the orange glow,
a constellation of nine lives.