Wednesday, 13 October 2010

back to the Lush Places stuff

wrong season, but hey, it's a robin.... illustration from The Case of the Curious Crow

Shortly after my last post, Andrew Marr made a rather touchy criticism of ('some') bloggers, describing them as "socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting...". As opposed to proper journalists, who are knights in shining armour in a relentless quest for Truth, of course. Listening to him on the radio, he sounded quite peeved, and brought to mind a dinosaur blustering resentfully about the annoying mammals making a nuisance of themselves around the place.

As I said, blogging has given me a (fairly small) voice, in matters where I have felt misrepresented, marginalised or ignored by the mainstream media. And for that I am grateful. There will always be windmills that need a bit of tilting, after all.

And in between the windmills, a few Lush Places.

I was in Sarah's garden on Sunday, helping take the washing off the rotary dryer, and in the bush next to us was a robin, singing ever-so-quietly, scarcely audible from more than a few paces. It was a big contrast with the robin's usual song, loud and clear. I wonder if that was what Keats was describing in his Ode to Autumn-

...with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft

I thought the swallows had been long gone; but I did see two battling against a strong west wind at Portishead, a fortnight back, making their way along the coast. Last week we went down to Dorset, and stopped for breakfast at the airfield cafe at Compton Abbas, south of Shaftesbury. It had been a blowy, rainy night, and the rain was clearing away, and the day was looking promising.

And the row of beeches on the ridge behind the airfield was alive with swallows, swooping close around the trees, and spreading out over the ridge, flying around the parked aircraft. Like us, they'd stopped for breakfast on their way south.

On another day of torrential rain, I was driving along the side of the Downs where the roads are accompanied by avenues of conker trees, and the conkers are littering the ground and crushed on the road where they've been run over. And the gutters were running with great lumps of foam. I thought at first that someone had been careless with the detergent. But it was everywhere that the conker trees were. I wondered if there was a connection. And it seems that there is. "Conkers make wonderful foam!" -sounds like a rather nicer way of making foam than the stuff we used to use for firefighting at sea; that, apparently, had cow blood in it. And it ponged, something horrid.

Wonderful things, conkers. Apparently, they won the war for us too.


  1. 7/6 cwt for shelled conkers. That's a lot of conkers. But 7/6 went a long way back then!

    Gorgeous robin picture. And I don't mind a few out of season snowdrops. :)

  2. "a dinosaur blustering resentfully about the annoying mammals making a nuisance of themselves around the place."

    And so true.

  3. Poor Andrew Marr - he has made a silly ignorant prat of himself. And in front of such a vocal community... poor outsized ruminant on the brink of extinction that he is.

    So conkers can be processed into propellant for explosives? Ha! We have a HOUSEFUL at the moment...
    I will NOT be sharing this science with the boys.

  4. I startled a robin when I opened the gate this morning - Winter is coming.

    I've got some very smelly stuff I put on my legs at night when it's hot - made from conkers.

  5. Interesting that you say wrong season for the robin.

    Did you know that the robin is a Spring kigo for haiku in the States?

    As a child I only "saw" robins at Christmas, thinking they didn't exist outside that time. ;-)

    all my best,

    With Words haiku competition

  6. Thanks for the reminder of 'conkers', a fall tradition here in the 'colonies' too! :P

    Thanks for the chestnut leaf and fruit illustration; we live just a bit too far north to get chestnut trees, and I do miss them, even the mess they make!

    The image of that dino ranting is going to make me chuckle at the damnedest times today.. must make up a good cover story. 'love it Dru!


  7. It ill beseems someone with Andrew Marr's ears to criticize other people's noses.

  8. You know you're now responsible for the destruction of some perfectly good conkers in the name of froth, don't you!

  9. Andrew Marr has personal reasons for disliking bloggers, but we're not allowed to know what they are.

  10. I just tried to find out how much the weekly wage was in 1916, Anne, and got some pretty wild figures. But I guess that 7/6d went a longer way than it would now...

    Thank you, Chrissie!

    It did seem an impassioned outburst, Fed; someone has obviously got his goat, and he presumably wants it back. It might be fun if you tell the boys about the explosives stuff and see what they come up with... they're not *that* likely to blow themselves up. Are they? ...hmm, ok....

    The list just goes on and on, doesn't it, Anji? -I wonder if people made coffee out of them during the war? -they managed to make it with all sorts of other things; acorns- dandelions... I made dandelion root coffee once, it was HORRIBLE

    It's nice to know that you do conkering too, Halle; I was amazed to find that the french are indifferent to the charms of the conker. Weird or what? (sorry, Anji)

    Indeed, Charlie. Not that we would ever stoop so low as to suggest that he is a bit like a Spitting Image puppet. Ho no indeed.

    You tried it, Jenny? Success? Did it pong?

    WE can guess, of course, Tim. Didn't he make an arse of himself by asking Gordon Brown about his intake of sleeping tablets, after reading tittle-tattle in Blogtonshire, and getting rebuked for it?

  11. I tried to get a couple of classes interested in conkers but it didn't catch on. There are some beauties in the park at the moment.

    There are some conker tournaments but they must be very secretive, I could only visit the cache:

  12. Type this into google:

    Guido Fawkes Andrew Marr