Having come from the North East of England we are used to relatively short summers but autumn seems to come early in Ireland. After the blazing, uncomfortably hot days in the middle of summer it turned cooler. This was most welcome, to be honest. We were not properly set up for extreme weather and spent most of our efforts on keeping out the cold. The lack of opening windows in some rooms coupled with the swarms of flies made for some very uncomfortable days. We are removing the Leylandii trees soon as they seem to be the favoured home for many of the swarms. We will also need to look at changing at least one of the windows in the kitchen/diner. It is gloriously warm and sunny most days, just a bit too hot in summer.
I spotted the first signs of autumn weeks ago when I let the dogs out into the garden. The wires and posts behind the house were lined up with birds all chattering merrily and pointing eastwards. Their numbers increased steadily for days, swifts on one line, starlings on another (no-one wants to mix with the starlings it seems). Then just as suddenly they were gone, the little traitors. The bird feeder was very quiet for a week or so before new birds began to arrive. Looking back, the emigrating birds had eaten a ridiculous amount over two weeks. I was refilling the feeders and fat balls every day so I hope they all get there safely.
Still, at least they know where they are going for the winter which is more than can be said for the geese over the back. Every evening a flock of about 40 birds fly over the house, calling and swooping low. Then the next morning they are back, all the way from the lake about 6 kilometres away. Apparently they arrived about ten years ago and lost the leader who knew the way. After flapping around lost for several weeks they settled into this routine and have been here ever since, spending the days in the field and small pond across the road from us.
One of the sad things I’ve had to do this week is make some decisions about the wood. As the leaves turn brown and fall I cannot put off deciding which trees are dead or dying. Leave it any longer and they’ll all be bare so it was out with a spray can yesterday. There is one double row of trees, mainly ash, that are all either dead or badly diseased. Some never came into leaf. Others put out a few sprouts but have black spots and splitting bark. I struggled through the deep undergrowth, marking these with pink spots. A whole slice of the wood will need to be removed, burned and replaced. Our very own “Death Row”. I hate to cut any of them but it is better to have 75 healthy trees then 150 crowded, sickly specimens.
I guess an explanation is in order over last week’s missing episode. Jacqui had a couple of breathless episodes during the week but we thought she’d just overdone things. It was a busy time despite our efforts with four days of builders and several runs into town. On Saturday we went in to get our ‘flu jabs and our doctor decided she should go back to A&E to be checked over, just in case. Back to Limerick – oh joy. And on a Saturday too. Believe me, A&E on a Saturday is not the place you want to be. We were a bit more prepared having gone back home to pack a bag in case she was admitted and she was – at 2.30 on Sunday morning.
I finally left as darkness fell and drove home, not knowing what was happening. Our wonderful friend Sharon had gone up to the house to let out the dogs and check they were alright but I couldn’t leave them any longer. Driving in rural Ireland at night is an experience, for sure. It is completely dark as there is no lighting outside the towns and no houses for miles. There are also no lines on the roads let alone cats eyes – the roads are too narrow for two cars to pass anyway. I was so tired and stressed I missed the turning onto our track and had a horrible moment of panic. Was I lost? Had I any idea how to get home?
I did get back, of course. Driving around the lanes in daylight I’d mused on the number of houses with traffic cones beside the walls, or white rocks or brightly coloured barrels. Now I know why. Next time I’m out I’m nicking a cone from somewhere – or white washing a couple of decent sized rocks.
I got Jacqui back on Wednesday after sterling work from the hospital. She will need to take things very easy for a while but we hope she is now properly on the mend. I was in a bit of a state last weekend, wondering what was going to happen and unsure what I could write. I am just so happy I can offer this positive outcome. Now we will settle down, enjoy a calmer few weeks and look to a better end to our first year in Ireland. It has been quite an adventure.