Wednesday, 12 June 2013

First of the season

With the warmer weather the tell-tale signs of summer start to appear…

On our walks recently, Tramp and I have found the bluebells have all but faded in the woods, while nettles and brambles have fast gained ground. The bracken has started to stir, with new fronds unfurling almost every day. Along the lane, the hedge is alive with birds and the cow parsley sends up a heady scent.

And in our village pub, although the welcoming fire is still burning in the inglenook, drinkers have been spotted sitting in the pub garden. Outside the shop, June and George have put up the awning over the picnic table to shield cream tea customers from harsh sunlight. The drone of mowers can be heard most evenings, and isolated swarms of silent cyclists glide and swerve as one body, negotiating our winding, twisting roads at break-neck speeds. The cricket pitch has been mowed even though we don’t have enough players to form a team this season. And at the weekend, Tramp and I went to our first BBQ of the year – this one at Lawrence and Geraldine’s next door.

There’s nothing like a casual BBQ for catching up with several neighbours in one fell swoop. Like our roads, the conversation twisted and turned in its route from topic to topic just as it always does at any gathering in our village. First off the mark was a discussion of houses currently up for sale – the number is growing – and of course everyone had carried out in advance (as soon as a board went up) sufficient internet research to support firmly held opinions on respective asking prices, and whether the property in question could possibly fetch theirs. Geraldine even knew how many toilets each house has, as a valuable benchmarking criteria. No sellers had a whisper of an offer, though, so asking prices remained fairly academic.

The pub as a topic also had its usual airing. There had been a few changes to the list of those currently banned or recently reinstated after a banning. We all worried about the lack of customers and how easily people gave up going to the pub altogether, simply because of the landlady’s cavalier approach to consistent opening hours, or opening up at all. And as usual we all pondered the unanswerable question of what would happen should the landlady give up running the pub, for whatever reason. We came up with no answers.

The recent postings on the village Face book page also came up for discussion. Mothers still seem intent on divesting their children of their toys and ‘hardly worn’ clothing – some seem to be in a constant state of flux, ceaselessly ‘clearing out’ and, presumably, replenishing stocks at the same time. It’s mind-boggling, the amount of toys and equipment children in our village have to be disposed of. Then the hobby farmers always have weird and wonderful items to sell, or which are urgently needed. Lately it seems there has been a run on castration rings. None of us really wanted to consider how these worked.

About half way through proceedings, with the first round of charred burgers out of the way, Tramp disgraced himself slightly by relieving himself in Lawrence’s rose bed. (But at least he removed himself to a discreet distance.) This prompted a turn in the discussion to the contentious issue of ‘dog poo’ in the village, even on the green, and the reluctance of certain people (who remained unnamed, but who we all silently identified) to clear up after their hounds. The matter had been raised at the recent meeting of the parish council, it seemed, but no appropriate action had been determined upon.

The talk of dogs must have put Janet in mind of the recent conversation she had overheard in the shop last week.

          “Carol from New Cottage (which isn’t) said she saw a black puma, chasing around the football pitch!”

We were all struck dumb as we tried to absorb this news, while picturing a puma streaming past the goal posts.

          “A puma?” queried Lawrence, playing for time. “Are they the same as jaguars?”

          “That’s what she said it was. A puma! But it was getting dark at the time, apparently.”

          “Maybe it’s escaped from a zoo… or a private owner?” suggested Geraldine.

          “People really will certainly worry about their chickens and lambs now!” said Lawrence, ignoring the potential danger to human life.

We all then tried to think what Carol from New Cottage (which isn’t) might have actually seen. After much conversational to-ing and fro-ing, the most likely contender to emerge was a young, shiny-coated black lab, possibly chasing a rabbit. But we couldn’t be sure.

While the black lab idea was reassuring, this did bring the conversation down to the mundane. The topic turned to the seemingly heartfelt one of laundry, and starching and ironing sheets at that (even fitted ones)! I felt out of my depth and took this as my cue to leave.

Tramp and I wandered home, calling goodbyes as we left and ready to dodge bicycle swarms; happy in the knowledge of having helped resolve so many issues pressing on people’s minds, and to have caught up with our neighbours’ news. Or had we?