I am sitting watching long grass waving in the brisk, yet warm, South-Westerly breeze. In the sunshine the shimmering meadow looks for all the world like a rippling sea of green and the gentle swishing of the wind through standing stalks could be the music of distant waves.
It’s at times like this that I often get a tad philosophical about life, reflective if you like, as my mind wanders through idle nothingness.
One of the things that bugs me about getting older is the number of my friends that disappear off this mortal coil at a shockingly frequent pace. Often it occurs without much notice, blink and they are gone; no I’m not talking about motorcycle accidents either, it’s just the age thing!
I consider myself lucky to have known and count as friends a bunch of really amazing people.
Fortunately there are tangible things around that often remind me of my lost pals and never fail to raise a smile or lift my heart.
There’s the old big brass whistle that stands by our fireplace, it once graced my steam engine, a gift from dear David who passed away a couple of years back.
Then a couple of months ago I was walking through the grounds of Launceston (that’s pronounced “Lawn-ston”) Castle in East Cornwall, when I came across this splendid horse chestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum.
This species is often considered as a native British tree, as it is found throughout the U.K., but it actually originates from the Balkans in South East Europe.
As you can see the tree was in full flower and that made me smile. I stood admiring the display and my mind wandered back across the years to Roger, an old and sadly missed friend.
Roger lived in the New Forest, an area of Central Southern England that is now a National Park, but was once the hunting ground of Kings dating back to before the Norman Conquest in 1066AD.
Roger was a true man of the forest; his chalet stood in a spot that nestled in a clearing deep in the heart of the green silence. His few acres were approached by a gravel track that ended at his front door. He kept a few chickens and his beloved Jersey house cow named Wendy. Apart from his animals and indeed all the creatures and plants of the forest, Roger’s main passion was for vintage agricultural tractors.
I used to spend hours with Roger and his son, sometimes working his land with whichever piece of vintage machinery took our fancy that day; or maybe on an expedition to track down some rare spare parts to repair one of his or indeed my collection. Often though we would just walk deeper into the forest and sit watching deer, foxes or badgers until the sun dipped and the air grew cool.
Roger’s favourite tree was the Horse Chestnut. He loved it’s deep mahogany brown fruits, known as conkers in the UK and beloved of small boys for “conker fights” in Autumn time; best of all though Roger adored the display of white and pink flowers that stand proud on the trees in early summer, he called them “Candles.”
So there I stood watching the “Candles” waving in the breeze and thinking of my dear old chum.
The great thing that Roger taught me is that a true Countryman plants trees not for himself for now, but for future generations. I resolved to return in the autumn, gather some “Conkers” and plant them, then watch new trees grow.
He would have liked that, would Roger.
Catch you soon,