Coffee and Seasons


Blog Journal: # 2

9th July 2020

Today for the first time in nearly four months I am back in my favourite coffee shop having coffee and cake and making notes for this and future blog journals. Over these past months of lockdown I have really missed coming here. The coffee shop I know very well, it is where I come to quietly read and write and watch life, but this time it is strangely empty and quiet; people are not sure about coming inside. It will take time before confidence returns. So long as the virus is out there, people will remain cautious.

Recently I paid a visit to Hestercombe Gardens which is close to my home, it was one of those very hot days with wall to wall blue skies. It is a favourite place here in Somerset. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity, then Hestercombe is the place to head to. You can follow the walk past the waterfall and lake and sit among the trees and read and write a few lines, then back to walk among the formal gardens. A mix of Georgian landscape gardens by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde and the Edwardian formal gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens. There is always something to see here no matter what the season.


During the lockdown we have seen the clocks go forward and we passed the longest day. Dare I say I am beginning to notice these long summer daylight hours just beginning to get shorter if ever so slightly. It has not been helped of course the recent heavy grey skies that look more akin to autumn that the warm days of July. This got me thinking about seasons and how those of us who love nature and of course the gardeners among us that follow them. The autumn days of “Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” A season of Blackberries and cobnuts. The light is receding fast each day and we kick our way through the fallen leaves, I have always loved the sound of those dry fallen leaves as we kick our way through, and look for fallen conkers from the Horse Chestnut trees. Back when I was studying horticulture in Cheshire in the late 1970’s they would have conker championships. It was all taken very seriously with stories of ‘doctored’ conkers. We watch squirrels looking for nuts and scurrying away to bury them pretending not to be seen. Can squirrels actually remember during the winter months where they first buried their stash of nuts? The colour of autumn trees provides a last warm glow before they too must fall and the trees fall into a long deep sleep ahead of the onset of cold winter days that are coming. These are the days when we retreat indoors and curl up with a book in front of the fire. But as the seasons change, nature continues to surprise us.

I am not a lover of Winter, those days when the wind is strong and the rain is heavy and cold, the year is growing old and we too begin to slow down and we retreat indoors more. I have lost count of how many umbrellas I have gone through over recent years as storm after storm blows through. I do though love those crystal clear frosty mornings when your breath hangs in the air frozen in a moment of time. A long walk and then finding a pub with a roaring log fire. Winter though always seems as though it never wants to let go and just when you think it is over, it gives one last stand and surprises us. I look forward to the shortest day as then I know the days will begin to lengthen again and now I can start to think of better days to come. Slowly the daylight hours are longer and come March Spring is here, the Chiffchaff’s are singing their name. Birds are looking at nesting sites again. The days are warming up and so is the soil and new life is starting to show. As we move into April and May, this really is my favourite time of the year. Along the Somerset Levels Bitterns with their strange ‘Booming’ call can be heard and Cuckoos are calling, the reed beds are alive with the songs of warblers that have arrived from Africa. These days are as precious as the finest of jewels to treasure. You cannot put a price on these moments. They are there to be enjoyed by everyone and to be protected for future generations. Then of course there is the dawn chorus and this year it seemed like no other spring dawn chorus due to the lockdown, no sounds of traffic so the birdsong seemed to be more enhanced. I would lie in bed and identify the birds I could hear. The pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers has taken up residence in the same hole in the nearby tree again and I can hear them as they ‘tap tap tap’ at the hole making some adjustments to their home. A pair of Starlings have taken up residence in the roof again this year, I will hear the brood as the parents busily fly back and forth with food from dawn to dusk. Then they will fledge and all will be quiet again.

We come full circle as spring becomes summer and the days are long and warm. Days of sitting in beer gardens or reading a book. This summer though is unlike any summer we have seen before. Like many I never know what each is going to bring. We must though dress our days and hold on to whatever we can.
John Fish
The Last Word Book Review



Blog Post

23rd June 2020

As we entered lockdown in March my life took a monumental turn, I left my job and the lockdown happened at the same time. It felt like the ground shifted suddenly and dramatically and then we all had to stay at home. Now what I thought?

Since early March I have been having therapy and even this became affected by the pandemic and lockdown, now the therapy course would be via Skype, not the best way to have this. But on we went. So as I write this blog post it is late June and now I have just two more therapy appointments remaining. I can’t tell you just how important this has been. All I will say is never be afraid of asking for help. At some point in all our lives we will all need some help. During this lockdown period many have struggled with having to stay within the confines of their home and missing their family and friends and then of course many do not have gardens. Just imagine how they have had to cope, many single parents with little no support. Mental Health has never been so important in all of our lives. We rush to work and the shops and seeing friends and everything we do in our daily lives and suddenly it came to a very dramatic and sudden stop. That will have a long term effect on many people. Looking after your mental health is so important.

During this period of lockdown I have wanted to write regular blog posts about life during this strange and worrying period in all of our lives. But I ended up spending a lot of time just reading and listening to podcasts or walking along the river and seeing the sun reflecting off the water and watching Spring progress and looking for the first Sand Martins, House Martins, Swallows and then lastly the Swifts. One by one they arrived. Our summer friends from their wintering home in Africa. Even the early butterflies were out in abundance lots of Orange Tips were on the wing. After a long winter of what seemed non-stop rain the weather seemed to change as we entered this period of staying at home.

Suddenly the sun came out and it warmed up, and it stayed that way. Seeing the sun nearly every day really helped even being at home. Now as I write, the lockdown has been beginning ease, now we meet in bubbles and shops are starting to re-open and then the rain has arrived after weeks of little or no rain at all. There was even talk of hosepipe bans if the dry warm weather continued.

Nature and even the weather was helping us get through this pandemic. But then again nature has this unique way of being a cure. I have mentioned this a lot over recent years as being natures cure. Many have been watching birds from windows or while out on their daily exercise walks and even watching Osprey webcams. Like many I have noticed how it has been relatively quiet with so little traffic and the sound of the birdsong has been so uplifting, is it me or has the dawn chorus this Spring seemed more enhanced this year? But now that noise of traffic is beginning to return. I will miss the quiet starts to each day. Even the air seemed cleaner during the last few months. I can only hope that as many start to go back to work and go to the shops that they do not forget nature.

Some mornings there has been a cheeky House Sparrow that sits on my open window he will look in as if he chancing his luck and will fly through the open window and find some tit bit and fly out again. Something so simple yet it has started my day with a smile.

The rain has returned and we have had quite a lot during the last few weeks. While out walking or just in your garden have you noticed the smell after the rain returned? That earthy aroma after a long warm dry spell and there is a word for this it is called Petrichor, and it is said that we appreciate the aroma that comes from the dry earth after rain and that our ancestors relied on the rain for survival. That takes me back to my horticultural studies back in the late 1970’s as we studied soil composition.

I have been busying myself with writing pieces for two local magazines during recent months something I really enjoy selecting books to be reviewed or writing about books in general, books are so important they take us to places fiction or non-fiction. Looking at the numbers of people reading during the lockdown it pleasing to see so many now enjoying books. In the years to come people will ask what did you do during the months of lockdown? I am hoping there are many who have been writing their stories of how they go through the pandemic and are just waiting to be read.

The weeks and months that face us are going to be challenging as we ease out of the lockdown and now more than ever we need to come together and get through this. What we achieve alone is nothing by what we can achieve together and it is together that we can all make a difference, something we need in our world right now.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review