Thursday, 26 August 2010

Holly Berries and Remembered Friendship

The holly at the back of the house is already loaded with clusters of ripening green berries. This morning I watched the blue tits diving one after the other into the trees to swoop onto the berries and then shoot out from amongst the leaves, for all the world like shuttlecocks emerging at all angles from some mad game of badminton. I have no idea what they were doing as the berries are not yet ready to eat, so it was hard to believe that they weren't simply having fun.

The old saying is that when the holly is loaded with berries we are in for a hard winter. In fact there has never been a year when these trees haven't borne a bumper crop, but our winters have rarely been bad ones, so another old wives tale bites the dust.

Each time I see the berries ripen I remember a dear friend of mine who usually wanted sprigs of berry-laden holly to decorate the house for Christmas. We quickly learned that if she was to have them we had to pick the choice branches at the latest by three weeks before Christmas because if left any later the berries would be gone. For some reason it is these weeks when the berries attract the birds most and they quickly disappear, leaving the trees de-nuded of their glowing fruits.

Sadly my friend Fran is no longer with us, but the trees, the berries, and the birds, are all wonderful living memorials that remind me of our friendship and the happy times we shared.

Looking up from the top of our garden I can see the windows of the house where Fran and Paddy used to live.

One day, our own lawnmower being out of commission, I set out to mow the grass with a petrol mower we had been loaned. It was a big old fashioned thing with a clutch lever which was apt to stick and then suddenly release itself, so that it was practically impossible for me to let the clutch out smoothly and regulate the speed of the mower. The result was that the thing kept leaping forward at a rate of knots and I was forced to run to keep up as it careered up and down the garden.

When I at last switched off the wretched machine and all was again quiet after the racket it had made, I was left with only the stink of the petrol it had burned, and the sound of somebody laughing their socks off.

The laughter came from Fran who, leaning out of her bedroom window, shouted over that I had given her the best laugh she'd had for a long time as I'd hared up and down the garden trying to hang on to the mower and keep up with it's rocket-like progress over the grass.

Naturally that called for a cup of tea together, just a few biscuits, and a bit more laughter.

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