Monday, 7 November 2011


IN MANY ways this is my favourite time of year. The downsides associated with the start of a new academic term seem to fade to insignificance on days when the sky is clear, the air is crisp, and the trees have turned to varying shades of yellow and red. Leaves are falling to the ground as a reminder that, despite our best efforts to influence the world around us with work and inventions to make our lives more convenient, there is a universal constant that is nature, the true ruler of the surface we live on. Even London Midland have had to issue a revised ‘leaf fall’ train timetable, surprised, once again, that the seasons have changed, just like they do every year.

Sadly the falling leaves mean that my varying explorations of my local area have had to come to an end. And as I sit, now, staring out of the window of our second floor flat through what was the canopy of the trees around us, the squirrels and sentry pigeons having sought refuge elsewhere, I reflect on my first full summer in this new home.

I remember walks along the canals, discovering first the countryside calm of Kings Norton Junction, so close to the bustle of Birmingham but part of an extensive green corridor carving its way from the Lickey Hills, along the River Rea to the Cannon Hill Nature Centre and Midlands Art Centre. Along the route, just minutes from my door and the sprawling development of Birmingham, landmarks as diverse as the world’s oldest precipitated calcium carbonate mineral plant, adjacent to a 200 year-old guillotine lock on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal; a fishing reservoir hidden from view; and Lifford Hall, once a mill, which dates from 1604 and is situated on the site of a Saxon ecclesiastical building.

I remember the meadows we stumbled across behind Kings Norton Park, home to horses and, at the time of discovery, a grandfather and his two grandchildren, cameras in hand, photographing all the flora and fauna they could find, asking questions as they went.

The tidy, preserved streets of Bournville gave me much pleasure. Tree-lined streets of pristine cottages and gate houses, where on Friday night I saw a family of four — parents and two children no older than 6 — wrapped up warm, huddling in a circle, mesmerized by the sparklers they held between them. There was no need for a full, bombastic firework display; the joy produced by those miniature flecks of light more than sufficed.

In the grounds of Rowheath Pavilion people played, walked and marvelled. People of all ages fed the ducks — or fled the geese — and toddlers invaded the playground, at one stage transforming the climbing frame into an imaginary cafeteria; at Christmas the very same frame will form the structure of a nativity scene, the cafe’s tables now a manger. It was on the roof of said structure that my nephew proudly declared how good he was at climbing – shortly before he fell off.

On one walk, as we sought to investigate the rumour of a long-forgotten running track, we crossed the sporting grounds of Rowheath as one of the local football teams arrived. Eleven burly, proud men passed us, kitted and booted and talking the talk.

“And that was when I found out,” one player declared, “that I look good in burgundy.”

I look forward to the leaves returning to the trees, when I can go out exploring once more. When that happens, I’ll be sure to take my camera.


Unknown said...

I love how much you enjoy where you live. This is really wonderful writing Simon.

Simon said...

Thanks very much Siobhan :)