Coming Home at Last

Dear Readers, it’s some indication of how the summer has passed that I have not created a post about East Finchley since June. But this morning was so beautiful that I had to go out with the camera for a stroll around the County Roads. I have been so stressed that I have become completely unmoored, and the cure is to walk, slowly, to pay attention, to breathe and to notice. What better place to start than with the plane trees on the High Street, that seem to be holding the sun in their branches? They are the last species around here to come into leaf, and the last to lose those leaves.

The Bald-Faced Stag gazes towards Cherry Tree Wood, as usual.

There are a lot of tropical Fatsia plants in some of the south-facing front gardens on Lincoln Road. The buds look like little green artichokes, bursting into waxy white flowers.

There are lots of members of the daisy family still coming into flower, loosening those tight-fisted buds one petal at a time.

Michaelmas daisies are everywhere, I love the way that the stamens go from yellow to purple as the flower ages.

Michaelmas daisies

A pumpkin left over from Wednesday’s Trick or Treating gives me the side-eye…

And the autumn berries and hips and fruit are set off by the blue sky.

Each burst of colour feels like a small electric shock. I ask myself where the summer went? Since July every waking moment has been spent organising, planning and worrying about my parents. Now that they are in the nursing home I feel redundant, without purpose. This will pass, I know, but at the moment I feel as if all the grief that has been stored up over the warmer months is exposed by the extravagance of autumn. It all feels just a little too much, beautiful as it is.

I spent a few days with Mum and Dad in the nursing home last week. I had a chance to have a good talk with Mum and to take her through what had happened, step by step. She seemed to understand, finally, that we were unable to look after her at home anymore, and that we wanted to carry out her wishes to be with Dad, and to be close to the friends and neighbours  that she loves. She hasn’t mentioned going home since, though I am not optimistic enough to assume that this will be the end of the conversation. But things look better than they did last week, and that is a bonus.

And now, I have to work out what I want to do when I grow up. As I am nearly sixty, I’d better get a move on. And in the meantime, I am walking the streets with my camera, making friends with the local cats.

There is one garden that I really love. It is a tiny space but absolutely full of nicotiana, borage, and other pollinator-friendly plants. There are a few honeybees even on this chilly day – one of the benefits of a south-facing plot is that it warms up the insects and helps the nectar flow. As I watch, I hear a low-pitched humming, and a queen bumblebee as big as the first joint on my thumb appears. Maybe the warmth of the day has roused her from her hibernation, and she needs a snack. The borage shudders and bows under her weight.

I float along to the High Street again. For a whole hour I haven’t been worrying about whether the nursing home are taking dad’s slight chest infection seriously, or what they will do about the fact that he’s now more or less nocturnal and keeps waking mum up. I realise that though I still have a role to play, the day to day care is not something that I need to meddle in. The home is happy for me to phone whenever I want, but I do think that after being so involved for such a long time, I need to step back from the small stuff. The trouble is, it’s a reflex, and it gave my life purpose.

What do I do now, with my one wild and precious life?

Well, one thing seems to be that I take photos of bollards that have been knocked over. The one on Leicester Road is no sooner concreted into verticality than it’s prone again. This cycle must have been repeated a dozen times since we moved to East Finchley in 2010. And there’s a bollard on the High Street that is similarly afflicted. I could extract some cheesy metaphor about persistence and resilience, but actually it seems a bit Sisyphean, a never-ending task that seems to have no more meaning than a grudge match between bad drivers and some long-suffering council workers.

On Bedford Road there is a rather beautiful tree. It is poised like a heron about to take off, one branch flung back and arching over a garage, the other leaning over the pavement and almost kissing the tops of the cars. What a deeply inconvenient being it is, no doubt blocking out the sun from the front windows and depositing leaves in great russet piles. And yet, it is obviously loved, and encouraged, and valued. There is room on these streets for the strange, the unusual, the awkward. I feel at home here. One day it will be my turn, too, to leave. I hope that I will have planned ahead so that the transition will feel like one that was a choice, rather than imposed on me. And in the meantime I hope to make the most of the harvest, and of the glory that it brings.





12 thoughts on “Coming Home at Last

  1. Anne Guy

    Good to see you re exploring your home turf again. Great photos and fab cats! Glad to hear that life is a little more settled on the nursing home parents front. It is so hard to adjust yourself and not rush to react after so long having been the sole long distance carer. Walks do help and nature can help to put things into perspective…enjoy the rest of the autumn colours in Finchley!

  2. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    It’s lovely to see you back behind your camera taking such lovely photos. We particularly like the one of the Spindle, we have a lovely large bush of this in the meadow where we walk, it looks lovely at this time of year next to the dark red of the Cornus leaves. It does seem at least the situation with your mum is heading in the right direction. The feeling of redundancy happened to us too, you almost wander around in a haze not quite knowing what to do, but it does pass. Keep taking the photos and enjoy this lovely time of year.

  3. Jill Day

    Yes, I liked the Spindle tree, too. It reminds me of the Flower Fairies book I had as a child. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in real life, but the there is something really engaging in the shape of the berries and the way they fit together. I hope you find a project for yourself, soon. You deserve it!

    1. Bug Woman

      They certainly do, Tony. I haven’t been around in the past few years, but the last time that I put a pumpkin lantern outside I was visited by 125 children before I stopped counting, and had to pop out to replenish the candy bucket three times. And yes, the local cats are not always as friendly as they could be, in spite of my best efforts 🙂

  4. Toffeeapple

    I, too, loved seeing the Spindle tree, the contrast of the colours between the seed and the casing is marvellous.
    Glad to know that things are easing for your Mum but hope that Dad doesn’t disturb her too much.
    More cat portraits please, they have such differing personalities.

  5. Liz Norbury

    This walk was just what you needed – cats and golden trees always help to lift the spirits, I find. You memorably described how your mum and dad had almost become a project to be managed – but now they can be your parents again, and you their much-loved daughter.

  6. Alyson

    Lovely pictures – such rich colours in autumn. My favourite season.

    Glad to hear your mum is a little more settled. It will take time to adjust and it will take time for you to adjust to the new situation too. I kind of feel I’m running on adrenaline at the moment so when my mum does go to the care home I think I will sleep for a month!

    1. Bug Woman

      You probably will, Alyson….thinking of you and keeping everything crossed for a smooth transition. Just remember, you’re doing the only thing that you can do….

  7. Andrea Stephenson

    A moving and lovely post Vivienne. I’m glad that your parents are getting the support that means you can think about taking a step back, but I understand the gap that is left when you’ve spent so much time worrying and planning. Your autumn walk was very tranquil.


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