I sat this evening in the rather too plentiful dark, looking into my pond with a torch. A few short weeks ago, the area was a thicket of hydrangeas with a small ash tree in the middle. Now it is a half-metre deep pond just larger than a king-sized bed with ledges just visible in in its murky depths and gently sloping beaches of tiny flint pebbles for the creatures to get in an out. It is a popular pond with the birds; An extended family of sparrows bathe in it noisily and fractiously every day and a grey wagtail visits in between their bickering baths. A hedgehog visits nightly for the mealworms which are left as incentive and a frog, narrowly avoiding the tread of my foot, leapt several metres to land in the middle of the water before making his way to the margins.
In the damp darkness, unseasonably warm for November, I watched for perhaps twenty minutes. There is no sign of the "supermoon", almost full this evening, due to the heavy blanket of cloud sullenly hanging over the Cotswold scarp. With the plain of the Severn to the South and the brow of the hills rising to the North the skies here can be quite big, with cloudscapes to fill the eyes. Tonight though, it is just inky blackness.
The pond seems to be teeming with life. there are several types of water beetle busying themselves with dragging their buoyant cargoes of air down to the depths, in search of.. what? what do they eat? Not the insect larvae that wiggle and wriggle convulsively just below the surface. And somehow a pond snail has arrived and is floating contentedly (as far as i can tell) upside down as if the underside of the water's surface is a pavement to be traversed. So much life is here, in this thousand or so litres of water.
Perhaps, in the bushes at the end of the garden - a formless and unintentional hedge resulting from neglect for no more than a few years - there are rustlings. It could be the hedgehog but his dense little blob of a body is usually visible as he ambles round the lawn. It is not too difficult to imagine tiny faces peering at me with bemused eyes as they perform their nightly foraging for worms or useful bits of string or anything else that takes their fancy. Did I hear a tiny chuckle as I tripped over a brick I had been using to elevate a fatball for the robin? No, i am sure it was my imagination...
In the quiet of the night, the not-too-distant motorway being less intrusive due to the hour, the noise in my head, appearing as it did at the time of my burst sub-arachnoid blood vessel, is almost deafening. This noise exploded deafeningly into my mind as the blood burst into my brain (albeit, the photos suggest, in rather tiny but still incredibly disruptive amounts) those near-five years ago now and refuses to leave. Mostly, I am not aware of it. But tonight, it is frankly annoying: A whine of such intensity that it competes with the eleven o'clock train to Temple Meads Station. So, i leave the little watchers and go back inside, content that the garden is progressing the right way to attract the wildlife I had hoped would arrive.
Inside the house, i have lit the fire. I didn't need to really as it is quite warm, but it makes me feel less lonely for some reason. The seemingly recent memory of a houseful of family rings in my mind's ear, and treasured though the memory is, my resultant regrets crowd in on me and accentuate my alone-ness in the house.This is not a house for the lone resident. It deserves more people. There are three bedrooms of which two have very infrequent but welcome visitors.
But now, as the heating turns off from the prompting of the thermostat as it is warmed by the heat of the fire, it is as if unseen occupants shift restlessly in the beds and others make their way across the landing in search of the bathroom.
Old ghosts perhaps. How nice that would be. I would invite them to sit with me and we would converse about such things as they have seen, and perhaps they would be equally enthralled at my own experiences, though I suspect theirs might be more enlightening.
But there are no ghosts. None that is, except the ones in my mind: The laughter of children splashing in the sink before bedtime, happily now grown to be admirable adults who indulge their old dad with irregular but welcome visits but who no longer fight over the toothpaste. And the singing of one once so happy in a shared life but now elsewhere doing who-knows-what?
Life is so very different now. Things change, children grow up, parents grow apart, lives are dissolved and reconstructed in ways not better but merely different. The birds still quarrel and the beetles still swim. And probably all is as it should be. Probably.