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Dry summer?

We are now in midsummer. Or are we? Today is the summer solstice but I have read that we should not expect that “sumer is icumen in” until late June.

Checking on the spelling of that line I found it to be known as the Cuckoo Song and that it starts with the song of the cuckoo and is the oldest known example of a round song, having been trilled since medieval times.

There are other lines on the subject of the cuckoo and whilst trying to find out how old they are I kept bumping into Simon and Garfunkel’s April Come She Will in 1966.

But the version I learnt as a child is possibly as old as the ancient Cuckoo Song: In April come he will. In May he sings all day. In June he changes his tune. In July he gets ready to fly. In August go he must. So if what I read about summer being delayed perhaps I may add my own line to the verse? Now he's departed before summer has started.

There’s an American song which states “she don’t never holler cuckoo ‘til the fourth day of July.”

That’s when the bird is supposedly packing its bag to fly to distant shores. What a complicated itinerary. Perhaps that is why it is many years since I last heard a cuckoo around here.

Certainly up until the 1950s or later there seemed to be plenty of them. Did it have anything to do with a small housing estate being built close to the woods where they once sang? If you can call it singing. And why 4 July?

I told you my oak was in full leaf before my ash had showed any sign of green. Although I had hoped the ash might have died – it is self-planted, is pushing up the pavement and spreads its progeny with gay abandonment over my garden, the ash has not died back.

Perhaps trees are becoming as unreliable as cuckoos, and Dr Buchan, as guides to weather. Is the Met Office more reliable? It was the source of that comment about summer not starting properly until the end of June.

Evidently the best is yet to come with a prolonged period of settled sun starting just before we head to the polls for the general election. Well, that will be a change in the weather from the day the date was announced.

It seems the UK is on course to exceed the temperature average of 24C in southern England during late June, July and August, but there's an equal chance of whether it will be wet or dry. So, warm but wet, or warm but dry. It's good to know! Anyone got some seaweed?

You never know, we just may be in for a scorcher.

Might we be panting for cool, clear water in a few weeks’ time?

I've not recently checked on the drinking water point in Woking Park but the one by the railway subway is now in use – as an ashtray as there is still no water coming from it.

There was another just a few yards way by the bus stops. I never found it working, and now I can't even find it, so I guess it has been taken away. It was a pointless water point anyway.

Then, of course, there is/was the one by Cote in Commercial Way. If you have a long memory you may recall that it was damaged by a vehicle and then garishly covered by tape. No change there. No water either.

Surely the owners of the vehicle which caused the damage were insured? If so, what has become of the money?

Just wondering.

Bump in the Night

Houses can be quite noisy things with pipes and woodwork reacting to the slightest change in atmospheric pressure. One gets used to such things. Even jokes about them.

In my house certain unexplained noises upstairs are known to be caused by my late husband creeping into my daughter's room in search of cigarettes. An old friend, who often stayed with us, told us calmly that he had met my grandmother. She died in the 1960s but he was staying in her room.

My daughter has been listening to some ghost stories on the radio. There is an interesting question about ghosts: why do they haunt the places they do? Not because they died there; if that were the case, hospitals and care homes would be overwhelmed by ghosts.

In the small hours, when all is quiet, we are often aware of a low hum. When Travellers used to camp nearby that sound would be put down to their generators for that is what The Sound is like.

Come the dawn and there are other sounds and we are no longer aware of that low hum. But is it still here? What happens to the stars when it is no longer dark?

There are other explanations for noises in the night. Foxes, especially in the winter, with their harsh screaming. I was once woken by that sound and so perturbed that I rang the police telling them it sounded like a woman being attacked, but it could be foxes. I hung the phone out of the window so they could hear the screeching and told them that whatever they thought, whether it was foxes or people, not to contact me – I was off to bed.

I guess it was foxes for there were no blue flashing lights to be seen following my call.

It is foxes which trigger my security light. It is so bright it will wake me but I am usually satisfied that it is nothing more than a fox. Sometimes we will see their droppings on the grass . Sometimes we are not sure what animal has dropped them.

The new National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme – Hedgehog Street was announced last March. This sounds very hi-tech with a combination of trail cameras, artificial Intelligence and volunteers, and will produce hedgehog population estimates from all over the country.

So my daughter borrowed, for a couple of weeks, a Browning trail camera – motion sensitive with camera with night vision. The screen, unfortunately, is almost exactly the size of a postage stamp and so anything captured is not always identifiable.

She has, however, many hundred pictures of my feet as I garden. Also foxes, cats and birds but none of the hoped-for hedgehog. She got it via [email protected].

According to the RSPCA as many as 10 hedgehogs may visit a garden in a single night or it could be one busy animal. They have been living in the UK for a million years but are now suffering a terrible decline.

The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2022 report found that hedgehog numbers had declined by as much as 75% in some rural areas of the UK since 2000, with no sign of recovery. In contrast, the findings were more positive in urban areas, suggesting that hedgehog numbers were stabilising after many years of decline.

This difference highlights just how important places such as Woking could be to sustaining the UK population, acting as a refuge from the pressures hedgehogs face in the wider landscape.

By all means make your garden child and dog secure, but do make sure it is not hedgehog secure.  Holes through or under barriers only need to be 13cm x 13cm – that's about five inches.

We are just hoping Mrs Tiggy-Winkle will soon be ready for her close up.

The Numbers Game

It is very much a First World problem – inviting people to a party. How many? Will it be convivial? Places such as Venice, Japan and Cornwall have this problem magnified. Too many people want to come to visit.

This can be useful: they may be hard working – and willing to work. But they may have come just to observe the beauty of the place and, apart from parking fees, accommodation, and sustenance, they don’t do much for the place.

Some are not tourists. Some arrive because they are refugees. Why do we allow refugees into our country?

Refugees fleeing war, famine or persecution have been coming to Britain for many centuries but have we reached the point where we can no longer offer a safe haven or should we always try to find room for those genuinely unable to return to their homes? What would be the consequences of closing our doors?

On Saturday, 29 June, at the last Woking Debate of 2024, the question of refugees will be considered. This meeting was originally planned to be near the end of Refugee Week and is even more topical with the coming general election: discussion of a matter which has dominated the headlines for so long.

There are now four confirmed speakers: Jasmine Kapoor, Ray Northcott, Irina Creeger and Paul Hoekstra, who will lead this discussion. There will be ample opportunity for everyone to share their views and concerns about this important topic.

The meeting is at the Woking United Reformed Church in White Rose Lane, Woking GU22 7HA, from 11.00 am to 2.30pm. The meeting is free but donations are welcome.

For more details contact Keith Scott on 01483 824980 or email at [email protected].

Little Green Men

A reader has noticed that  “the new pedestrian crossing lights – adjacent to what will eventually be the entrance, once it opens, to the Hilton Hotel  to allow crossing of Victoria Way to  Church Street  West and continuation on to Goldsworth Road – is sporting  a countdown timer to show just how much time hapless  pedestrians have to cross before they are likely to be run down by impatient drivers, in the same way as can be found on the busy streets of London, Manhattan, and other large cities around the world.

“I find myself asking whether this actually does anything to help with safety as I suspect that, as happens with the traditional ‘red man’, some pedestrians will still continue to cross even once the count has reached zero or, unlike in Manhattan where there is the possibility of a jay walking charge, risking life and limb by chancing a crossing even later.”

Does that comment give pause for thought? Does it put panic into anyone watching that countdown? Are you capable of watching it without the theme tune for Countdown ear-worming you? Three, Two, One.