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No doubt it’s because of the season, but my backyard is a matter of life and death.  I have a rose out there, a standard rose in a pot, and a frightening wind came up last week and tried to decapitate the thing – the spindly crown hung upside down, held on by only a thin strip of what looked like skin.

I bandaged it back together with masking tape before realising that something stronger was required, so I’ve now wired it up, forming a splint.  Who knows if the rose will survive, and if it’ll be any better at withstanding the next frightening wind, which surely is just around the corner.

Then there’s a chook, Woo’s her name, and she’s unwell.  She’s jerking her neck as if she thinks she’s a break-dancer on the streets of New York.  She probably has a compacted crop, which means her food has lodged in a compartment in her throat that’s now fermenting.

Her days are numbered (a ridiculous phrase: all our days are numbered), and I’ve found myself waking in the night and wondering how I’ll go into the run in the morning and lift her up and say goodbye, thanks for all your eggs, but now, I’m afraid, I’m going to have to break your neck.  She’ll look at me, I know she will, so being the coward that I am I’ll put her back on the ground and wait another day.

And then there’s Cat the Ripper, who is – shhh don’t tell him – ageing.  He’s slowing down, sleeping more than ever, always in the sun.  So he has sun-blotches on his nose.  Cancer.  Last week the vet put him under and did an operation, burning off the blotches.  Hadn’t the poor bloody animal already been burnt enough?  Now and for another week I must inject antibiotics into his mouth and spread Ungvita ointment on his wounds.

Autumn: as always, it’s the poets who understand.  Verlaine, in ‘Autumn Song’ (‘Chanson d’automne’; 1866), incisively observed, ‘The long sobs/of the violins/of autumn’.  Keats, in ‘To Autumn’ (1819), described this time of the year that we’re in as ‘The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.  So I’m off to check on a rose, a chook, and a cat, and then, at the dark end of the day, I’ll light a fire, pour a glass of wine, and listen to violins – life and death be damned.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 5 May 2012.)

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The past