Oak trees, pheasants and rural traffic jams
The Scottish state school term began a couple of weeks ago and we are back into the routine of rushed breakfasts and school runs. My baby boy has taken to his first year of school like a duck to water although, with starting full days yesterday after an easy run-in of mornings only, he is pretty shattered by teatime. He and I are not very good in the mornings, either: he because, being not yet five, he has no sense of time passing and me because, well, my sense of timing is pretty rubbish too, especially before my mid-morning coffee.
More often than not, therefore, our four mile drive to school is a rather tense, last minute dash. I say dash, but of course it isn’t really as (a) we want to reach school alive and well and (b) the first two miles are on a single track drive, where various creatures conspire through the seasons to hold us up. In the spring and summer, it is the cattle and sheep who have a free run across the pasture on each side of the drive and who like to gather on the warm tarmac, blinking at the cars nudging impotently at their noses. In the autumn and winter, the traffic jams tend to be caused by pheasants. It is a marker of the turning season when the young pheasant poults are released from the rearing pens in August, and take their first confused steps in to the wide world of fields and woods. They, too, seem to like the warm tarmac, gathering in loose flocks on the drive and hiding in the long grass at the verge, ready to make a suicidal dash under the wheels when a vehicle passes. The only way to avoid making pâté of the poor silly creatures is to drive very slowly, eyes swiveling from side to side, foot hovering over the brake pedal as young birds hesitate in front of you and make little dashes in whichever direction you were not expecting. By the time we reach the end of the drive, we are usually late and my nerves are in shreds.
On the way back from school this morning, however, the pheasants were amusing themselves under the oaks beside the drive, keeping well away from the road. Feeling more relaxed, and noticing how the sunlight is low through the branches now, I stopped to admire the scenery and to try to capture the atmosphere of a cool morning under the oak trees for Dancing Beastie’s Tuesday Tree post.
I wasn’t quite satisfied with this picture. It’s a splendid tree, but I haven’t managed to show the low golden light, the scattering of pheasants in the wet grass. Crawling the car forwards a few yards, I stopped to try again.
That’s when I noticed the car behind me. Oops. It was someone trying to get to a meeting with my husband. He had been waiting patiently for several minutes while I blocked the drive in my quest for a decent photo. It’s pretty unlucky, he must have been thinking, to be held up on a private drive with only one other car in sight (and he was too polite to hoot, since he knew I lived here). I waved an apology and dashed home, crimson with embarrassment. It seems that I am just as much to blame as the pheasants for hold-ups on the drive – and I certainly share their haphazard sense of timing. I shall try to be more understanding of the regular morning traffic jams in future.