The Common

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Trees’ lives vary greatly. But no matter the lifecycle of a particular species, whether it’s 30 years or 300 years, all living things eventually die. Usually, it’s a combination of factors that lead to its demise. Injury, drought, or even disease may start the process. Eventually, rot, root injury, coupled with more damage from lightning strikes or a pest infestation will take it down.



‘So, this is it’, thought Jim one morning lying in bed. A warm solid, hairy body lying curled up against the crook of his knees, ‘this is as good as it’s likely to get.’ He felt a wave of happiness and contentment, he was okay with that.

Paddy turned out to be a good housemate. He was mostly clean and amenable; he went along with all of Jim’s plans and never disagreed with the channel choice or meals Jim prepared. Paddy showed Jim unconditional love, from following him around to sitting against him every time he stopped. Jim couldn’t be happier. As the time went on it didn’t matter how or why Paddy came to live with him, it was just that he was there. Jim really felt they were made for each other; it was meant to be. Jim felt a responsibility to look after this other living being as best as he could, he had been entrusted. It’s exactly what Emma would have wanted.

Emma. When Jim did think about her, his thoughts went out to her children mostly. It cemented the already damning feelings he had towards her husband. What kind of father takes away the pet of grieving children? Exactly the type of man who cheats on his wife and those same children.

Jim often found himself smiling at Paddy, remembering the times they spent together with Emma. The common across the seasons. The common. Jim didn’t take Paddy there. He was worried the dog would get confused and bolt back in the direction of Emma’s house and it suited Jim not to have those memories replaced, embellished, another loss. No, now Jim looked forward. He felt he had lost enough and even if fate was waiting to take more away from him, he wasn’t going to sit around waiting for it to happen. He was going to go out, try new things, meet more people, and generally make the most of any period of time where nothing much was changing. It’s not that he thought nothing was ever going to change again. He just knew that while things stayed the same, he should enjoy every moment.

It was during this period of time, that Jim decided to update Paddy’s microchip. He telephoned to explain that he had inherited the dog from a friend. The woman on the phone, wanted more details than he could provide, and Jim got into a muddle. The woman became so frustrated with the conversation that in the end she managed to give some of Emma’s address away,

“So, Paddy doesn’t live in Field Road anymore?” She asked finally.

“No, he now lives at number 7 Kenmore Gardens, as I said.”

“Right.” The woman sounded irritated. Jim heard some heavy key pressing and after a deep intake of breath she said sweetly,

“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

After a time analysing exactly what went wrong with the conversation, Jim realised he had some information he hadn’t known before, where Emma had lived.

Jim continued with his new life. He did table tennis every Tuesday and had his car re-taxed. He had taken it off the road, once Ruth had died, he didn’t see the point. He had spent so many hours taking and fetching her from hospital appointments and having to pay for parking each time, he decided that he could quite happily live the rest of his days on foot. Caroline had convinced him not to sell the car in case he changed his mind and now Jim was glad she did. He and Paddy travelled various distances to National Trust Parks and sometimes as far as the coast, for good walks and pubs on the beach.

Caroline had bought him a pub walk book for Christmas and he had tried them all, recording ratings out of ten for each. By the next spring he had his favourite three. He and Peter had walked together on a couple of occasions, they both appreciated craft ales and quiet company.

Every Thursday afternoon, he alternated between going to Mrs Andersen’s for tea and Mrs Andersen coming to him. Jim had even started baking. He never really progressed from a basic sponge but had learnt to improvise with flavours and had experimented with citrus and caramel and even on one occasion lavender, but never again. Lavender cake tasted the way his mother’s drawers had smelt, and he could never get over this thought.

Jim celebrated Paddy’s birthday as July 13th, the day he first came to live with Jim. On Paddy’s first birthday Jim splashed out and sent away for a personalised dog cushion, towel and food and water bowls. He knew he shouldn’t, but he just wanted to mark the day in some respect. Jim had phoned the company up. It wasn’t just that he couldn’t work modern technology but also that he enjoyed speaking to a real person. The company claimed to be all British and telephone sales confirmed that. Jim just wanted the company to know, how much Paddy meant to him, so he explained about how he and Paddy came together and how positive the whole experience had been. Once he had put down the receiver, he felt he’d had a therapy session such was the feeling of being listened to, it almost made up for the fifty or so pounds he had spent.

Unfortunately, the delivery came on a day when he was out walking with Peter. They had spent longer than planned in the pub garden because of the beautiful weather. This did mean that the following day, July 13th Jim headed off to the Post Office Sorting office early. It was ridiculous but Jim wanted to surprise Paddy, so he snuck out.

While Jim waited in the queue to pick up the parcel at the Post Office window, he idly studied the map on the wall. It was a map of the local area highlighting post boxes and local Post Office kiosks in shops. As Jim waited, he read the names of the satellite shops and roads of the area, one of which was Field Road. It took him a few seconds to think why that was familiar to him, then when his turn came up, it came to him, Emma.

Jim fumbled with his ‘Sorry We Missed You’ card and his Driving Licence he had bought with him as identity and proof of address. The postal worker struggled to get the parcel through the gap in the window, so ended up having to open the door to the side of him. Everything seemed an effort for the postal worker today, so Jim left apologising.

Jim had always liked maps and he found Field Road easily. It was a quiet street, fairly nondescript. The houses were a mixture of early nineteen hundred’s, two up two down style semi-detached and terraces in threes, with an occasional stand-alone house. No one seemed to be a round and Jim drove slowly looking out both sides of the car window. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for and almost wished he had bought Paddy to see if he would identify where his former home was. There was one house for sale Number 47. Jim went particularly slowly past there. In the window of the front room there was the figure of a man, with his back to Jim, reaching up to unscrew something from the ceiling, the man appeared to give up on his task and started to turn in Jim’s direction so Jim looked away and continued on along the road, hoping he hadn’t been spotted. It could have been ‘the husband’ he supposed.

Paddy was extremely excited to see Jim when he got home, and Jim’s excitement of the gifts was infectious. It felt as if Paddy was a child and Jim was his proud dad who couldn’t wait to show the present’s he’d chosen for his offspring. Paddy, to his credit, behaved as if he grasped the sentiment of his newly acquired dog accessories. He wagged his tail enthusiastically and sniffed at them, as if he couldn’t believe his luck. As the two of them sat down to their breakfasts that morning Jim looked at Paddy tucking into his dog food, in his new bowl and thought how funny that he was tucking into his cereal with exactly the same gusto. Jim felt a wave of completeness he hadn’t felt for a long time.


Leaving the common, Emma felt as if she could hardly breathe, she felt claustrophobic. As she made her way in the direction of home, there was a rumble of thunder and suddenly thick heavy drops of warm rain started to fall. Emma had her head tilted to the floor, and watched as the rain splattered the pavement, within a few seconds the water had painted the pavement a darker grey. Ordinarily, she would enjoy the downpour and the summer smell it brought, but not today, she just wanted to get home.

When Emma got home, she had seven missed calls on her phone. Three from her mother and four from a private number. She felt guilty. Guilty for indulging in an activity that benefit only herself, Paddy didn’t even want to go on the walk in the first place, then there was the embarrassment of it all. And now doubly guilty because she had obviously forgotten or missed an appointment and should have been doing something more important. The first thing Emma felt she must do, was get changed, even before she listened to any messages, she suddenly felt stupid in her wet floaty summer holiday dress that clung to her unflatteringly.

Emma was just coming down the stairs, pulling on a t-shirt over her jeans, when the doorbell rang, loud and urgent. It made her jump and she felt irritated at the interruption.

“Are you Mrs Stock. Mrs Emma Stock?” Two police officers, one male and one female, looked seriously at Emma. Once Emma had nodded, they continued. “Can we come in?”, and “you might want to sit down,” were among the other stereotypical statements they used. All Emma could think was how lucky it was that she had got out of her floaty dress.

At some point Emma’s mother arrived with the children, all understandably upset, Emma went into mother mode of being calm and strong, denying her own terrified feelings. Emma kept thinking of keeping structure for the sake of the children and somehow, they got fed, bathed, and put to bed. For days this happened miraculously. Emma got through telephone conversations and meetings semi-consciously, making decisions she never thought she would have to make, not now, at her age.

Then there were the flowers, bunches, and bunches of flowers, they kept coming. Some from names she recognised and some from people she felt she’d never heard of. What was it about sending flowers? Where had that tradition come from, probably something about the smell and bodies being laid out in the home maybe? Now they had buckets and washing up bowls previously used for mopping up sick, filled with slowly dying flowers. What made people think that sending the grieving, living things with a limited life span, living things that die and then need disposing of. How is that a good idea? An added responsibility they didn’t ask for and could, quite honestly, do without.

This period in Emma’s life would always be remembered in snap shots and sound bites, a picture or sound in her head that would pop up, triggered by some unknown impetus. Burying her head unashamedly into the shoulder of her brother in law. The woman from Chris’ work at the funeral crying inconsolably, some male colleagues of his, at the intimate family graveside, in suits and dark glasses, like film extras on the set of a blockbuster. Someone singing in the church so loudly and so out of tune. The hundreds of handshakes and condolences from strangers. The faces of her children pale and bewildered, whose behaviours had become challenging in ways Emma had never experienced before, they were struggling to come to terms with the lack of boundaries, hours and hours of screen time previously forbidden, had made them bleary eyed, lethargic and irritable.

Emma remembered the conversation where her mother first mentioned it. It was late at night; the children were finally settled. Each of them had been demanding her presence while they fell to sleep, this could take hours. There had been a glass of wine topped up throughout the evening and when Emma finally got downstairs her mother had tidied up and refilled her glass. Emma sat down heavily on the sofa, exhausted. A tiredness that was beyond anything she had felt before, a cocktail of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual even, exhaustion. She was tired of thinking, feeling, she was tired of living. Her mother had made it sound so straight forward, so obvious. Paddy had been neglected, he deserved better, Emma and her family might have to move, Emma was the breadwinner now. Her Mother would help of course, where she could, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to cope with a dog too.

Emma couldn’t remember agreeing to specifics, but sure enough, not long after the children had been taken back to America with her sister and her family, when they returned there post funeral, Paddy was ‘disappeared’. Emma thought she should have been distraught, but she genuinely felt incapable of anymore pain and distress. She would return to this at some point, just not that day.

Time passed, as it does, and after the initial chaotic trauma, it became the new normal. School resumed. The children were given some slack, Emma wasn’t told quite as many tales of Clara’s misdemeanours and Bertie moved up a class seemingly happy and progressing. The house went up for sale in the New Year, although it didn’t get much attention until spring.

Emma planned to move nearer her mother, she could just about achieve that with the children staying at their current school. At one point, it was suggested they move into Grandma’s house, but Emma considered that option for all of thirty seconds before declining the kind offer. Emma knew that she would need all the help she could get if she was going to return to her former career, so she compromised, with a distance between them of a five-minute walk, or two-minute drive.

When it came to Emma’s last day of work at the care home, she felt more upset than she had imagined. It had, in effect, been her longest placement of employment in her life. She was nervous of having to use her brain in a new job, more than just remembering who had had a wash and who hadn’t. Once she had said ‘Goodbye’ to most of the resident’s, she specifically went to see Mary complete with gift. Emma thought about taking flowers, then decided against it, but plummeted for a bottle of lavender scent.

“Hello Mary” she said breezily as she walked in. “And how are we today?”

“You still here? This has to have been the longest goodbye.”

“Come on Mary don’t pretend you won’t miss me, and it’s only been two weeks. You were the first person I told.”

“And I will tell you what I told you then, ‘Good on you girl’. I know you didn’t choose this, but you have a choice now. You can either go down the ’poor me’ road, ’I’ve lost this, and I’ve lost that’, or you can just get on with it.”

“Well, I suppose I am just getting on with it then.”

“Exactly, you’ve got to look after those kiddies of yours, but more than anything you’ve got to look after yourself. If you are strong, they’ll be strong. It’s that simple.”

“I’m trying my best, Mary”

“That you are. And don’t forget you’re one of the lucky ones, in some ways. You’re getting to leave this place, and not in a box. There’s a lot of residents, not to mention the staff who would swap places with you at the drop of a hat. I know I would.”

“Thank you, Mary, I’ll remember that.”

“Because all too soon,” Mary continued solemnly, “it’s over and you find yourself in a place like this and you think…was that it?”

“I’ve bought you something,” Emma said handing over the wrapped gift and trying to lighten the maudlin mood. Mary unwrapped the small package.

“Lavender water.” She exclaimed in a voice Emma couldn’t identify, was it surprise or horror?

“It’s calming, Mary.” Emma said by way of explanation, she could see tears in Mary’s eyes.

“That’s lovely that is, my old mum used to wear this. It’s a lovely present…thank you.” Mary held her arms out and Emma kissed the older woman’s cheek. It was soft and smooth, lined but cool against her lips. They said no more to each other and as Emma left, Mary turned the bottle in her hands, remembering.


The first year was sprinkled with significant dates and anniversaries. Daddy’s birthday, the first Christmas without Daddy. The first Mother’s Day as a single mother, the last time they went out as a couple to dinner, had sex. Emma’s sister and family decided to spend the summer in the UK, which turned out a welcome distraction. Her husband, Landon, was helpful fixing bits and pieces in the house before it was sold and Finn was a good cousin, helping Emma’s children out like a responsible older brother.

Just before the moving date, Catherine and her family took Clara and Bertie to Cornwall for a week, giving Emma the chance to finish everything off. Emma didn’t want to spend the last night alone in the house she had bought and shared with Chris, so Anita and Leah had volunteered to come round for a sleepover and to camp out on blow up beds in the living room with her. Emma knew it would involve alcohol, but she was prepared, it was all done, she had made sure of that.

Anita arrived first, brandishing two bottles, one bubbly the other a wine. She also carried a shopping bag.

“I’ve bought supplies!” She announced, spilling out produce on to the floor, “And something extra, just for us!” She held out two sherbet fountains. “Come on, I’ll race you!” The two of them pulled off the top and holding the liquorice between two fingers, emptied the contents of the tube into their mouths. They were laughing so much clouds of sherbet dust filled the air and bubbles formed in their mouths and inside their noses. In the midst of all this the doorbell rang, Emma went to answer it.

Leah came in and stood at the living room door watching the dust settle and the peals of laughter, tutting and shaking her head. “You two. You couldn’t be more excited actually doing coke. This really is the much cheaper option.” When Anita and Emma started to calm down a bit, Leah added, “It’s a good job I wasn’t the take-away, they’d report you for sure.”

“It’s such a shame, you don’t like liquorice, it’s the best fun!” hiccupped Anita.

“I know something else, that’s fun!” Leah got out the contents of her overnight bag, it was a plethora of alcohols, fruit, and mixers, “Anyone for a cocktail?”

It had been nearly eighteen months since Emma had become a widow, and this was the first time she had been drinking with friends. She was in two minds, that was the best way to describe it. In one mind it was okay to laugh and joke, but in the other she had flashes of how other people saw her and wondered what they would think about her behaviour. How was a widow of eighteen months, who had been married for 14 years supposed to behave?

“Oh, we’ve got you a moving present,” Anita announced.

“What? Another one? The booze and the sherbet fountain are more than enough.”

“Don’t get too excited, it was Anita’s idea, and it’s not a tasteful trinket or anything” Leah sniggered. Anita passed Emma a small neatly wrapped package. It was soft and flat and felt like a cloth of some description. Emma opened it cautiously, she didn’t know how excited she could look about a t-towel.

“It’s a t-shirt,” Emma unwrapped it confused.

“Quick, turn it over,” Anita said excitedly.

“Not just any t-shirt…”

“It’s a Wonder Woman t-shirt! I love it!” Emma said pulling it over her top. “Ta-da!”

“The last time I saw Anita, when you were looking red in the face,” commented Leah emptying her glass of cocktail, “you weren’t having a hot flush, were you?”

“When was that?” Anita asked colouring a little more.

“You know, you were talking to Lawrence’s mum?” Leah added.

“That’s enough to give anyone a hot flush - of terror.” Emma contributed, “What was she saying? That Lawrence is learning Japanese or taking GCSE’s ten years early?”

“It was the morning of harvest festival. Perhaps that was it?” Leah prompted.

“No, I remembered my ‘can’ this year. Very organised!” Anita thought for a bit. “Oh yes, I remember, it was a Lukas day. I had on my Wonder Woman t-shirt…”

“I thought so!” Leah laughed.

“It started off so cold in the morning, I wore it underneath a jumper, but the day just got hotter and hotter and I couldn’t take it off, reveal my secret to the likes of her…”

“Because wearing a t-shirt makes all the difference.” Leah said sarcastically.

“Hey. Don’t knock it, till you try it.” Anita replied.

It wasn’t long before the group progressed through hilarity onto seriousness and now morphing into melancholia. There was a pause in conversation, until Anita said,

“And explain again what happened to Paddy?”

“Oh, he’s been rehomed” Said Emma sadly.

“Why? How?” Leah asked surprised.

“Well, it happened over a year ago now. My mum arranged it, when the kids were in America. It sounds terrible now but then it sounded the most sensible option.”

“Oh my God, how did the children take it? What did you tell them?” To Leah this was all news.

“I think so much had changed when they got back, it was just another thing. Of course, they were traumatised at first, in some ways they missed the dog more than Daddy. And I felt so guilty, I had agreed to it all. But while they were away, I hatched a plan. I told them he had gone to live on a farm.”

“Seriously, surely Clara didn’t fall for that one.” Anita said incredulously.

“Not until the postcards came.”

“Postcards?” They both said in unison.

“I have a friend at work who lives out of county and every few weeks she sends a post card from the ‘farmer’,”

“Genius!” Leah said genuinely impressed.

“Yeah but how long is that going to last for?” Anita asked.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead, but it works for now, ‘thank you for letting Paddy come to live with me, he’s so good chasing the squirrels away.’” Emma quoted, downing the last of her drink.

“But, seriously Emma, how are you doing?”

“You’re looking better…than you were…” Leah added helpfully.

“Oh, you know. Up and down” Emma managed. Then when she could tell they were waiting for more, she really thought about it…’how am I doing, really?’… It felt a long time since anyone had asked her that question. In the beginning, she was asked all the time. Sometimes sincerely and sometimes when someone couldn’t think of anything else to say. Suddenly the question made her feel very sad, and she simply burst into tears. Leah and Anita looked at each other, and Anita made accusatory eyes at Leah and Leah mouthed back, ‘what?’

“I just feel so… guilty” Emma blurted through snot and tears.

“Well, I think that’s natural,” said Anita. “You know, why him? Why not me?”

Emma wiped her face with a tea towel Leah had found in one of the boxes marked ‘kitchen’.

“No, it’s not that, I feel guilty…because… I don’t miss him.” Another wave of grief and guilt washed over her, there, she had said it…out loud. Leah and Anita looked at each other but said nothing, so Emma continued. “I mean, I don’t miss his moods, I don’t miss how everything I seemed to do or suggest he thought was a bad idea. I don’t miss the cutting remarks, the frustration I seemed to make him feel. It’s like I already grieved for him, for us, what we were, a couple of years before he actually died. I think he’d left me, me and the children long ago. We didn’t laugh together and barely spoke to each other in the last few months, it was as if we had nothing in common, no common ground. He didn’t trust me, he didn’t share anything with me, his computer knew more about him than I did”.

The new school year continued well. Emma and her children were in their new house, Fiona lived two roads away. The school routine had enabled them to establish a family life that resembled normal, that, and Emma’s new job. Three days a week she headed into London. Fiona came over at 7.00am as Emma left and Emma returned after 5.00pm when the worst of the homework and post school activities were done. Her day wasn’t quite as long as Chris’ had been, but she could imagine how easy it would be to stretch it out, knowing it wasn’t going to be chaos when she did eventually come home.

Emma didn’t take advantage; she knew now that if she wanted to keep everyone motivated and happy, she had to be fair and regulated. That way, it wasn’t like she couldn’t ask favours and she got nights out, if she let everyone know well in advance. It was a happy balance. Bertie struggled the most but having two best friends with absent fathers helped. Clara still worried Emma, she was a lot quieter and more inward looking than Bertie.

This half term holiday Clara had insisted on visiting the places they had visited in the past. The cafes and National Trust houses they had been to before Clara started at school and when Bertie was just a baby. It was as if Clara wanted to return to a time and the places when it was just the three of them as it was now, even at that time Chris worked as much as he could.

This particular day, it was the common. So many times, they had walked round their regular route, it could take hours when they were little. There were trees they pretended were cafes, a felled tree they pretended was an aeroplane, branches that were perfect swinging bars and bouncy logs. Today Clara wanted to stop every time they got to a family landmark and wanted Emma to tell her stories about each one. ’The day they had a picnic’, ’the time Bertie fell off the log during a particularly violent rendition of horsey-horsey’.

The common bought back several memories about Paddy too. Like the time, just after Bertie was born, when in a sleepless stupa, Emma loaded Clara and the baby into the car diligently and drove home to find the front door wide open, they’d never shut it on their way out, not only that, they had left Paddy on the common, he just hadn’t been quick enough getting in the car at home time. They came to the bench, and Emma remembered with a shudder the last time she was there, so much had happened, so much had changed. She sat and watch the children rolling in the fallen leaves for a while. Bertie started trying to build a leaf snowman, of sorts, from the piles of dropped leaves and Clara came and joined her on the bench. After they both watched Bertie for a bit Clara said,

“It will be alright, won’t it?” Emma couldn’t tell whether this was a statement, or a question and she went to affirm it.

“Of course, Clara.”

“No, I mean it will be alright.”

“Yes, it will.” They gave each other a hug, before a gust of wind bought down a shower of leaves from the autumnal tree, “Quick.” Emma said, “if we catch a falling leaf, we won’t get a cold all winter.”


Jim couldn’t explain why he had chosen this day to return to the common, it must have been at least eighteen months since he had last been there. Somehow it just seemed right. The day was crisp and light, chilly but clear and Jim had that feeling you get when there is a change in the season, the sensation of potential and new beginnings. Paddy was enthusiastic, as always, to go out and once out the house, he ran around excitedly, then stood waiting at the car.

“Not today Paddy, we’re going to the common.” Jim said as he attached Paddy’s lead. Paddy didn’t mind and led Jim in the right direction as if he understood every word. They walked through the High Street and Jim looked in at the coffee shop, he didn’t know what he was looking for, Emma? Her friends? The thought thrilled and frightened him. No one he recognised was in the café, so he decided to tie Paddy up and go in. He bought himself an Americana with warm milk, an order Emma never got right, he smiled at the thought. Now he had a plan, he was heading for the bench.

Once at the common Jim let Paddy off his lead and made his way on his old route. Paddy seemed jittery and distracted, one moment he would be around Jim’s legs, almost tripping him up, the next he had disappeared. He would return out of breath and appeared to be willing Jim on.

“What’s up with you today Paddy?” Jim asked out loud, “You’re behaving like Lassie or something.”

Paddy’s behaviour became so erratic Jim decided just to follow him, just to calm him down a bit. Perhaps the common wasn’t such a good idea, Paddy really seemed unsettled by the whole experience. They broke through the trees and on to the field in a direction Jim hadn’t taken before, and they were a few hundred metres away from the clearing and bench and Emma’s favourite tree.

No one was around except for two children, Jim felt himself feeling annoyed as they were playing right where he was heading. Paddy went berserk, he headed off at speed towards the children and Jim was worried they might be afraid of dogs and start screaming. Jim’s fears were satiated slightly when he saw an adult was with the children, a woman, but she was not really watching the unfolding disaster. She had her arms raised in the air and was dancing around in a most peculiar way, it was almost as if she was trying to catch the leaves falling sporadically from the tree.

Jim froze to the spot. He watched the scene, Paddy ran up to the children, jumping and throwing himself around, the children did scream, but not in distress but delight. The woman screamed to, she pulled her hood down to get a better look and she knelt by the dog and embraced it.

“It’s Emma,” Jim said in barely a whisper, but still he couldn’t move. He was trying to process what was happening around him. Is this a dream? Am I seeing a ghost? The family hadn’t noticed Jim’s presence, they were in their own world of what could only be described as joy, but then Paddy broke away from them and headed back to Jim. He circled Jim a couple of times and headed back to the family. The woman looked up and squinted in Jim’s direction, it looked as if she too was going through the same thought processes as he had a few seconds earlier.

Jim and Emma walked towards each other in disbelief and then as they came closer, although they recognised one another in their hearts, their consciousness wouldn’t allow this to be real. They both reached out their arms and held each other’s hands, an arms-length away, pressing each other’s fingers, as a test of reality. There were no words, so once they had stood there studying each other’s face, they embraced and stayed there, until the children approached.

“Who’s he, Mummy?” Asked the girl suspiciously.

“Did he look after Paddy for us?” Added the younger boy. Emma stood back.

“This is Jim. He’s an old friend of mine. He has been looking after Paddy.” Then she added more quietly “… somehow”.

“Can he come to our house, for snack?” Asked the little boy.

“Well, we don’t know what he’s got planned?” Emma directed this to Jim.

“I’ve nothing much on” said Jim.

The boy took Jim’s hand and pulled him on. Jim recognised the warm grip of a six-year old child, and his heart flipped. It had been a long time, but he had felt the sensation before, the heat coming from the child’s hand, he could feel it through his glove. Jim remembered the last time he’d felt that level of trust, and it was a long, long time ago.

“When can we visit your farm?” The boy asked.

Jim looked at Emma questioningly and she returned his gaze with a guilty smile.

Yet, the cycle doesn’t end here. A dead tree, or a snag, still plays a vital role. Decomposition takes time. A snag breaks down and returns nutrients to the soil. Also, snags provide habitat, cover, and even nutrients to different wildlife.

Finally, the snag breaks down and returns as nutrients to the soil, where the lifecycle of a tree begins again.


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