In February 2005 Dave was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was operated on in Hope Hospital, Eccles. The hospital is on the edge of a mill town, once Lancashire and now engulfed by Greater Manchester. The ward had only small windows, high up, rectangles which made a mockery of the orientation landscape. You couldn't sit and see out of the windows but you could lie down, as of course the patients do, and look up through them. It was cold. Through the windows Dave could see the scrawny upper twigs of the winter trees, and falling through those twigs were huge flakes of snow, slowly tumbling. With a look of imploring, willing me to understand everything he wished to communicate, he said to me "I like trees" and with that phrase pleaded with me to know. I knew.
By autumn he was really sick. He couldn't be left. Some afternoons we had a longer visit from a carer, an hour which gave me time to walk the mile to Morrisons and return home with essentials. I got to go outside the house which we were both now tied to, curiously held indoors by no obvious force other than the inability to leave. Dave had always lived as much outdoors as he could, as had I. But I got to get out there and walk home kicking the piled up horse chestnut leaves and prickly cases. I picked up three conkers to take home for Dave, to share with him the autumn which was taking place somehow without us. He barely glanced at the gift.
Today I walked back from Eccles and saw the first of the season's conkers on the pavement with the first fallings of the leaves. I let them be.