Day 40

Whoa! A premature summer’s day has been delivered to our doorstep, without a knock. No wind, not a breath. 

I step out. All I can hear is the sound of my flip-flops flick-flacking down the lane and bees buzzing. The birds are drowsy in this unfamiliar heat. Sparrows offer desultory cheeps from the dusty roadside.

On my way back up the hill from the shop, a blackbird flies with full-beak into its nest under the guttering of the old brick and flint-work barn. Heavy-cable nylon netting has been positioned to catch loose tiles and falling stones from the crumbling structure. The blackbirds have improvised their home behind a point when the netting drapes over the lip of the roof. The nest is easily visible, but seems sound. To get in the blackbird has to land and then manoeuvre through the webbing. From the inside it will be easy to defend.

The barn has been bought by a middle-aged couple with a plan to convert it into something more solid. Do they know the story of the night when one of the heavy oak doors broke from its hinges and killed a local man who was trying to secure the building? His son still lives in a house directly across the lane from the scene. The building looks no more solid, nor safe today. It has bowing walls, a sagging roof; it has lost all thought of maintaining an upright status.

There are plenty of fledgling robins about. At the bird feeder a blood-orange red-chested brute of a youngster stands dumbly waiting to be fed by its slighter parent. This young robin might bounce better than fly. A couple of days ago I pulled up a metre short of a tiny robin that I thought was injured in the road. It miraculously remembered that it could fly just as I made to move it to safety.

In a neighbour’s front garden an explosion of fighting. Two small birds scrap violently. Face- to-face with sputtering wings, they rise straight-up, up higher than the house, fighting all the way and then all the way back to the grass. A few moments later another outburst, but with less altitude needed to settle the row. Dunnocks squaring up to each other, perhaps.

I step out again late into dusk. Bats are scything through the air, visible in fleeting glimpses. As they turn the fast movement of their wings makes them disappear. It is impossible to double guess the path they will take in this grey light.

Around the small green there is a collection of cats. I count nine of various sizes and ages. In one spot there are five. They squat down almost nose to nose. I did not know there were so many in the whole village. How far have they travelled to this place? This is a special gathering. A coven? Are they plotting revenge on whoever it was that ran down one of their number on the coast road? There may be more. Some are posted on gate posts as look-outs. One watches from a utility vehicle parked by the café. 

Bats, cats, but not a soul in sight. Where are the women of the village this evening? I see television lights flickering on living room walls, but these spaces seem empty. Is there a meeting on Gallow Hill? Or is this them, the collection of whispering cats?

The cats are situated close to the red phone box that was re-painted yesterday by a man in white overalls. The box now houses an Automated External Defibrillator. These pieces of kit have appeared all over the country in recent years. Has one ever been used to any effect? They are an apparently good idea that makes no sense when considered more deeply. A paramedic has all the kit necessary and the training to use one, but the general public not so, even if someone were considerate enough to have their heart failure in the immediate vicinity. However, the money is raised as a good cause, the machines are placed, repaired, re-placed. Good works that make the fund-raisers feel good regardless of the wasteful use of time and effort. I saw one sited at a corner of a busy junction in central London once. Dusty with diesel smuts and out of reach of most. How will that machine help a cyclist crushed by a lorry turning left, (the most likely incident at that location)?

The newly minted moon is a sliver of sharp light. Lower in the sky than Venus, the Moon and her companion seem to be going against the grain, joining a line to the south-east, rather than north-west. It is a trick on the eye; their descent is in parallel, not a linear path.

The air has changed during the day. It feels like I am home on the south coast. There is humidity on the evening breeze. A south-westerly will bring rain in coming days. I am happy to feel its gentle approach.

I look forward to hearing your voice again after this self-imposed electronic purdah. I am grateful for this time, but has it only been a couple of days?


Christopher Perry

26th April, 2020