Day 12

British Summer Time, the forward shift of clocks by an hour, has blown in on a gale straight off the North Sea. Hailstones are spat at the window. Some of the ice pellets stick before slipping slowly; disintegrating as they slide, leaving a tear stain on the pane.

The hazel bush flexes in the gusts, before springing back to a position south of upright, unable to fully right itself.

Blue tits make brisk trips to the jangling feeders dangling on the frame. Flights are brief hops. No stopping for rest as rest is impossible when balance so precarious.

The wind strokes the pasture. The grass becomes fluid; water running up hill.

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CLP 29/03/2020

Day 11 – After Noon

Briefly outside, but I’m driven back by the falling temperature. The grey sky gave way to blue eventually, but there was no warmth in the sunbeams.

There seems little enthusiasm today in the birds’ calls. The greenfinches are the only ones heard throughout the day, but even they lack energy.

A picture is sent by my son of his two children leaning over the top rail of a fence by a bluebell wood stream. They missed the kingfisher’s fly by, but watching a gurgling stream is magic enough.

During the afternoon and evening messages flow gently across the English Channel. It’s been an enjoyable day.

Quiet descends. Cold and dark thicken beyond the curtains.

CLP 28/03/2020

Day 11

Awoken at 04:30 hrs. First dim light of the new day.

A stag bellows from the wood on the hill.

Tree branches, unsteady in the stiffening northerly wind, emit a low, irregular moan.

Behind this lies the slow-motion rush of heavy waves breaking hard on the shingle. Then the long draw as the sea inhales before the next swell rolls in.

I am lulled back to sleep

CLP 28/03/2020

Day 10

Unclouded skies of these past five days have stimulated rapid growth of shoots. What were twiggy branches, bushes, shrubs are now thick with green.

So many variations of green unfold from so many buds. Here we have more greens than words for “green.” Perhaps, like the Inuit with all their words for snow, the English should work harder on finding more adjectives for greenery.

Birds have not lost enthusiasm for song, but they seem to be less competitive. Instead of a wall of sound, the day is calmer, the air less congested. There is now space to hear individual contributions.

A musician would call a pause in the score, “fermata”. A fermata is written on the stave as a “bird’s eye”. Today is filled with these bird’s eyes, seasoning the musical soup from the burgeoning bushes.

Sparrows are constant in their tweeting and goldfinches in their chirruping. Other species seem to have become more contained, confining their orations to the early chorus.

Today is Friday, I had to have it confirmed. Days are becoming similar, simpler. Spring is happening around us. Our reduced circumstances slow us so that the changes the season brings are more easily apparent. With less to do there is more to be seen.

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CLP 27/03/2020

Day 9

A quiet day. Sun. Blue sky. Birdsong.

On the dusty road to the shop there are the car-flattened, leathery remains of toads. They have tried to cross from water where they have grown from eggs, to tadpoles, to toadlets to toads. They spread out from their birth pools and eventually take singular paths.

This road must be close to a suitable, long-established pond. How many made it across? It is said their are fewer flat toads than in other years. Are there more road-aware, agile toads, or fewer available to be flattened?

The shallow roadside banks offer a mix of flowers, planted and wild. The irregularity of wild sown plants appeal. Scattered jewels for all to enjoy.

At lunch I hear that the nation has been exhorted to publicly applaud NHS staff at 20:00hrs this evening. I weep at this news, but am unsure why. No protective kit? No testing?

We text ‘good nights’. My sleep soon follows.

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CLP 26/03/2020

Day 8

Yellow, everywhere. Gorse, daffodils, primroses and by a flint wall, forthsythia, (the Easter Tree).

Along the top road the dark oaks still lack any leaf-cover, so the setting sun bounces off the gorse on the heath through the gnarled woodland. The sky a celestial blue, the display of blooms pure gold.

The pillows of colour belie the vicious nature of the spines that protect the gorse flowers. The petals unfolded from soft green pods, catch attention from a distance; the thorny branches protect these open purses from deer.

On the heath the call of chiffchaffs is added to the mixtape of song.

At the feeder in the garden word is out that stocks have been replenished and inter-species rivalries seem put aside.

A pair of goldfinches gorge themselves, accompanied by two greenfinches who cling onto adjacent perches, The greenfinches are big, muscular creatures by comparison to their multi-coloured neighbours.

Greenfinches are grim-faced with beaks like secateurs. They feed in bursts, making sure to turn and look over their shoulders for threats, or to threaten. They carry a permanent scowl. They wear simple olive green camouflage, the colour of fresh leaves, but even these dour birds sport a dash of yellow on their wings, a corporal’s single stripe.

Today is warmer. Any air out of the lightening wind seems soft on the skin. There is less need to move with such urgency; to hunch; to wrap up. Momentarily an outward, calming breath is possible when outside.

Text messages and emails are exchanged with friends and family as acceptance of abnormality settles on us, but there is a sense of dread stalking the strong, spring shadows.

Our children, (under-equipped, untested), assume their hospital duties with stoicism. They see the consequences of infection; set up ventilators; switch them off.

Our conversation edges along a cliff ledge. Untethered due to distance as we are, I offer my hand. You concentrate determinedly on the positioning of your feet.

By bedtime Venus, low in the west, is dressed in her brilliant white best.

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CLP 26/03/2020