Day 15

April already! My day is consumed with detailed work, but it is still light enough for me to set out walking just after six in the evening.

Bard Hill is covered in hawthorn bushes glowing with white blossom – it looks as if it’s snowed. I stop halfway up the traffic-free lane to listen to the bees. Bumble bees at every hawthorn. So big that occasionally they disturb a tiny white petal causing it to tumble to the ground.

The bees produce a deep buzz as they power their wings at top speed to defy gravity, but they fall silent when they land and start probing for nectar. The overall buzz I hear is a series of slow waves that coincide with one bee settling to drink, then another lifting off to seek fresh fuel.

Up on the heath I see some lads setting a small fire while they smoke and drink a can or two of beer. There’s been no sustained rainfall for weeks. One is arguing that building a fire is unsafe, the other offers reassurance that it will not spread.

At my intervention from the road they put it out. I bid them a good evening. They apologise and reply in kind. I leave them to their illicit adolescent pleasures.

As dusk forms deer are more confident to come out of hiding and I see them nibbling grass at every turn. I lose count of them and of the hares that are sitting upright in the fields that slope toward the sea. A hare on the road ahead is surprised at my appearance, so it races full pelt down the lane towards the village. It is unable to get off the road because of the steep banks on either side and the pace of its escape. It disappears in a dust cloud around the long bend.

Turning toward the house I wait and listen to a robin in full song. Such a common bird; such a beautiful singer. I walk on and find another exercising its voice with equal subtlety and variation just twenty-five metres further along. No cars come to disturb the performer or audience.

A rumour is confirmed late tonight. A local deliveryman has succumbed to the coronavirus. Contact tracing isn’t part of the government’s plan here.

It is close to a half-moon tonight. We often celebrate the full moon as it was full when we first met. Now any light in the dark is precious.

We are content to message “goodnight” tonight.

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CLP 01/04/2020

Day 14

The wind has dropped and on the way to the shop, the air feels soft. The birds seem to be less agitated in the hedgerows and bushes on the way down to the village shop.

There are still only a few leaves on the thorn bushes and their spikes glint in the rising sun’s light by the main road. A wren hops about inside, quite happily; safe from large intruders.

Not all the reeds on the other side of the coast road have been cut down, so they remain home of small birds who discreetly tweet to each other until they fall silent when a walker’s shadow passes over.

On one of the scrapes of the bird reserve a commotion kicks up.  A marsh harrier’s arrival has taken the curlew, redshanks and ducks by surprise. Travelling into the breeze, between the shingle bank and the road, the harrier keeps low to the inflorescences of the remaining water reeds for cover. A lapwing cries out, all a flap, it creates a scene, tries to distract the ranging raptor, so that all the birds below are shaken up. A whirl of wings and cacophony of calls and the shallow pond is vacated. Regardless, the marsh harrier maintains its hunting, something will reveal itself in an unguarded moment; maybe not a small bird, but a rodent exposed in the goose-grazed grass.

In early afternoon, driving through the woods to get essential supplies we slow to let a small deer clear the road and this disturbs a hare. It leaps up and bounds in a rapid zig-zag through the blue-bell plants that are yet to flower here. The size and speed of the hare is remarkable and unmistakable.  The deer just stepped coolly through the untidy woodland floor, calm as you like.

In the early evening, sat with my back to the shed, facing the sun this feels as it might in summer more than a hundred summers ago. Just the neighbours quietly in their gardens, no sound of motor vehicles, no sight of planes. The largest thing in the sky is the huge red kite, who continues to familiarise herself with the seasonal changes in her recently discovered domain. Protected by statute as she maybe, we’ll see if the game-keeper at the local shoot will allow her to establish herself safely here.

No news from my son, which is good news. He works steadily on.

I am up until quite late, then listen to the latest chapter of the story you are recording for me. It is a long chapter in a long book, in a series of six volumes, (I think). I have to scroll back several times to ensure that I have followed it all. After all the magic I must sleep.

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CLP  1st April 2020

Day 13

The rhythm of the day is beginning to lose its pattern. Middle of night interruptions to sleep come without pressure to return to dreamland. Distance from others is becoming accepted; is there any point going out there?

Eschewing television as formulaic, lacking originality, dull, I choose to listen to music. Lyrics bore me. Orchestral compositions, quartets, quintets, pieces for solo instruments, jazz. The Nau Ensemble’s interpretation of Joy Division tracks holds fascination.

A day within, with only the most cursory contact with nature and that being the cool north wind as I put a banana skin in the compost bucket. I see the fresh greens and yellows of cowslips through the window. A small brown bird flies into the depths of the roadside hedge. The sun pops out before more clouds darken the sky.

I finish “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari. The last chapter is about meditation. It makes sense. As I read it you are meditating in your apartment near the lakeside. I smile at the coincidence.

Come evening, the excuse to draw the curtains and shut everything out is welcomed.

I study cricket statistics online after supper, reviving specific memories of seven summers. Particular incidents return to mind vividly. How much of what comes back to me is true? Which of my stories correctly align with the figures on the scoresheets? Some stories I carry in my head are exposed as myths by the numbers.

Team mates and opponents come back to life; even one recently deceased. He provokes mixed responses. My recollection of him not entirely squaring with the eulogies posted on the club website. He was more complex than what is being written there.

Each person I recall produces a string of stories, emotions, connections to other people, places; often nothing to do with the cricket at all. My emotions twitch in response to what I read, revive, recall.

Before sleep comes again we share pillow-talk from our distant pillows. You laugh heartily tuning your soft, lilting voice into rich, base notes from your belly. It is that deep laugh of yours, the one that I feel in my stomach too.

We take care with our words. We know not where our conversation leads, but for now we are are going nowhere. There is no tomorrow.

CLP 31/03/2020

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