Day 57

Rain drops lightly patter down onto the back of my jacket. I pause and turn to see if much more rain is coming. I see a complete rainbow.

The few spots of rain cease. The rainbow fades.

Choosing to wear gloves, a waterproof jacket and long trousers for my walk was a good decision.

A long conversation with my son, who is in between night shifts, is both delightful and sobering.

My grand-daughter tells me she is going to be a space expert. My grandson makes noises referring to his over-due lunch.

My son tells me he loves me. I tell my son I love him too.

.

CLP 13th May, 2020

Wick’s End

We lit the candle together
Holding the splint, hand over hand
Flame flared, formed, flickered
Came to life

We laughed and blew out the taper
Followed its dissipating smoke into the dark
Turned our eyes to the fresh wax light
To sprites dancing on the walls

Laid enrapt until drowsy
In warmth formed bonds
Of breath and limbs
We fell to sleep sapped of strength

Frost crept across the pane
A spider spun its web
Hours slid together
As we un-knowing lolled apart

I awoke to shivering air
The unclosed door
Branches silhouetted against the sky
Shrivelled candle cold

.

Christopher Perry

3rd May, 2020

Day 43

Light levels are lowered by the thick cloud cover. All the bright colours of spring flowers are needed now to attract pollen carriers. The warmth of the past week coaxed a greater variety of bees outside. They are most welcome.

This morning along the coast road the marshes are witness to a fierce exchange between a peewit and a crow. The crow will not move away from the nesting area, despite the mobbing from the ground-nesting bird. It is more determined to pursue this target, rather than move on, as a buzzard might.

On the sea side of the reed beds I can see the shadow of a marsh harrier sweeping and turning just a few metres above the ground, always flying close to the top of the reeds. This flight pattern means it will come across potential prey suddenly, giving it a good chance of capturing food, without having to drop too far to catch anything it finds. 

The three greylag geese are still by the raised bank watching over the flightless goslings. 

The showers have played havoc with a cherry tree heavy with blossom. There is a drift of pink petals piled in the gutter, but my eye is caught by a light blue, speckled egg from which a chick has hatched. I am surprised that this pale blue is so easily seen. Why are some birds’ eggs so brightly coloured, so easy to see?

Further on there are six, or seven woolly calves wandering in a small paddock with their mothers. That is not a field one should enter carelessly. I am reminded of a walker, out with his family, killed in Sussex last year by a cow protecting her calf.

My son in China is working long hours teaching on-line, so it is lovely to hear from him as he ponders what to get his brother for his forthcoming birthday. Before I have had a thought on the matter he resolves the problem himself. 

Christopher Perry

29th April, 2020

Day 42

The road is just visible ahead. There is light in the sky topping off the highest clouds. The air is damp. There are puddles.

There are no street lights here. It is dark enough for the birds to have stopped flying and to have ceased singing.  The main sounds are a few spots of rain on my jacket and young leaves being brushed gently by the south-westerly, but there is also sound of some movement close under the trees by the road.

Bigger animals feel safer in this light and move more freely, but they are no less easily spooked. Two deer startled by my passing spring up and clatter off, deeper into the dark cover of the trees. Their sudden movement surprise me and my heart, pulse already raised from my brisk walk up Bard Hill, pounds harder. Along the top road, where the gorse flowers still shine gold, even in this poor light, I can make out a hare crossing my path ahead. It pauses on the tarmac, before picking its way through the verge and away.

On the way down Market Lane, I hear a large deer’s hooves running up the hill toward me. It is coming at quite a pace. It is now so dark that I cannot see what I know is there. I stop still in the centre of the lane and clap my hands together several times to make my presence clear. The deer stops. I hear the running start again, but thankfully receding. My heart is getting a good workout.

At the bend in the lane is a five-bar gate that is good place to pause and look out over the village. It gives a great view of the church, wisely built on a lump of high ground to defend from storm surges, but a site cruelly exposed to the weather. The traditional east-west alignment of the church has been maintained, despite offering a broadside to the northerly winds that come straight off the sea. There must be days when this is the coldest church in Christendom. 

It is a fine building and there has been a church located there since around C.E. 1250. The lump it is built on may be an even older site of worship. There is plenty of evidence of ceremonial activity up on the heath with its ancient burial mounds and cemetery pits dated from around 3,000 years ago.

With the rain on the breeze, the air is clear of dust and the scale of the off-shore wind turbine site can be fully appreciated from the gate. It is vast. There are warning lights. Some permanently lit, others flashing in a coordinated pattern. Flash-flash-pause-flash. There are 88 turbines on the Sheringham Shoal, the closest 17 kilometres from the shore, the furthest 23 kilometres. It is an impressive site that is probably going to be extended. 

In the last leg of my walk I pass under ash trees that spread across the embanked lane. I disturb three separate pairs of pigeon and despite knowing these minor upsets are likely to occur in this gloom, the pigeons still make me jump when they take off. Having just calmed my pulse, I have to slow it again twice more.

The walk took 40 minutes and being outside, even so late, was wonderful. To feel even a few raindrops on my face, to smell rain so fresh I could taste it was worth every step.

.

Christopher Perry

28th April, 2020

Day 41

It wasn’t wet, nor cold. Partly sunny. I stepped out the back door. It was warmer out than in. I stepped back into the kitchen. I worked intermittently at my desk for the rest of the day, into mid-evening.

I pause occasionally to watch the clever rat climb the top of the post stretch across to the dangling food. It has to be persuaded to leave the feeder with a broom. Its sibling is a ground feeder.

Long-tailed tits have set up home nearby. They are regular visitors now. Numerous blue tits crowd around too. Chaffinches are happy to find scraps in the grass, working around the doves and a huge pigeon, that may or may not have others to feed. It is hard to tell, there is no urgent visit from a pigeon, no hurried departure and then swift return; not like the tits. The goldfinches pop round too.

The grass is out-pacing the recovering yellow flower-heads of dandelion.  Bluebells are thriving. Their blue is erring toward a hue of lilac. Daisies have reappeared after the recent mowing. Cowslips continue to stay fresh and bright. 

We spoke for two happy hours. Some days that is all we would choose to do, were it not for the mortality of phone batteries.

My eldest is back on night shifts. Radio silence is maintained respectfully.

Christopher Perry

27th April, 2020

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