Day 44

The sunlight of recent weeks has been a boon, but these darker days are more in tune with the current mood. Are they reflective of it, or the cause of the recent shift in humour?

I realise that the lowering clouds, the loss of the greater space beyond, is matched by the thickening of leaves on the trees. Beautifully green and full as they are, for example, the hawthorn bowed with May blossom, the filling out of trees also narrows any available perspective.

When the rain comes, it comes hard and heavy. It is sharp on the window, almost a clattering, almost icy. In the lane loose stones, previously strung out in long trails by the occasional passing vehicle, are swept up and driven downhill. The dust coagulates into mud, collects at the bottom of the fast-formed puddles, is left in sticky heaps when the rainwater has drained.

A female blackbird, (a lively brown creature) lowers itself into the centre of a puddle and uses its wings to splash water droplets on its back, ducks forward and scoops up water onto the back of its head. When the burst of rain has passed the songs of blackbirds are the first heard. The rain is welcome.

April has passed in a blur of statistics and official announcements that announce no material change from the previous official announcements. The government graph does not describe some Swiss mountain to tunnel through to sunny uplands, as the Blonde Buffoon blusters, but represents a wave of accumulating lost lives. Each passing life sends out ripples that will eventually touch us all.

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Christopher Perry

30th 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 37

I am out after supper. The light is fading earlier than previous evenings because of the spreading high-cloud cover. Venus is high in the west.

Everything is calmer. The wind dropping, the sea smoother, the air warmer. Birds have settled into their pairs. Nests are built. A swan sits on a massive mesh of reeds; a mallard drake on a nest, while the duck waddles off with a girlfriend.

A small array of starlings is collecting on a telephone line, but there is no sign of the swallows. Blackbirds seem to be taking the lead for the evening chorus. Much of the rest of the avian cast have bedded down for an early night.

Above, thin, steely cloud cover catches the sunset in two patches. One illuminated area lies low to the sea and holds hints of orange; the higher patch, over the marshes, resembles rose-pink quilt-work. The light red hue from the underside of the clouds then reflects again from the surfaces of the pools amongst the reeds. The flat sea melts from a mercury sheen to the same soft pink. It is all quite beautiful.

There is not one other person to be seen. I am the only person walking the twelve kilometres of beach.

As I make my way back to the road, the shallowest part of the low-lying pasture is lighter, whiter, misty. The dyke that runs parallel to the road, is steaming slightly. The grass on the green behind the bus shelter, is disappearing in a wispy, milky layer of chilled air.

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Christopher Perry

23rd April, 2020

Day 36

While still strong, the wind is not so cold today. It is another day that is cloudless.

The association of April with rain being delivered in re-freshing, short showers is far from the truth this year. The winds driving in from the east and the north are bitter and dry. Their strength and persistence challenges patience and good humour. They force us to seek sheltered spots when seeking some sunshine, to carefully consider the route for walks, or cycle rides. It is best to bear the brunt of the wind on the outward route and plan a way back following the lee of a hill, or through woodland.

With everyday similar to the last, identifying differences between days helps keep a grasp of time. The most obvious difference is the lengthening hours of sunlight.

Without cloud it is quite noticeable how long it takes for the last light of the day to finally fade. Only Venus is visible against the cool of the stretched evening sky before the other stars and a passing meteor shower can be seen. In the morning the first clacking, squawks of the loose game birds gets earlier and earlier, when they respond to an initial crow’s caw, coughed up from the rookery on the hill.

Shadows in the middle of day are shortening and the amount of sunshine reaching the woodland floor is gradually being reduced as the tree canopy spreads. But it is not so shaded under the oak trees as to explain why a tawny owl would be sending out a plaintive hooting at just after nine o’clock on such a luminous morning. I heard a single call and thought I may have been mistaken, until the full, echoing call resounded through the trees.

It was an incongruous sound in broad daylight, but no less out of place than hearing a car alarm whistling in the mid-morning. Military aircraft, agricultural machinery and the postman’s van provide most of the mechanical soundtrack out here and these are rare enough. Birdsong and the conversation in gardens and across fences are the most common sounds that break up the backwash provided by the waves and wind.

In late afternoon I note that there are now two swallows sitting on the telephone wire. They are matched by a pair of goldfinches. These birds rarely settle for long. They are twittering constantly, fidgeting and jumping off to new perches at the slightest excuse, perhaps I should adopt one as my emblem? These unsettled years no longer seem temporary, but the way life has become for me.

On the last of the marshland to the east, there is a small, artificial lake . It looks natural enough; it is ungarnished apart from its island. The place is thick with small flies and numerous sand martins have come to feed on the wing. They chirrup as they swoop in delightful loops, arc back to return toward the surface again and again, skim the very skin of the pool, marking it with a splash from their contact, but so slight a mark that the water does not seem to even ripple after they have passed.

On the grassland and the hillside facing the setting Sun, hares sit and enjoy the warmth on their fur. They hold their ears up, always on the alert to possible danger, so look permanently startled. These nervous creatures need little excuse to tear off in panic. They rarely run in a straight line, preferring long curving sprints before suddenly switching direction, dust clouding their exit. I lose count of how many are out and about this evening. All they seem to do is sit, unless they are running away from something, or chasing off another of their number who has inadvertently loped into the wrong territory. What are they closer to, mice and rabbits, or dogs and wolves? When they run they move like greyhounds.

The strong winds are not a struggle for everyone. To appreciate this fully, one needs to witness a lapwing playing out a noisy display of stunt flying. Their squared off wings enable them to make spectacular turns, dives and climbs at speed which are the very epitome of random. Fascinating enough these complicated patterns would be on their own, but these demonstrations of agility are accompanied by a piping, tuneless calling which is as unpredictable as the flight manoeuvres. The peewit whistles like an ancient wireless radio set being tuned in after dark; all pops and whistles, whines and squeaks.

It is these moments that bring difference to the days. This is nature filling in for the absence of April showers, who would have previously been providing the seasonal variety.

Christopher Perry

23rd April, 2020