On Song

Blackbirds serenade

Night owl returns to duvet

Curtains mask the dawn


CLP 07/03/2021

Lockdown 3 (Day 23) Norwich

I received a phishing scam email purportedly from the NHS about a vaccination.

Given my age this was a nice surprise. I am not on the priority list, but who am I to question an email from the National Health Service? No one knows quite what is going on, so I was quietly pleased about this.

Did I want to accept the invitation for a vaccination, or reject the offer? Why would I want to reject an invitation for a vaccination?

All the type faces / fonts and logos were good copies of the NHS official documentation. I was directed to enter all sorts of information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name


This is not an NHS data requirement.

I checked who the sender was. Right click the mouse on the sender’s name and the actual address is revealed. It showed a private hotmail.co.uk address. The NHS does not distribute such information from a UK Hotmail address.

Delete. Report.

I called by my brother-in-law’s flat at his invitation. We haven’t seen each other for a while. We are each other’s half of a support bubble. We talked about end of life care. This was an important discussion to us for a number of reasons.

After we moved onto talking about football and cricket it was time to head for home. The rear tyre of my bicycle had suddenly blown while he was on the phone to one of his daughters. The pop came as surprise to him and disappointment to me.

It was close to midnight. There was just one other pedestrian on the street. No traffic. Light rain was falling. The rain was soft and cool. It felt like springtime.

A few blackbirds were issuing alarm calls from the wooded escarpment to my right.

I enjoyed the walk. There is a full moon somewhere behind the cloud cover.

CLP 29/01/2021

Lockdown 3 (Day 15) In Books

Grief is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter is a very clever and engaging book. If you have two or three hours to spare I can recommend it. The subject matter is potentially painful, but the way the book changes points of view from the dad, to his two sons to the crow, representing grief, is very well done. There is pain and humour and a sense of love within the whole family. I think that it is a book that is worth re-reading too, as there are plenty of moments worth savouring, particularly as grief is something I have had to address as life as ticked on.

The author has felt a need to acknowledge the debt to Ted Hughes for the crow character idea, which I understand. I don’t know about you, but it would be nice to read a book that doesn’t have to cross reference other writers and other books. Just tell the perfectly good story as best you can. No need to get all literary on your readers.

As an aside, there are words that I see in poems, for this book is part poetry, part prose (prose poems) that make me wince. If I see another poem that uses the phrase, “a lick of…” I may throw it out of the window, unless the licking is so ordinary, or extra-ordinary that it merits the use thereof. There are an awful lot of bones these days in poetry too, as well as throats and lots of taste of… phrases.

I had some interesting comments on a poem I wrote recently that included the phrase “I caught a flash of frightened girlhood in your brown eyes”. Several of the other writers wanted me to jazz up the brown eyes. Well, I didn’t because they were very beautiful brown eyes and they were beautiful for their distinctive brown colour. Simplicity is poetic too, isn’t it? There was enough in that line already and I did want to distract the reader with ornamentation.

So, today has been a quiet day. Warm enough to have the balcony door open for most of it. Quiet enough to hear the blackbirds calling up the dusk as afternoon wore on.


CLP 20/01/2021

Day 47

Yesterday evening provided a striking sunset. The Sun appeared from behind the solid bank of cloud on its descent and glowed orange in a narrow, low band of clear sky on the horizon. The light was flooded out under the cloud bank across the reed beds, reflecting off the bottom of the clouds and the top of the rain-filled pools. The reeds edged the scene as inverted tassels against the glow.

Shelducks, a redshank and a typically morose heron were some of the few birds visible. Two hares raced around the pasture and a muntjac deer had come down and across the road from the heath onto the path. It disappeared in the dusk. Bats were active around the green and the village cats were gathering again.

That cloud bank dominated today. Sunlight made a brief appearance in the morning, but it soon dulled to leave a grey day. Mowing the grass was done with care. I had an eye out for a toad that had been seen by the tiny pond under the wild plum tree. The scent of fresh cut grass filled the air for much of the afternoon until the smell of cooking eventually predominated.

The grass cutting temporarily dissuaded the birds from the garden, but eventually chaffinches, sparrows and robins came back over the fence. The young robin with its parent frequently returned to feed, as well as a third beautifully marked solitary adult. Blue tits seem to have nested in the old nest box hung on the side of the shed.

The two brown rats made brief visits and stimulated vigorous investigations of possible hideaways. There are signs of their tunnelling, but of course they have chosen places that are not easily reached. The growing confidence of the clever rat has led to the re-siting of the bird fat, which now hangs in a small metal cage from the washing line. How attractive this is to the local bird fraternity is questionable. The nut feeders have also been moved to the far end of the garden near the shed. The birds will find them sooner or later, but they have plenty of naturally available food to eat at this time of year. 

In the past few days I have seen many blackbirds of both sexes travelling with beaks filled with various small worms and centipedes. The earlier rain and now the mowing have encouraged the blackbirds to strut about on the lawn, tails proudly raised. These birds are enthusiastic in the pursuit of earthworms and they have been quick to take advantage of the need for the worms to move closer to the surface after the recent showers.

One thing that I need to investigate is the fascination that one chaffinch in particular seems to have with a shallow hollow in the lawn not far from the backroom window. It returns time and again and gets low into the same dip in the ground and busies itself with picking at the ground there. Are there ants there?

The yellow appearance of oak tree leaves is not good news, as I thought. Acute Oak Decline (AOD) is prevalent across East Anglia and in other regions of the British Isles. The appearance of young yellow leaves is a symptom ill-health.

The bark is badly affected by the disease and mature oaks, that might otherwise live for hundreds of years, are being killed off within four to five years by infection. There is research being carried out on whether the native oak jewel beetle is part of the problem, or whether it is attracted to the decaying bark of infected trees. The symptoms of this disease have been known of since 1918, but only now is an extensive research project being carried out.

This grey day passes quietly. No cuckoos that I am aware of, but a lark, the robins and blackbirds sing on regardless of the low light levels.

Along the footpaths, lanes and byways the Alexander plants are running riot in the absence of the local council verge trimming services; another consequence, dare I say, of central government cut-backs. One of the villagers has taken it on himself to tackle these invasive, gigantic, celery-like plants near his house with a sickle.

I enjoy talking with you this afternoon. The hundreds of kilometres of separation closes in an instant when I hear your voice.


Christopher Perry

3rd May, 2020