Day 19

After a night lit by the not yet full moon, a day of bright sunlight and a strong wind. This blow is hot and drying. It is relentless, like a wind that drives the locals crazy after weeks of it in Crete, or parts of southern Spain. It is not a wind to sit in. It makes people restless, as they seek respite from its nagging.

The hedge birds are also unsettled by this draining draught. They hurry about their business then retreat to sheltered boughs, or nests.

By late afternoon the temperature of the air has encouraged queen wasps to come out. Unmistakably large, they move slowly about in these unusually dry, warm hours in search of somewhere to establish a nest ready for the season of ripened fruit. They will settle down for the rest of Spring and early Summer before their small offspring start appearing looking for sweet food in the orchards and around picnic blankets.

Down on the shoreline the effect of the constant, strong blow on the sea surface is remarkable. The wind seems to flatten the natural motion of the waves like a huge hand smoothing a bedsheet into place on a mattress. There are suggestions of dips where in a bed the ticking would be buttoned tight to the padding. Here the constant movement of the sea over these hollows, this repeated smoothing of the briny sheet, becomes hypnotic. On reaching the beach the waves do not break; the following wind simply brushes each flattened roll up the shingle, as if it were a giant broom.

Turnstones seem unperturbed by the action of the sea. They sustain the quick rhythm of their pecking and picking at the stones whilst wandering heads down in a generally easterly direction. These birds are brown jacketed piece-workers with no time to socialise as they comb the tide line for tidbits.

The force and direction of the wind adds an exciting aspect to the flight of gulls. None travel upwind over the sea, they come inland and use the shelter of the banked shingle to make progress into the headwind. Yet, over the water the gulls, either singly, or in small flights, use the power of the breeze to good effect. They half-turn to gain height, then swoop to get full speed without having to flap their wings at all. A gull’s movement with the wind is all about small adjustments to the angle and tension in the wings and tail. Seeing birds fly so fast, so acrobatically without effort, is breath-taking.

The moon rises through the thin mist that blurs the horizon. It is a huge pock-marked, silvery plate, but still not full.

It’s been a long day. We’ve been busy for the sake of filling the hours. The Queen of England broadcasts a brief message that gives some perspective to the health crisis facing humanity. Similar messages have been broadcast by presidents and political leaders around the world in recent weeks. It is one worth hearing again; this time will pass.

We speak. We speak not of that future time, but of today’s accomplishments, what we have seen and learned. This is the time we have now.

CLP 05/04/2020