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Simple set up. Coffee, notebook and binoculars. The weather is uninspiring, sky wearing a worn-out blue. It’s a sodden morning of wind and rain. I choose John Field's Nocturnes for the duration. Optimism level is low.
The post-dawn blue has vanished into grey and the garden looks dank. Crows in the sky, seagulls. Solo voyagers splicing my rectanglar view through the back door.
What would the birds come to eat in our garden anyway? Last remaining seed heads. Worms, especially in the no-dig bed which produces them in abundance. And the wood pigeons like the ivy berries. They will choose a thin branch, eating and swaying comically.
I haven't looked so long on the garden since first lockdown when we spent uninterrupted hours of the day in its warm, sheltering embrace: The garden bench under a white rose bower, endless trampolining, Playmobil dioramas in the grass, beer and guitar at 5pm. The first red admiral of the season, and the last.
A spray of seagulls high overhead. Water riffles in a black plastic bucket under the mouldy, bow-legged garden table.
A seagull passes low. I can see its eyes.
In a water-filled plastic mason jar there's a willow wand from down by the Severn putting out luminous pink roots. It is living on water alone. One shoot is budding. Can’t wait to pot it and watch it grow.
Binoculars in one hand, notebook in the other. I store the pencil in my beard.
XI in E-flat major. My favourite Field Nocturne. John Field was the first to write nocturnes and title them as such. He may have lived for a short time in Bath, just 20 miles or so from here. On his deathbed he was asked about his religious affiliations to which he replied "I am not a Calvinist, but a Claveciniste" which is French for harpsichordist.
F has come down. I give my report, tell her that I am enjoying the simplicity of watching at least. She hovers before disappearing back upstairs.
A pair of blackbirds in the neighbour’s apple tree. They flit about then fly away as I raise the binoculars.
Tired. Looking now without seeing. The Zen sheen of doing nothing is rubbing off.
A snatch of birdsong, but not from our garden. A ball of pigeons explodes like a firework across the sky.
My attention wanes. A discarded Casio watch beeps from a basket of miscellaneous items on the kitchen worktop. The clock clicks loudly. Heat through the pipes, raised voices from next door. The family moves about upstairs, in and out of the loo. On the deck, beyond the smudged glass, the sledge I didn’t put away after the recent snow is almost full of rain.
Alarm. #BigGardenBirdWatch2021 official count: 0