Of all the seasons. Spring in England is the most capricious. Not that I don’t love a bit of caprice – I do – but she can get a bit wearing sometimes. She never tires of invention and sometimes, well, you just yearn for a little permanence, you know?
Anyway, to put you in the right mood (you may have to turn your volume up a bit) I’ve popped in an anthem from a feathered tenant. He requested it. He has dreams of Spotify. I’d like to say he is a trouble-free occupant of Stalagbaybush 23, but don’t let the dulcet tones fool you. When he’s got his kids on the ground he’s murder! He hides them under a leaf, or the shed, or anything else he imagines will provide cover because they can’t fly, and he doesn’t seem to know how to give lessons. Then he flies around the place screaming his head off at anything or anyone he imagines might come near:
“I’ve got my kid on the ground! He’s scrawny and he’s got no feathers so leave him alone!”
And of course the cat at number forty-two pricks up her ears, and promises herself she’ll take a look over there after lunch,
After twenty-four hours or so of non-stop hysteria my over-diligent parent’s screeching subsides. Of the scrawny youth there is no sign – it has left us, though whether in the glory of flight or in the throat of the cat from number forty-two I have no way of knowing. Just occasionally I will see a semi-feathered lump perched on my fence, beak opened demandingly while his father, who now looks smaller than he, pumps him with ‘special treats’, so I guess the family has known success.
I cannot claim, any more than my Blackbird friend can, that April has been a mellow month: seventeen frosts to start our days, where ‘usually’ (I like that word when describing English weather) we might expect seven. Rainy days? Few, or none. By afternoon the garden, like my Blackbird friend, is in full song; rich in the verdant greens of emerging youth, bright with colour, loud with bees, hoverflies and an elderly wasp who doesn’t seem to have learned his place. The sun is not fierce, but it is warm enough. There’s a chair, and a whisky waiting because I am that lucky man whose wife is a fanatical gardener. She can take pleasure in creating life and I can spare the odd moment to watch.
For the Blackbird, for every creature in Spring the emergent garden, the burgeoning heath is a place of business. For me, it is a chance to listen, a season to enjoy however exhausting are those occasional rain-pursued retreats. The life of the early season is a testament to youth that brings back to me the garden of my childhood home, the garden I described in ‘Hallbury Summer’, a book I serialized here a year or two ago. There is no stream to burble by, where I am living now, no ‘pop’ of water-voles, few dragonflies; but the sounds, they are the same, the scents never change, and my sheer joy in the annual miracle is as fresh now, as it ever was.