This dastardly ‘Chinese Virus‘ has challenged us all. ‘Lock down’ (we used to call it ‘Lock up’ at school) creates new initiatives and priorities, passions, promises and intentions. I desperately try to use the time to learn new skills and read more books. Failure. The mouthorgan and ‘Easiest Harmonic Book’ has sat on a prominently placed armchair awaiting my attention for weeks. There are stacks of old photographs crying out for albums or the bin. Franz von Papen’s ‘Memoirs’ and G. Lenotre’s ‘Robespierre’s Rise and Fall’ have been left untouched since pages 61 and 72 respectively in exchange for Thomas Penn’s ‘The Brothers York’, my kind of history, and Michael Henderson’s comforting and prophetic, indulgent and delightful, ‘That will be England Gone’, ‘The Last Summer of Cricket’. Music, literature, memories, allusions and anecdotes all wrapped up in a brew of cricket’s noteworthy past and fearful future.
So, failing inside, l have ventured out into the garden, onto the farm and away on the local lanes of Kent. The Big Farmland Bird Count was highlighted in that excellent monthly publication ‘South East Farmers’. Name the top five birds most commonly seen. Well, l have heard the cuckoo and l see birds darting amongst the fruit trees and hop gardens but have no time to identify them in my ‘l Spy Bird Book’ as they won’t stop to be examined. Have they a coloured bill? How forked is the tail? Is the bird six and a half inches or seven? Is there a buff eye stripe? Is there a buff eye stripe! I can’t possibly tell; it’s gone in a flash. My admiration for Twitters and their eye sight has grown enormously. Despite my 7×50 Silrat Coated Optics binoculars, l remain ignorant to the variety of birdlife on offer but not so with the Top 5 in my garden. Number 1. Sparrows; lured by the brilliant, bulging Philadelphus Coronarious that offers shelter and food……and the very occasional swooping sparrow hawk. Number 2. Blackbirds, plentiful. Number 3. Pigeons, settling on the hop poles nearby and sizing up my vegetable patch. Numbers 4 and 5 are the murdering magpies and the carnivorous crows. Two birds that can strip a small garden of eggs and fledglings in no time. That self appointed High Priest of Bird Protection somehow has ordained that these birds are now sacrosanct. No shooting, no trapping. No wonder we never see any songbirds, they are all hiding from Chris Packham’s cut throat, protected pals.
The crows and magpies do however offer the most spectacular displays as either singularly or in pairs they take on any buzzard flying close to their nest or hunting grounds. The ‘dog fights’ in the Kentish skies; 1940 all over again. Plucky, courageous aviators taking on the ‘big guy’. For some reason the buzzards never seem to retaliate however close the pesky magpies or crows may be. Pity, l rather hope to see a tumbling attacker floating down from on high.
I have enjoyed taking to the lanes on my trusty two wheeled steed. Numbers of walkers and fellow cyclists has doubled and the speed of motor vehicles seems to have increased. Our high sided hedge rows make visibility difficult at times and yet never does one hear a car hooter. My father was a great hooter-user, not in the aggressive, vulgar manner of the streets of Naples but as a polite warning. I am a hooter-user when driving and l also have a rather fetching small, blue hooter on my bicycle handlebars in place of a bell. A sure way of informing fellow cyclists and meandering walkers of my presence. Cars are fitted with horns. Why are they so seldom used?
For far too many years l was a