I often stop at the spot where George saw the Kingfisher; it’s where the river turns left, away from the Causeway in Canterbury towards Kingsmead. I have seen egrets and herons along there, but today there was a pair of strange looking — ducks? coots? No, neither of those, but these birds were in the water, or rather the shallows, well away from the road. It took a moment to realise they were wood pigeons, cooling off in the heat.
Maybe they got a taste for cold water when flying for Noah in the ark? Alfie the collie used to stand or lie in the river or a puddle to cool down, but he didn’t have to worry about feathers getting waterlogged. These pigeons had found just the spot where the clean water was flowing over a stony bed, and just the right depth. Alfie, however, was more than happy to lie in mud and bring it indoors afterwards.
As I walked along Canterbury’s Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.
No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.
I bought gooseberries.
That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends, I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.
Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. It all went. Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!
It began with a low flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, fighter planes from World War II; after that our eyes turned again and again to the deep blue sky. Then Vincent spotted a buzzard, not unknown in Canterbury – see 3 September 2015, Bravado of the Birds.
Not unknown, but worth downing tools for. Who was going to see him off, I wondered, recalling ravens, jackdaws and gulls escorting these predators away from their children – though sadly ravens are not seen over Canterbury today. But no jackdaw nor gull appeared, instead there was another buzzard soaring over us, and then two more. None of us earth-bound humans had seen four together over Canterbury before.
Too early in the year for this season’s chicks to be on the wing, surely? Were these four juveniles or two parents with last year’s offspring? Certainly two bore pale flashes on their underwings, and one of these was audibly and physically corrected when it flew too close to one of the others. We heard it over the roar of traffic from the inner bypass.
From up there the birds could see a long stretch of green: our little acre is on the river and just across the main road that runs behind us lie the Westgate Parks which lead to the meadows, and the cycle path to Ashford which we earthlings visited yesterday.
One thing lead to another, and with A busy Easter, and then being in a city, we did not manage our garlic forage until today. A new spot that Mrs T had found the other day. Flowers were shining among the leaves here and there.
But the surprise of the day was to discover a pheasant’s nest with a good dozen eggs in it. The cock was quite agitated not far away, no doubt his wife, too, was watching us. We gathered our leaves as quickly as possible and left them in peace. 8 jars of pesto are our reward!
This corner of Canterbury is called the Bomb Crater. Don’t dispute its right to that name, but …
As traditional as the name is its status as the venue of choice for sledging. The local hills, including the one from which it was gouged, may feel steep to climbing cyclists, but they are neither steep enough nor deep enough for sledging. The ‘Beast from the East’ weather system has given the children a few days off school – a gift such as most of them cannot remember – and many locals were enjoying the bomb crater when Mrs T and I walked by. Joy!
Who could begrudge their happiness by saying they should be in school, in uniform, when they can have a taste of winter?
I can remember snowball fights against the teachers – how many Health and Safety and Child Protection issues would that raise now?
Sometimes Mrs T and I need to get out of the city and breathe fresh air, so we took a walk, or rather a wade – across muddy fields – on raised paths built by mediaeval monks – to a pub lunch. We were walking mostly beside reeds like these, behind and amidst which were swans and assorted ducks, blue, great, willow and bearded tits (chickadees), robins, wrens, finches; overhead crows, gulls, cormorants and – believe me – or not – a pair of parrots. They are established about 20 miles away, allegedly escaped from a film set in the 1950s – but rarely seen that close to Canterbury.
I may have enjoyed umbrellas as a child, admiring the exploits of Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain, but when I came to man’s estate, with a heigh ho, the wind and the rain, I became wary of them in other people’s hands. The ends of the ribs are often on a level with my eyes, and I feel even less safe when the umbrella-walker is lost in a mobile phone! The trivial trials of city life!
Heigh ho, the rain it raineth every day, or so it seems this last week, so I don my own protection in the form of a canvas sunhat with a wide brim. After turning off the main road, where all I could hear was the prolonged and monotonous schweeeesh of car tyres on wet asphalt, Kirby’s Lane offered a rain recital.
There was an amplified rhythmic bass line in the hammering of drops on my hat. Unlike much music played on headphones, I doubt anyone else could hear – there was no-one else to hear. The amplification came from the rim’s proximity to my ears.
My feet splashed through shallow puddles, of course. If Abel had been there, we’d have sought out the deep ones, and then the gutter at the edge of the carriageway, which was happily – allegro cantabile – chuckling an alto melody until it giggled soprano into the drain. For tenors I had the downpipes on the houses – one side of the Lane is the backs of tall Victorian buildings clustered around the railway station.
A foolish thing is but a joy, for the rain it raineth every day.