Six-thirty felt early to Will Turnstone. Not to Abel, whose sleepover had ended half an hour previously. He grabbed grandad by the finger and took him outside to look for frogs in the pond. But the water was a few degrees too cold for them. Instead the humans picked beans and a gherkin and went back indoors.
The gherkin was a present for Abel’s dad, who sang a thank you song – ‘Ogòrek, Ogòrek!’ It’s there on Youtube…
Where have I been all this time? Partly travelling across Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. We noticed one thing in common between Polish and British railways: the fruit trees beside the tracks, convenient for the railway workers’ rest huts. These plums were somewhere in Western Poland, between the border and Warsaw. At centre-right, in the opening between the trees, is the silhouette (take my word for it) of one of three young men foraging them.
It was time for an eye test, and across the optician’s desk wandered a seven spotted ladybird. The optician said he had colonies of them hibernating in crevices around his house, so this one had probably arrived on his clothes.
The ladybird’s Polish name is Biedronka, which I rather like.
(I’m afraid this post got lost for three weeks, and all the ladybirds are probably awake, but I still like biedronka!)
The cuckoo of May Day Eve is still vocal across the meadow. He must be spending his time in the woodland on the disused railway bank. He’s the first resident cuckoo we’ve had so close in a great many years.
We recently returned from Wroclaw, Poland, where the house looked across meadows to an active railway track. The trains asserted their territorial rights by whistling as they approached the nearby level crossing.
Also vocal in claiming their territory were blackbirds, a most emphatic and persistent reed warbler, a cock pheasant and two cuckoos, one of them a little hoarse. The birds’ outpourings made early morning tea a pleasure in the tiny back garden. I like to think their emotion is one of celebration as well as assertion: enjoyment of the gift of home.
As for the cuckoo: he had no home, and was probably hatched in the warbler’s nest, down by the railway line’s territorial marker – the reed-filled ditch.
I found myself wishing that the birds’ territory would not be entirely swallowed up by the houses advancing, terrace by terrace, out of the city. Perhaps the railway and reed beds will provide a lasting haven for the smaller birds. I doubt they will shelter the pheasants once the fields are all built over.
And yet; it must be a joy to move out of those grey communist era apartments into a place of one’s own, a room of one’s own. Virginia Woolf almost took that for granted – then realised how precious a gift it is and wrote about it. I have to confess to rubbing my house keys like a talisman as I turn the corner and make for home. Let’s say I know how blessed I am.