Sometimes it is hard simply to know what to say. In those times I swing between wanting to just say anything to fill the gap, and thinking its better to say nothing at all. 2020, (new year, new decade!) so full of hope and potential only a few short weeks ago, is, I think it’s fair to say, not going as any of us planned. I know, what year ever does? But I don’t think anyone factored in a global virus threat into our fresh new diaries!
This weekend, a slight cough and ‘under the weather’ feeling has our household isolating for at least a week. Better safe than sorry. But don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and type out an account of how we are ‘getting through it’- no one wants to read an account of whether I’ve had a shower, if I’m feeling sad or positive, what concoction of tinned food we found in the cupboards for lunch…
Nor am I going to take this opportunity to bombard you with pompous ‘How-to blogs’ and lists of activities you ‘should’ be doing – (as though this strange time wasn’t a big enough thing to get our heads around as it is, without feeling like we have to learn three new skills, take up a new hobby or two and dramatically alter our homes or gardens!) There are many excellent blogs out there who are offering great inspiration, brilliant guides, and helpful tips – some of which I have shared links to on my social media, so do go check them out. But you know what, if you just want to spend the day on the sofa binge-watch repeats of Time Team or Escape to the Country, that’s ok too.
TV, for me at least, has some escapism appeal, but the risk of news bulletins and catching political and headline updates is too high without rather frequent channel hopping. Instead, I have developed a new obsession; live wildlife webcams. In particular the Peregrine Falcon nests tucked away high on the cathedrals and tower blocks overlooking our cities. I have long been fascinated by these magnificent birds, and to watch the intricacies of their lives whilst safely tucked up on my sofa, is a real privilege. This week, I’ve found myself checking in on the nests as I have my breakfast; the screen-square images of wind-ruffled feather and gravel nest-scrapes providing a stony anchor to my day. Watching each camera switch to grey-scale infrared night-mode brings a reassuring rhythm to my evening. Norwich in the east turns first, followed by the pair on Brighton’s Sussex Heights tower block. The pair known as Maverick and Mrs M on Chichester cathedral are some weeks behind the others and haven’t laid eggs yet, but the elevation of their nest holds onto the daylight just slightly longer than our home in a hollow of the Downs, 7miles to the north of the city. Bath cathedral’s pair is plunged into dusk up to ten minuets after the day comes to a close in Norwich; the breadth of a country spaced out in the length of the sun’s progress.
The logical part of my brain justifies my obsession with watching these webcams with everything to do with needing a routine and consistency in these uncertain times. The birds nest in these locations every spring, their days governed by the same simple set of demands on their energy; food, rest, territory, breeding. They know nothing of our complex world in its state of half-hysteria below them. There is plenty of research into the positive effect that seeing patterns of nature (feathers, branch formations, leaf veins etc) has on the biochemistry of our brains, and gazing at the peregrines certainly generates a feeling of calm and reassurance within me. Poet Ted Hughes famously referred to seeing the return of swifts in spring, as knowing ‘the globe’s still working’. I think I recognise what he meant.
As I type this, Maverick, the Chichester male, identified by a ring on his right leg, is sitting in the centre of the otherwise empty nest box, occasionally preening and making small ‘cheeping’ calls. Beyond him, through the crenulations of the grey stone wall, the city stretches out under a blustery blue sky. I wonder whether, if he were to take off and soar on the updraft to the height of the spire, he could see my house from there.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. You only have to look at the outpouring of support amongst volunteers, social media, and neighbourhoods to see the truth in that old adage – never have I felt a more palpable ‘togetherness’ knitting stranger to neighbour, friend to follower. The more we are pushed apart, the firmer we are restricted, the further we reach and the tighter we cling. Human nature can be a wonderful thing. There are some days however, to be honest, I think I’ll stick to watching birds. But that’s ok, at least you know where to find me if you need me.
(Ps. Thank-you to our neighbour for the spare eggs from their hens.)