While much of the world seems obsessed, currently, by activities involving balls, the rest of us can seek solace in nature. Far from the madding crowds determined to extend the pandemic, we can get our kicks from the flora and fauna gracing our countryside. Sometimes, however, the normal everyday is not enough.
Maybe it was the G7, maybe it was that jelly-bellied flag-flapper from No.10, maybe it was too much sun, but my mind went into ornithological overdrive the other day. Rooks, sparrows, tits, and starlings were not enough at our garden table. I wanted, and imagined, red meat munching the RSPB birdie balls.
So first I spotted a Noddy – not to be confused with an immature Sooty – which is the only dark brown tern with a full rounded tail. Rapidly, my mind found a Catbird, that slender Starling lookalike which, to no-one's surprise, mews. Then a Bobolink, a sturdy meadow bird, that made short work of my offering of crushed nuts.
The bird table was then rocked by a Short Billed Dowatcher (easily confused with its Long Billed relative) that livened the local calm with a triple 'kut-kut-kut'. This sent a shockwave though the incoming Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse and Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eaters homing in from Hungary and the Scilly Isles. Even the Bimaculated Lark and the Booted Warbler were disconcerted.
Obviously, all good things start to come to an end. A Sora Rail wheeled away followed by a politically awkward Alien's Gallinule. A Parula Warbler fluttered sadly off with some Slate Coloured Juncos. Last to go was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, flashing its white rump. My lovely exotic European accidental visitors were gone. Bit like Brexit, come to think of it.
It was record store day at my favourite shop on Saturday, so I naturally headed down to browse the treasures on display, doubling up by collecting my online purchase, Miaow
by The Beautiful South. My head was, of course, turned and on spec I grabbed a new live album by Fontaines DC (the DC is critical btw). A new band to me, but turned out a well worthy buy. I thought my day could not get any better.
Capitalising on my good mood, I decided to head into town and walking down Castle Terrace I happened upon the regular farmers market held adjacent to the multi-storey car park. A quick stroll through left me keeping my cash firmly in my pocket with nothing really grabbing my attention. Slightly disappointed I walked on, other adventures must be out there. A little further down the road, I could see what looked like a couple of Saltires tied to the railing. Too early for the Euros, I thought, so what then? Just as this thought crossed my mind, I noticed a person carrying a large flag of St Andrew bedecked with European stars. It turns out this was a political demo, small scale, but nonetheless passionate in its intensity and message.
More strikingly though, the message in support of independence, for that is what was being advocated, was conducted by two pensioner activists. Two women who told me that this was their first time out with the banners since before lockdown, way back in March 2020, and that they had chosen their pitch adjacent to the farmers market to ensure they would have plenty of people to engage with. Two confident, articulate and let's be honest, people of an age who may not see the fruits of their ambition delivered, but who would not allow that to diminish their spirit or give up on their passion in helping achieve their end-goal.
We spoke for a while, sharing our thoughts on a whole range of political issues and all was conducted with a sense of respect and a bit of laughter thrown in. Even though we were not in agreement on a number of issues, my admiration for the commitment shown by these women was immense as I walked away waving and smiling and now in possession of a vast amount of pamphlets.
This week, I have also embarked on a new creative venture myself. I've become an Instagrammer. Anyone interested can find my profile at feardley where I have followed in the footsteps of most other contributors by posting uninteresting pictures alongside inane messages. It really is such fun.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org