Steve's Online Diary
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Norway. Spectacular hardly does it justice.
I am very pleased to say that we play there often. It is an expensive country, even for the natives. But that might be all that’s imperfect with it.
A few weeks of Algarve sunshine, swimming in the pool and messing around in the ocean, barbecues and terrace tables, a quietus for the family (both kids and their partners along - and they really do make the holiday). They mostly go for Sangria or Pimms, and I mostly sup something half-decent, white and well-chilled. Then occasional Portugal beer is a treat, too. Don’t drink much beer as a rule, but in the hot sun, there’s little to beat it. Took out a small boat with a Guide on the Ria Formoso, the natural park reserve set among islands off Faro. Plovers, grey herons, egrets (their white cousins), spoonbills, flamingos and storks; a Little Bittern or three, cormorants and a really sweet shag lurking among the grasses off the dunes; shearwaters and grebes – it rather took my breath away, spotting them all, then writing them down, with the great help of our guide. I wouldn’t have known them by name, not most of them, without his help. And he was using my own favourite guidebook, Collins Bird Guide, in English! Clever young fellow.
In my head, I am a dancer. I can complete a spin into a perfect Arabesque, the standing leg bent at the knee, in a plié, taking an attitude like a spiv in a cocked trilby, and the trailing one straight as a cane. I can dart joyously across a festival stage and, close to the wings, drop victoriously to my knees, then leap to my feet on the last beat of the bar and moonwalk back to centre-stage, and for that moment, that magnificent nanosecond in a lifetime of movement, this Ballerino, this danseur, is King of the world, master of the rhythm and utterly fulfilled.
First rehearsal of the two first albums is behind us. Five months, to the day. Spent Saturday with the band, eight of us in all, including the lovely Larteys, running through each track, in sequence, and learning some of them for the first time in ages. Several haven’t been played Live since the beginning of it all, and it felt good.
Into the woods. Nettles a metre high, so the Chestnut tree is out of reach until the Hayterette is fired up and given its head. Blossom, both cherry and then apple, came and went quietly this year, as the climate played silly buggers, confusing the flora, the fauna and us. Apple trees we planted three years ago are in leaf, which comes as a relief considering the sharp frosts we had here on occasion from November to May. But old (ancient) apple trees have fallen. It didn’t take gale force winds to knock them over, just a force three, I reckon, but lie there they do, forlorn but not entirely worthless. There are several others that fell long ago, probably in the storms of ’87, which still flower every spring and still bear fruit, giving good, robust eating apples. As I pass a clutch of Scots pines, a high-pitched squabbling catches my ear. Fifteen feet up the trunk of one, in a near perfect circle, there is a hole, roughly 3 inches in diameter. The squabbling cacophony of newly-hatched birds is coming from there. Woodpeckers. But Titch, our local carpenter and good neighbour, suggests they might be nuthatches. We’ll know soon enough, because whatever they are they will soon fledge and I’ll train one of the Stealth cameras on their hideaway, thereby keeping a 24-hour watch. Titch was born and bred around here and has a few years on me, so he knows his stuff. But my money is on woodpeckers. Greater spotted. We see the mum and dad all the time, banging at the old wooden feeder stand, digging out grubs, or knocking on an ash tree when calling a mate. They even sit on the lawn and peck at the bird seed strewn for the garden birds. Right now (just back at desk from brewing tea in kitchen), on that lawn, there are chaffinches, yellowhammers, greenfinches, a sparrow, two robins and a host of starlings, both mature and juveniles. In one corner of the roof eves, the starlings have been nesting, and in the diametric opposite corner, the sparrows dwell and fledge. I wonder, do they know of the existence of each other? The young must cry out when needing breakfast, surely. We allowed the meadow, the size of a goalmouth, at a guess, to overgrow this year. The wild flowers are having difficulty getting their heads above the grasses, but we were keen to see how it all develops without the sight or sound of a mower in the vicinity. If we grow frustrated, missing the flashy display of wild field flowers, we’ll call on the Hayterette: “One man and his dog and a bottle of pop and a sausage roll…..” We took delivery of some rolls of turf just a day or two after the hose-pipe ban came into force. How stupid was that? We have a big, old water-bucket on a frame and wheels (1930s, we estimate; my dad saw it a few years ago and told how as a kiddie they put him in one similar and pushed him down the streets of Deptford) which we are filling from an outside tap, then wheeling it, heavily and awkwardly, to the far end of the land, to the five-bar gate where the turf struggles for survival. We spray it by decanting into a watering can. It’s a slow business, but that turf will live and grow, I swear! And I swear, too, when the young muntjac appears. He’s (she’s?) eaten a dozen irises, as well as plenty of foliage. It is a nuisance and I can think of no way to stop it entering the garden, out of the woods where we’re happy for it to live and roam and eat. A pair of mallards is visiting the big pond daily. I might put a duck-house out there, floating, fox-proof, to see if we can get them to stay and breed. You see six ducklings one day, and a week later…one, maybe none at all. Sparrow-hawks get them. Foxes, too. But sightings of Reynard are rare around here. Too rural, I think.
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