Steve Harley

& Cockney Rebel

DIARY 19/12/09

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Back in Suffolk.  Dunnocks, a pair, are feeding from the cobbles under the ancient yew tree, which is certainly older than the house, possibly even 500 years old. Great tits are fly-hopping between nut-holder hanging from the pergola entrance and the yew from which another hangs.

Goldfinches hang like true acrobats from the nijer seed containers and blackbirds, mostly male, gang up on the wee robin; he is no coward, but eventually gives ground. He is clever, though, and snatches fat droppings on the deep snow-covered lawn, the residue of the tits pecking at the balls hanging in green mesh. The male blackbirds are some picture, glossy against the vivid white snow. Their orange beaks stand out as beacons on an alpine mountain side. A rare visitor: grey wagtail. Bird watchers may well be laughing. What chance a grey wagtail arriving in a Suffolk garden, 60 miles from any coast? Little chance, I know that. They live high in the cliffs and thrive beside fast running rivers. But I’ve checked with a couple of watchers who know more than I, and we’re settled that, rare though it is, it is a grey wagtail. He is a fabulous sight, too. Big yellow rump and long tail and a wagtail’s strut, balancing on the fish pond netting, bounding across the lawn to feed on seed, then back to the water for insects.

Similar scenes greeted me each morning at Leeders Farm, where I’ve spent much time this autumn/winter recording. Deep into Norfolk, it is set in a couple of acres of enclosures and orchard, two decent ponds, one with a rowing boat, to attract moorhens and ducks. Saw the green woodpecker, too. I will be back thereafter the holiday season to re-mix a couple of tracks which have proved less than perfect. Seldom do we get it right first time. Now it’s the running-order that’s the problem. It makes a big difference to how a listener rates a new album, a 10-strong collection of new songs, how those tracks are strung together. Several are acoustic, almost entirely live, recordings. Others are bigger productions.

Thanks for the Christmas cards, guys. Dozens were handed over when Rachel’s helper Helen came to visit the studio: cards from the USA, Canada, France, Australia, northern Europe, as well as the UK. It is much appreciated.