Thursday, 2 June 2011

In which the sun shines

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today, the sun came out and shone and shone and shone. It was properly hot for the first time this spring. The wind, which has been cold, suddenly had a warm, desert aspect to it.

The swallows are madly excited by the whole thing. The first sound I hear when I walk outside with The Pigeon is the whooshing, raging, whistling sound of the swallows making their song. Except it doesn’t really sound like song. There is no warbly aspect to it, no hitting of a note. It is wide and improvised and undifferentiated. Also, they all do it in unison, in harmony, so it is like a wall of sound coming at you, a wave of sound, a rush of noise. It is very high, pitched up, and it swoops and falls and flies like the birds themselves. It is as if they are not doing a tune, as other birds do, but making a vast affirming shout of life, out into the air.

They are teaching their young to fly. I love this process, and watch for it every year. When the fledglings are very small and fledgy, the parents keep them close to the nest. They bring them in and out of my shed, in short training runs. Then they take it to the next step, which is to swoop up over my roof, and down the other side. They circle round the garden, and then back to the shed again. Then, when they are sure the babies are ready for it, their muscles built up and their wing feathers developed (I am supposing), they go out into the big testing ground. This is what I saw this morning. About two hundred yards away from my house, the ground falls down on a slope, into a long stretch of wild meadow, and then up again the other side, into the trees. This makes a perfect curve, a wide U-shape, like a miniature glacial valley. It is here that the swallows go for their serious exercise.

There they were, sweeping low over the ground, following the undulation of the territory. It always makes me think of the Second World War: they are like little Spitfires, out on manoeuvres. It is one of the most thrilling sights I have ever witnessed.

I stopped for a while, to watch it. On my iPod, Bedouin Soundclash were singing When the Night Feels my Song. It has a line in it, which they repeat, over and over, which goes: oh beautiful day, oh beautiful day. I felt the sun on me. I saw the swallows, doing their miraculous flight. The Pigeon was gently sniffing about in the long grass. Yes, I thought: it is a beautiful day.

I thought about my father for the first time without the lurching smash in the heart which that memory has brought, over the last few weeks. I have planted his tree; the memorials are over; he is laid to rest. Today was his birthday. I don’t want to grow fanciful, because that would never do, but it feels almost as if this day was like his birthday present. Or something. Whatever it was, there was so much life and beauty and colour and calm that I could hold him in my mind without a tearing sense of loss.

I know that these things go back and forth. I have learnt, through long and hard experience, that life does not go in a lovely linear curve. I used to believe that when I was young, and it took a long time to realise it was not so. It goes in crazy zig-zags, back and forth and up and down and round the houses. That is why you can’t just tick things off and move on to the next part. So I am not so foolish to think everything will now be sunshine. But when the sunshine comes, both literal and metaphorical, as it did today, I think it must be marked.


Today's pictures are of what I saw on my walk this morning.

The copper beeches are coming into their pomp:

2 June 1

2 June 2

The light in the woods was so lovely it made even the nettles look pretty:

2 June 3

The wild phlox is suddenly everywhere:

2 June 6

The burn is so clear that you can see the wonderful clumps of green water weeds, like basking seals:

2 June 7

My sister has made a wildflower meadow this year, and this is what it looks like:

2 June 8

2 June 9

The colours today were so vivid that I actually stopped and stared with my mouth open, like a character in a cartoon:

2 June 11

2 June 11-1

My little rowan trees were so green in the light that I want to invent a new word for green:

2 June 12

Off goes The Pigeon:

2 June 10

Sometimes it is as if she has a sniffing quota that she must fill:

2 June 12-1

Ready for her close-up:

2 June 14-1

And today's hill:

2 June 14


Thank you so much, as always, for the very kind comments. The ones from yesterday were particularly touching. It never ceases to amaze me that people I have never met would stop and take the time to send expressions of such kindness through the ether. It makes more difference than you know.


  1. My Scottie can sniff for England - my son says he is picking up his emails!

  2. A good-day gift from Dad. I like that. It feels right to me. I will tell you what I tell my best buds when we exchange texts and e-mails: "Treat yourself kindly today, doodle."

  3. I'm glad if your heart has been able to swoop a little with the swallows instead of dread lurching.

  4. I didn't comment yesterday - had just got the news that my friend's two month old baby is dying, and it all seemed a bit much. Still can't really talk about grief, but I am still very much thinking of you Tania.

    To sound entirely frivolous, doesn't The Pigeon have the most wonderful ears?

  5. Sunshine and music can just make things better, can't they? Even if it's just a touch, it's lovely to feel them.

  6. Thinking of you dear girl.

  7. Very moving descriptions, and I admire your courageous spirit.


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