Spring has really sprung. All the blossom is out and the colours are growing vivid and the birds are performing frankly unspeakable acts, sometimes on the wing. I wake in the night to hear the oystercatchers singing like drunken sailors out on a spree. The swifts are here although I have still not seen my swallows. We have a new visitor in the field, in addition to the pied wagtails and the swifts and our two robins and the usual dark complement of jackdaws. He is a proud and vocal chaffinch, and is very interested in the horses. At times, he almost seems to be singing his song to them.
I am so ignorant of birds that I had to look the chaffinch up. It is known, rather distressingly, as the Common Chaffinch, on account of being the second most common breeding bird in Britain. I pucker up at this, furious on my fellow’s behalf. There is nothing common about him. His plumage is as rich and exotic as that of a Chinese emperor. He has a little blue cap and a breast the colour of old roses and singing white flashes on his black wings. He is splendid and remarkable in every way. Common, indeed.
Time is such an odd thing. As I grow older, it races past me in a hurling blur. I quite often get the days of the week wrong, and for most of this month have been captioning my photographs as April rather than May. And yet it seems years since it was spring. The Scottish winter goes on much longer than the English one, and there is no bosky transition period. We do not have the nodding cow parsley in the lanes and the tumbling hedgerows and the sense of burgeoning that comes to England. Scottish nature is much more austere and reticent. There is nothing, nothing, nothing, until it seems that the world will remain brown and bleak forever, and then, almost overnight – spring. It is as if some capricious giant has waved a wand and everything comes out – there are tiny leaves in stinging green and gaudy blossom in vulgar pink and unapologetic dandelions raising their yellow heads. Even the hills change colour, as if they have cast off their sensible winter clothing and gone to Paris for the new modes.
It is very, very exciting.
Horses, famously, go a bit wild on the spring grass, get spring fever, have spring twinkles in their toes. Perhaps humans have that too. My mind is working at eighty miles an hour. I can’t sleep because I am writing three books in my head at once. I have a new idea which I can’t possibly start, because I’m still editing two manuscripts, but this story won’t leave me alone, and I imagine convoluted dialogue in my head as I walk down to tend to the mare.
I do steady groundwork with her, to get the spring out of her. Someone needs to do some groundwork with me.
I cannot capture my own chaffinch as he moves too fast, but I found this lovely picture on Wikimedia, available for public use, taken by a gentleman called Michael Maggs:
You see how not common.