They said this British winter would be one of the harshest on record - by "them" I mean the meteorologists and the dumbass newspapers. I wish I'd kept some clippings of their scaremongering reports. We're into February now and to me the winter has seemed pretty mild, rather green with very little precipitation in January. Okay tonight it is chilly - my thermometer is saying minus one - but to some people that's camping weather!
I have become a little obsessive about feeding wild birds. Lord knows when this habit crept in to my daily schedule but for months I've been out there night and early morning replenishing the bird table and scattering leftovers in the middle of our lawn - well out of the pouncing range of local moggies like our Boris. Even though we're only a mile out of Sheffield city centre, we get a good variety of birds. My nourishment campaign has attracted a growing gang of sparrows and there are wood pigeons, magpies, a jay, blackbirds, a little wren, a robin, bluetits, collared doves and crows. If I ever miss a day, I feel guilty:-
SID SPARROW: Lazy bastard! Bet he was up late for work again.
BRAD SPARROW: No time to chuck us a few scraps.
SPARROW LEADER: Ever see that Hitchcock film, "The Birds"?
MAGGIE MAGPIE (circling menacingly) Now there's an idea!
With February, the days lengthen. Even this morning as I stumbled into our bathroom, I noticed that the grey light was less grey and when I got downstairs the birds were already beginning breakfast. Far ahead I can see summer barbecues and me lying on the lawn again staring up at swallows dancing on the air under cauliflower clouds. Time moves on, day by day. It's hard to believe that my brother in France will be fifty five this week. It seems like yesterday when we were all boys and there was mum and dad and Oscar the cat and Joe Grubham swept the village streets and Mrs Austwick sold us homemade sweets and fireworks ahead of Guy Fawkes Night and we made dens in haystacks and there was Doctor Baker and Mrs Jordan with her rosy cheeks and the summers were golden and endless... but this was all long ago, long ago.