Magpies hop around the winter lawn - their tiny black eyes looking hither and thither for food or danger. They bully their avian cousins - blackbirds, thrushes, wood-pigeons and sparrows. None are as sharp-witted as those sleek magpies in their distinctive plumage - like dinner jackets or military uniforms.
Despite their intelligence, they cannot access the little wooden feeding station that hangs from a branch of our ornamental sumac tree. There the hedge sparrows and blue tits rule supreme - busily selecting seeds before fluttering off to consume them. Back and forth they go.
A crow caws from above the columnar fat ball container. Balanced precariously on a thin branch, he seems frustrated that he can't push his gnarled beak further down for another nutritious snack. The blue tits do not share this frustration. With wiry little toes holding on, they peck rapidly at the grey spheres before darting off.
The letter box clatters and something heavy lands on our coir doormat. Perhaps a magazine or a catalogue. Outside in a bitterly cold midday there is a flash of fluorescent orange as the postman continues with his round. A bespectacled fat woman in a grey fur coat strolls down the hill. She is wreathed in misty cigarette smoke.
A black and white cat hurries across our road between parked cars. The air is still. No movement in the leafless trees. A thick layer of cloud conceals the blue firmament and the golden orb above where silver aeroplanes and kaleidoscopic kites fly. Down here the suburbs shiver in an empty monochrome haze. Like blood, nearly all colour has been leached away.
We are waiting for February to arrive. Fabulous February.