It started as one of those days, the light through the curtains just enough to read before rising to face whatever is in store. Over the airwaves comes news that the ferry from Fionnaphort will be at some risk after lunch. Behind the curtains there is more blue than cloud, and the thousand or so daffodils bob lightly. Not a hint of what is promised to roll in later.
Cycling time then, best chance of the day. Get moving, for it will change by the hour, and the homeward leg will see weary legs working passage against the wind.
The book I set down is proving to be a real gem; and that barely three months into Lev Parikian‘s 12 month odyssey to rediscover the birding habits, much flawed, of a distant youth. His writing has much of the Simon Barnes to it, in terms of talking birds to the inexpert reader. His youth is not unfamiliar, back in the 70s, memorising the Kent batting averages. Music took over, from violin to piano; a crash at the drums, and then the realisation from his seat at the back of the orchestra that the baton was what he wanted.
So Parikian conducts us through the days of ticking off birds, to learning them properly. His ear is attuned much more than mere mortals, but it is the jizz first, then the detail.
The outward leg is a good warm up, then we head uphill, into that area of calm. A starling sings from the left, answered from the trees on t’other side of the road. Further off the cuckoo calls, for it is the first of May and I’d have been disappointed if she had not joined me on the morning ride.
An earworm, and Mel Torme joins us too, attaboy.
It had been the wheatear yesterday, first sighting of the year, hopping about in the tussocks in the shadow of Loudoun Hill. A pair of ravens circled high above, riding the thermals under a sun chilled by an easterly breeze. The ravens settled on the crags, and above a pair of white dugs dragged their owners over the tops. It had been a walking day, a brief respite away from a growing heap of work on the office floor, let down by software updates. A day to be paid for soon, one hopes.
The hill does not end, just teases from time to time, a dip, a breather, then the climbing muscles strain once more. After a couple of weeks gently easing the winter from the legs and the lungs we aim further, higher, anything but faster. New fences and gates have appeared since last we rode this route, but the pain remains. Down we whizz, sharp left bend, then the long slog up past the battle monument.
It is the ride down that thrills, wind behind, bends and rises, and down again. Heavy on the brakes as the main road looms, rush hour, trucks and school buses replacing the one cyclist I have seen in an hour. On that downhill the birdsong disappears, replaced by a ruddy windrush in the ears as the fields and the jizz whizz by. Black lambs at the teat, tails helicoptering, the rubber band working towards to the dock. Soon they will leave mama’s side, frolic together, and I sense garlic and rosemary, salivating.
And the lamb lies down, another earworm. But I prefer the jazz with my jizz, and Torme reminds me again of the date.
A long, slow, slog home, into the rising wind. The main road and the traffic is torture, the surface pitted. Behind me the celtic knot banner that flies atop a bendy pole gives advance notice that a low slung bum struggles, hidden by the hedges. It rustles and snaps in the wind, unhindered by the speed at which the wheels turn. In the distance a white speck on the hillside draws me on, four long miles yet, tiring legs, rising wind.
I’ll give you more of Parikian later, for his Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? is another fine example of the writing projects that those grand chaps at Unbound can bring to us (and the best route for some of us to see our name in print). A writer pitches an idea, and those who want to back the project. In time a beautifully bound volume arrives through the post. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of them, and Parikian’s not going to end that run.
The final slog up the hill, and I hear that cuckoo yet, a memory to take home. Lev would tick it off on his list. But I have a song in my ears, for we are On The First Of May, and surrounded by what might loosely be termed Mountain Greenery. It’s a fine day, so far.