It is June already – how did that happen?
One minute I’m getting up at 5.30am in the pitch black to go and photograph a wintry sunrise, the next I’m wide awake at 4am because the dawn chorus convinces my half-asleep brain I’m in an aviary.
And now we are on the cusp of British summertime. How’s your spring been? I’ve mainly tried to avoid getting sunburnt given it’s been scorchio since Boris told us to stay at home. I’ve failed a bit. OK, a lot. Let’s be honest: I had a bit of sunstroke last week.
But I’ve been more successful with staying at home. Usually at this time of year I plan a summer break somewhere. This involves a great deal of brain activity and introspective travelling in one massive circle.
This includes making lists of where to go complete with a preferred option, usually the first place I think about. Then it’s budgets, research, reading far too many reviews, scoping accommodation and restaurants, checking out Google Earth/Street View and general procrastinating until I settle on the first place I thought about.
In the past it has crossed my mind that a Gantt chart would be very helpful for this project planning but that would be a step too far, perhaps.
This year I think things will be different. I was talking to a friend recently who said he’d jettisoned the idea of going abroad and, instead, was going to act like a tourist in his own county. He’d always been so keen to ‘get away’ or ‘get some sun’ that he’d never really spent any time getting to know what was on his doorstep.
And I thought YES. That’s exactly what I like doing.
An unintentional upside to lockdown means I’ve had more time to see my own doorstep in more detail. I’ve found gentler, slower ways to appreciate my surroundings and I’ve rediscovered the world around me.
For example, I’ve paid more attention to what’s in my garden. Previously, it was where I sat to sunbathe or where I hung the washing. Now, I notice so much more. It has been a huge source of comfort and fascination – watching runner bean plants race up their bamboo canes, observing a family of sparrows nesting in the eaves of the house next door and spotting bats when it gets dimpsey.
As it happens I’ve become very fond of the sparrows. Just the other day some starlings were approaching their nest which made me – and them – anxious. I remember being told starlings eat eggs/little birds and nearly freaked out.
It’s possible I still a bit delirious from too much sun the day before, but I spent a good five minutes going ‘PSSST! HSSST! GO AWAY!’ while jumping and waving my arms like an aircraft marshall, minus the hi-vis and finesse.
At the time it seemed an excellent strategy to warn them off and save the sparrows from imminent doom. But I guess it must have looked odd: me, leaping around and waving my arms in nothing but a burgundy towelling gown at 7am. My neighbour gave me some very odd looks later in the day and asked if I was OK.
Anyway. The sparrows are fine. I’ve been watching them like a hawk since (dressed appropriately, FYI).
I admit: I’m not a natural gardener. My husband is responsible for the success of our little patch of earth – kudos to him – and we are yielding crops already. I’ve just picked some home-grown spinach to go with our tea and, like Popeye, I’ll enjoy it later with a squeeze of olive oil.
I’ve also explored green lanes and byways nearby which I never knew existed; buying Sweet Williams from a house up the road and eggs from a farm around the corner while out walking.
I’ve yapped to neighbours more than ever and shopped locally where possible. It’s been gorgeous and I’m going to do my best to adopt these new habits long term.
In some ways I feel like I am seeing my home in new ways. I certainly appreciate it more than I ever did.
So this summer will see me mainly staying at home in Devon, getting to know it more intimately and trying to avoid startling the starlings, sparrows and neighbours with early morning bathrobe jives.