Alone in the conservatory, house full of people, none yet risen, is the feel of Portrush in the summer. Half an hour’s serenity before sixteen hours of clatter and movement. For now, all is still and quiet, but behind the silence is a mix tape soundtrack of the day wakening. Back door ajar, I hear gulls squabble in two syllable Jurassic baying over last night’s pizza crusts I’ve scattered on the lawn. Torn, snatched, gulped, they’re gone in twenty seconds. Squawks fade as they fly off and my ear attunes to the subdued cracks of the conservatory roof, sun moving from behind clouds to warm the bones of the PVC window frames. Sparrows chatter in the hedge, so urgent and important for all their size. One street away, I hear the chug of traffic build. Up the hall, a door opens, another closes, a toilet flushes, a low cough, a door closes again, and the house falls back to sleep. From the high boughs of the cherry tree two collared doves begin coo rhythmic as bell ringers – quick, quick, slow; soft soft, trill.
This little corner of Europe has been sheltered from the heatwave that has cloched the rest of the continent. This morning’s air is fresh and pure, cooler than warm, warmer than cool. Within five minutes, a dark cloud to the west has engulfed the sky and extinguished the sun. No drought here, everything lush and green, weeds tall and strong, white yarrow by the hedge reaching to the sky, taller than me, and splays of ragwort jostling through the potatoes. Enough rain for the weeds and vegetables to share the soil. The hedges, reduced by more than half at the start of the winter, have grown back strong and thick. The bay tree is huge, the sage voluminous, the oregano leggy, long purple flowering stems flanked on one side by pale green radish leaves, on the other, curly red lettuce. The rhubarb battles with the ground elder, broad green awnings of the rhubarb victorious. The blackcurrants have failed, they are small and few. Mum says it wasn’t pruned back hard enough this year.
A robin, blackbird and thrush are the self-appointed wild pets of this house who come to the conservatory door for their morning collation of raisins; the highway men are the starlings, quick to swoop in and steal all. An occasional sparrow tries its luck, but the street fighter robin jabs it ferociously.
Last night’s swimsuit blows on the washing line. One more cup of tea, I shall climb into it, and the day will begin.