Four swifts screeching and scything through the blue sky over the back gardens of West Hampstead. They’ve come back exactly to the day (see post last year (https://petecoles.me/2013/06/04/theyre-back/). And it was on a 15 May that Ted Hughes published his poem “Swifts”. Curious precision. And at least there are still four of them, as numbers had been decreasing each year.
On a walk around Kenwood this morning, the repeated notes of a song thrush were, for once, the first I heard, rather than the squawking of ring-necked parakeets that has started to dominate the birdsong in the woods around here. The ribald laughter of a green woodpecker interrupted the caws of carrion crows and descending song of a chaffinch. Familiar sounds that seem at home here among the old oaks and beech trees. But there are human parakeets today, dressed in fluorescent lycra, sweating as they jog or wade like space-age shepherdesses among flocks of spaniels, poodles and grinning labradors.
Far off sounds of an aeroplane, an ambulance siren. By a pond, what I think is a fisherman under a large green umbrella turns out to be a homeless person lying on a sun-lounge, his bald head emerging from a sleeping bag. And in a car park in the Vale of Health, fairground people live in caravans called Monza and Barracuda, next to a jolly painted cart advertising Happy Falafels, in the shadow of bankers’ houses.