Caution! I Brake for Fledglings

I’ve been dipping in and out of Lev Parikian’s exploration of the microseasons, Light Rains Sometimes Fall – something of a consolation in these fretful times. It’s refreshing to find a writer who doesn’t need to go to the ends of the earth to find solace in nature and is happy to share the delight to be had in watching a pied wagtail outside a vape shop in South London or the weeds in the cracks in the pavements. There’s also something pleasing about the idea of subdividing the seasons into incremental changes – even if the South East’s microseasons are not the same as ours up here.

This week, for instance, is definitely the season of ‘learner birds flirt with danger’. As the first fledgelings have left their nests and are negotiating the unfamiliar hazards of an approaching bicycle, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to brake hard while heading down our hill to avoid running over a bird that’s clearly only just shed its L-plates. The other day, one sparrow mistimed its launch from the hedgerow so badly that it only narrowly avoided being julienned by my spokes as it shot between my front and back wheels. It’s bad enough on our quiet road, when I can screech down to walking pace if need be, but out on the B road I’ve a little less room to manoeuvre and I can only hope the baby birds find their wings before we both find out the hard way what happens when pushbike and passerine collide.

It’s also got me wondering how best to sum up other times of the year as the seasons turn. The first week of July (when the schools let out and the rain usually restarts) would have to be ‘Come in, you’ll have had your summer’. Midway through August (when autumn starts up here, to the surprise of every English visitor we’ve ever had) would be ‘I told you to bring a coat’. The glorious golden week in September that catches you by surprise just as you’ve resigned yourself to October is ‘And here’s what you’ve been missing’. And November, which in my experience does relentless better than any other month, probably doesn’t have microseasons at all, unless you count multiple variations on ‘Rain falls sideways’, ‘Birds fly sideways’, and (my personal favourite) ‘Icy particles are blown sideways into your ear with some force’.

But that’s all yet to come, and for now we’ve got actual nice weather which means it’s no skin off my nose to wobble down the road at walking pace as a ball of feathers flaps frantically in front of me without quite working out how to get out of the way. Time to be like Lev and savour these moments as they happen, as we await the microseason that comprises the one fine week of the summer: ‘Aye but it’ll no last, mind.’

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