Among the sparrows
By Parson Thru
We got away with it for most of the day. Great clumps of cloud passing over, dense, grey, silver, white like Santa’s beard without the nicotine stains. I'd hung my bedding on the line, where it filled like yards of clipper canvas but thankfully stayed put.
I’ve mainly been reading “Genre” by John Frow; turning pages, scribbling notes and leaning back to think. I started Aristotle’s “Poetics” the other day, or Michael Heath’s introduction anyway. Plato’s “Republic” should arrive this week. Everything seems to point to those two texts. Another Grail… Frow’s book might be useful, though.
I’ve had company in the form of sparrows, flitting in and out to gorge on ants that have been running across the floor for days. They seem to be thriving on the bait-boxes I put down. I worry about the sparrows.
There’s something different about the relationship with these sparrows compared with the ones that flitted around my feet on Madrid’s terazzas, occasionally stealing frutos secos. Something less urban.
I can just about recognise individuals by their body shape and markings and their behaviour: their level of curiosity and boldness. I’m guessing that the slim ones with grey caps are the adults and the shorter, speckled brown (can’t resist “fluffy”) ones the young, maybe from this spring.
The young ones seem to know no fear and inquisitively squeeze themselves through gaps in metal stays with Houdini-like suppleness. Mostly, the sparrows fly in singly and zig-zag across the floor, collecting ants deftly in their beak or just downing them in one. Occasionally, they arrive in twos – one with a neat grey cap, one without. Each goes their own way, but a soft chirping keeps them in touch, hence my hunch that one must be the parent.
I look down and there’s one right beneath my foot. Little brown one. It’s head is turned to one side, listening. It stoops to look up. I move slightly and the grey cap beats its wings explosively and exits. In a split second, the brown one follows. From time to time I hear a tapping and see a sparrow knocking the side of its tiny beak against the aluminium door rail. It’s what the crow was doing obsessively on the plastic guttering.
Another grey cap. A brown one lands on the floor. It hops beneath the shelf where the giant geranium lives, picking up ants and anything else small and interesting. It fluffs the feathers of its wings. Opening them, almost, but not quite. I sneak photos and send them off to Madrid, Nigeria and Bournemouth.
It’s after seven now. The wind’s up, buffeting the fence behind me. I have visions of it crashing through the glass. Why should the fact I’m here make it happen now? In the end, it rained. I’d taken the bedding in already. There’s something elemental about watching rain from under basic shelter. A friend in Madrid suggested I was St. Francis, surrounded by birds in my hermitage. In my mind’s eye, a painting in the Prado; but that one’s el Bosco, St Anthony.
The clouds part, exposing sky and sun redolent of “Animals” or el Bosco. The sun ignites the flowers of the big geranium. The dozen stems seem to stretch, bearing them high above the foliage, like Strangelove airbursts. Today is world Bikini day.
A burst of WhatsApp messages. A photo of the beach at Santander. Empty. I’ve only seen it from seat 28F or thereabouts. On cue, the sun goes in. The wind blows up again. I roll my sleeves down. Think about calling it a draw. July. Really? The blackbird’s making roosting noises. How come they never come in here?
I’ll do the rounds. Water the containers outside the house. Push my finger in the soil of the tomatoes. The small geraniums, it’s easier to heft. There are eleven of them. Most are coming into flower, exceeding expectations. More highly-strung than race-horses. The big one has a thirst like a darts-player.
I was going to stay and read, but it’s too cold and I need to keep my mother company. She’s a football addict since the classic games in lockdown. Asks every game which manager’s Don Revie. But she knows her Venables, her Lampard, Shearer and Linaker, of course. Now she’s into live games. Except to her they’re all repeats. But she won a four pound bet. Or was that the Derby? Both, it seems.
I stuff the books that I scattered on the table at eleven into a webbing bag. Hughes times two. Baudelaire’s “Les fleurs du mal” and a French dictionary, Kerouac’s “Book of Haikus”, nicely curated by Regina Weinreich. It seems they’re not really haiku. Neither are these:
Unopened in the greenhouse
Sparrows eating ants
Above Bikini Atoll
Bedding setting sail
Hiding under foliage
Rain attacks the glass
Kerouac was doing his own thing.
One more little task, then bed.