Being there                          

My new office

The sound of a claxon in the distance. The baker is on his way. Behind me, the mooing of our neighbour's beef cattle, cruising their meadow. Above me, starlings fighting over the rippening cherries, as I sit typing on my laptop in a hammock, just a few feet away. Hanging CDs in the branches and me clapping occasionally, have little or no effect against the urge to feed their young.

Redstarts, blackcaps, goldfinches, wagtails and blackbirds criss-cross our immediate airspace as buzzards, harriers and red kites scan the meadows and freshly-ploughed fields for mice and voles. We are beginning to recognise each of their songs, silhouettes and flight styles.

Our summer visitors are all here. Golden Orioles, surprisingly hard to spot, considering their bright yellow bodies and jungle-like "willo-wow" song. Hoopoes, fresh in from Africa, swoop about with their huge black and white crests and pink plumage. Swallows, swifts and house martins clip the long grasses, grabbing lunch on the wing from the abundent swarms of insects. (Talking of which, the church bells just tolled one o'clock. Time to prepare our own dejeuner sur l'herbes.)

In a few hours time, the swallows will be replaced by tiny bats and a nightingale will begin its night-long aria. All on a backdrop of non-stop crickets.

I can hear goats wearing bells off to the left of me. The farmer has released them into the field. His chickens come onto our bottom field and we hear the cock crow and watch him strutting his stuff. We plan on getting our own chickens, for their eggs and the pleasure of seeing them about the place.

A traffic jam, Hautes-Pyrénées style.

It all sounds so idylic. It is. But I sometimes have to stop and take it all in, to be aware of what we have around us. This is the fruit of our decision to leave the rat race. It is also the reward for our hard work and patience. It was well worth the wait. Living in the city, our senses were overloaded with noise, signals, stress and uninvited messages from media, advertising and neighbours TV sets. Our only noisy neighbour here, is an owl that comes to life as we settle into bed and a group of frogs that go 'plop' all night.

I grew up, fishing with my grandfather as often as possible. He took me to the most wonderful rivers, lakes and streams in pursuit of trout, tench, chub and salmon. I loved sitting silently for hours, watching my float, as animals and birds appeared all around me. I now have that same feeling, just a few yards from our front door.

I'm sure that a lot of you have no idea what half of the birds I mention, look like. Perhaps many of you have no interest at all in things that crawl, fly or bite. But for those of you that do, I will be adding a Nature notes section to the site in the future. That's if I can be persuaded to get out of this hammock.

Perry 'Attenborough' Taylor


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