…when the most compelling thing to be found on television is a live video-feed of a patch of mud at the bottom of a pond:
Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and emails about mum. She really was the best mum in the world. I know I'm biased, but I also happen to be extremely well-informed. Trust me on this.
I couldn't bring myself to speak at the funeral, but the lady curate did an excellent job piecing together a tribute from the reminiscences of my dad, sister, uncle and me. She certainly picked up on the unplanned theme which ran through our memories and choice of music: mum's great love of nature. We spoke of her delight at finding glow-worms as a child on holiday in Anglesey; her self-professed stupidity at school due to her constant day-dreaming about the countryside; her taming of the blackbirds in the garden; her concerns that her birds might not be being fed properly while she was confined to bed.
It was mum who gave me my great love of the natural world. It was mum who bought me all those nature books when I was a boy (and adult), who taught me the names of the birds and flowers, and who took me on all those walks in the countryside. Mum was so excited when Jen and I bought a former farmhouse in the Yorkshire countryside, and delighted in my tales of the wildlife I saw here: the hares and occasional deer in the front field, the rabbits in the garden, the lapwings and curlews on the moors. Mum could never quite understand my enthusiasm for standing in the garden at twilight while the local bats flitted around my head, but she knew that she was totally responsible for the enthusiasm. In recent months, local gossip, curious droppings, and claw marks on our trees have convinced me that badgers are visiting the garden. I have been looking out for them all summer, keeping mum posted, but I still haven't seen any. I was really looking forward to breaking the news of my first badger sighting to mum. I'll keep looking.
Mum and Dad had planned a holiday in her beloved Anglesey earlier this month, but, some months ago, she realised she wouldn't be up to it and asked if Jen and I would like to go instead. We agreed, not realising how little time mum had left. As it turned out, we took our Anglesey holiday the week after mum's funeral. We stayed in a static caravan on the same farm my parents have been going to since I was a child—just three miles down the coast from where mum found those glow-worms over 60 years ago. The place has countless fond memories for me. Early on the first morning of our holiday, I went down to the headland at the bottom of the field and sat on the rocks looking out to sea, reminiscing. After half an hour or so, I spotted a dolphin rounding the point and heading out to sea. Five minutes later, two more followed. In all the hundreds of hours I have sat on that headland over the years, I had never seen dolphins. Mum would have been so excited. I'll post some photographs soon.
Now, if you'll forgive me, I have to go and feed my birds.
From Nature Cure by Richard Mabey (p.135):
The tawny owl's generic name is Sirix, Latin for witch, and there are stories of the Church burning owls for witchcraft in the Middle Ages…
The above quote is taken from the final paragraph I read over breakfast this morning before I put on my coat and went to get the car out of the garage. As I stepped out of the door, a tawny owl flew across my path and headed off down the hill. I have heard it hooting for the last week or so, but this was the very first time I have seen a tawny owl in my garden.
I think you'll find it was.