The conversation, if such a brief exchange could be termed such, went thus.Me: ''Morning chaps, lovely day".
One of them: "Yeah, but there's nothing about"
‘Nothing about’. What exactly does that mean? I briefly entertained the notion of nudging them gently into the river, this brace of morose humanity, or perhaps suspending them by their thumbs from the nearest willow, but elected instead to smile lamely and plod on. Birders, especially those obsessed with photographing ‘rarities’ are impossible to please. On such a fine, crisp winter’s day it was a joy to be alive; a blessing to be fit and well enough to get out and embrace the fresh air. Better surely to celebrate the fact that you still have a pulse and are occupying the right side of the grass than lament the absence of that elusive ‘something’ without which the enterprise is deemed a failure?
‘Nothing about’. What did they expect? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain? Krakatoa erupting? A harpy eagle, half eaten monkey clasped in its massive talons, gliding serenely across the glade? Apologies to John Cleese, but honestly! we encountered each other on the trail at Strumpshaw Fen, not in the heart of the Pantanal.
‘Nothing about’. Really? What about the rays of the low winter sun slanting through the backlit trees, casting long, tapering zebra patterns of light through the frosted haze? What about the sight of each twig, each leaf, each burr, catkin and withered berry being encrusted with a layer of spiky frost? Frost, slowly melting in the tepid warmth to form glistening drops of prismatic moisture; refracting rainbow shades in their miniscule thousands.
Did they notice the molehill dotted meadow coated in a dusting of white gossamer, fading with depth into the mysteriously mist enshrouded wood? Real Wind in the Willows stuff if ever there was. Were they immune to the heartening sight of gleaming ranks of ice laden reed heads sparkling like a carpet of jewels against the pure blue January sky? Or the sight of a rich chestnut fox nosing around the margins of the broad in its ceaseless quest for life sustaining nourishment?
There was too the vibrant colours, yellow, blue and azure, of cheeky blue tits scolding me with staccato trills when I interrupted their raids on a cache of seeds. The banshee screech of a water rail so close to me that I involuntarily shuddered in momentary alarm. And then the kestrel; hovering into the scant breeze with motionless head just a few metres above me, surveying the ground beneath for scurrying mice and voles.