“THEM ‘oly ‘awks are takin’ all the birds, I expect,” said my friend, a countryman who doesn’t miss much. “Them and the sparrow ‘awks. I don’t mind the buzzards or the fork-tails. (kites) They just take rabbits and rubbish of the roads.”
Well everything has a price, I suggested, and it was worth paying as far as the cathedral peregrines are concerned.
“Maybe,” was all he replied. I know how he feels.
Go up the stone stairway into the base of the spire and cross beneath the vast pine beams and that bare humpy old floor that looks as though it ought to have a Neil Armstrong footprint, and come out into the turret footway and you would wonder about them ‘oly’awks.
Bodies stuffed into the windy crannies of the ancient stones, or rather the remains of bodies, looking like something from a journey into the after-life for a Pharoah.
The green speculum of a teal’s wing shines a dull emerald still, even after months of winter rains. A blackbird’s beak remains as bright as a new banana.
What is that drift of dead leaves? Only a woodcock and a pipit. The strewn feathers of wood pigeons are still as bright as snow. I saw all these and more before the famous birds came back yet again to clasp the crags with crooked hands.
It didn’t worry me. I see as much and much more on the sides of the roads: three water rails for instance, hit by cars going much too fast on the road past the Singleton Open Air Museum, as the birds tried to follow the Lavant stream up and then over the Downs on their migration.
I would rather see a peregrine than a Peugeot. Peregrines are not just arrows across the sky, giving a mind a bit of extension into the heavens.
They have a daily drama of life equal to any Byronic epic.
There are no laggars in their dominion, all are on the edge of existence. Imagine having to grab your shopping off the shelves at 150 miles per hour.
Imagine, if you are in a happy family releationship for thirteen years, having to fight off your grandson who want your home and is prepared to stab you with the eight knives he holds.
Think of how as a wife you would feel if a younger female wanted your husband and your house and would kill you for them.
It’s thrilling Soap up there in the sky above the city, as the most successful peregrine pair in Britain start yet another year of occupation. They are hoping to rear another four childre, making 35 children.
If you go along to the cathedral restaurant or tea rooms or whatever they call themselves nowadays, you can see it all happening through the RSPB telescopes until mid July.
You can have a cup of ‘oly ‘orlicks to keep you warm as well.