The days begin to lengthen as the cold begins to strengthen

A robin.
A robin.

I KNOW it’s a blurred photo but I hope you’ll forgive. I took it through my kitchen window when my old pet robin was standing on the bird table on two inches of snow wondering what had happened to the world. So did I.

Soon after, I was out there with the shovel and the yard broom uncovering the ground again. It wasn’t quite as bad as that moment on Dartmoor back in the sixties when I opened the door to find a snowdrift up to the top and the ponies like polar bears on an ice floe.

That was the year when the RAF dropped haybales for the wild ones on the tors of the moors.

This robin picture was of the winter two years ago and I sent it to one or two friends in Tasmania and California just to show them what we have to put up with.

“Well come and live over here you dope,” is all that they say. What? Be without robins, and snow, and icicles that hang by the wall, and milk coming frozen home in the pail? Not likely.

It’s those little things that give resonance to our lives. Imagine eating Christmas pudding on Bondi Beach, or wearing a paper hat in the Grand Canyon.

I once ate turkey with all the trimmings in the Sinai desert. We had reared them in the open air cinema where they went gobble-gobble.

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”. But I was so glad to get back to proper festivities with mistletoe (they don’t have that in Iraq) and holly, the silence of Christmas Day with empty roads, people unusually friendly, those daft presents of a shirt and a pair of everlasting socks and perhaps a box of cartridges or even Newberry fruits.

The radio still comes up with some treasures such as Under Milkwood or The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker as it did decades ago.

There is also the problem of the birds in the garden. Cock robin is not just for Christmas after all.

When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen is the old saying. Birds fed in November come to rely on you even more than before and when they have a mere nine hours feeding time at the close of the year you can hardly leave them without food for a fortnight without getting neighbours in to help them. So that is the main reason for staying at home and you can keep Christmas by the pyramids. The robins, the blackbirds, dunnocks, marsh tits and cole tits, great and blue too, wood pigeons and nuthatches, even the bank voles and the yellow-necked mice provide us with entertainment. And with the weather forecasters telling us we’re in for a hard winter again cock robin needs us more than ever before in his old age.

Happy Christmas everybody and see you in the New Year.

Richard Williamson