I’d decided after visiting Frank Ushers border retreat a few months back to put a concerted effort into attracting wild birds around the studio gardens. I’d been entranced by the amount of wildlife that were visiting the feeders hanging outside his living room window, multiplied by reflections in long mirrors he’d fixed where the internal wooden shutters used to fit. The entire wild garden that his wife Sue has designed was like an open aviary and despite the presence of Frank’s own cats the space was a swirl of constant movement. There was something incredibly calm and spiritual about it all and the soft energies of the flirting birds in the air lent a vibrancy to the place I felt I needed here at the studio.
A few months later I find myself smiling at gangs of sparrows cavorting around the scarlet berried Rowans and in the sprawling winter jasmine. Taking turns at sorties on the feeders hanging along the outside wall at the kitchen garden while cats stalk the unwary or foolish that dance on the deck, picking up fallen seed, too greedy to await their turn in the safety of the larders overhead. Casualties are low and the population of birds increasing as word gets out locally where the best food in town is!
The Bluetits, hanging upside down on the swaying half coconut shells, gorging on high energy suet outside my office window always make me pause for thought and take my mind away from the glow of the monitor screen, my window into another world. The enforced limbo of the last couple of weeks since the glory of Leamington has been difficult to negotiate. The virus that took control a few weeks ago refuses to budge and the antibiotics I always try to avoid are now coursing through my system and I grudgingly admit they should have been on my menu long before now. There’s a cigarette burning in the ashtray that should never have been lit, an old bad habit that should never have been allowed to return which crept in and offered me false solace when I found myself bogged down under heavy shellfire a couple of months ago. Now I am waiting on the “right” time to stop igniting these fuses that seem to do nothing but detonate another barrage of coughing and leave nothing but receipts in my wallet. It’s the toughest addiction I have ever known and being told the obvious by friends and family doesn’t help. It irritates and openly annoys as I know they are right and the sounds in my chest in the middle of the night that catch my fears when I am staring at a dark ceiling keep me awake and urge me to acceptance of a duty to myself that lasts as long as until the sleep gratefully closes in again and shuts my mind down. Why oh why do I embrace my worst enemy at times like these? Why, when worrying about a wheezing lung and a spasmodic cough that ejects another round of phlegm do I immediately set another tube aglow and draw smoke into my throat. It doesn’t make any sense. It has to be addressed very soon but the commitment has to be found and in this maelstrom of external pressures it’s so difficult to find the moment when there are no Pavlovian bells to be heard that have me reaching instinctively for a cigarette, as if the nicotine will somehow give me access to more concentration or wisdom to deal with the problem. So I smoke and I worry so I smoke and I worry. A cycle that needs to be broken. But not today I fear.
Today’s issues. Why am I using 50kwh of electricity a day? Where is it going? I live alone in semi darkness? Where do I get the new rope to thread through the drying rack that hangs from the ceiling that shredded last night and nearly came down on the sofa where I would normally sit? Why does my music business lawyer not return calls on an important issue that has been ongoing since February? Why does the motor on the septic tank clearwater unit not kick into action after yesterday’s emptying? Why has the partner of a legal firm not responded to my numerous mails as to a publishing issue that has been going on for months? When are the new speakers for the TV set up going to arrive so I can get it all operational? When am I going to get my act together and listen to the St Mary’s Fishheads Club gigs so I can pick out the content of an album I need to get out early next year to help bridge the funding on the new album? Where do I get the door pin for the wood burning stove that has gone missing despite me putting it in a safe place when the split pin broke months ago? What is the “parking light bulb” that the onboard computer on the Volvo keeps telling me needs replaced and why does it keep warning me every 30 secs? Whittle away, whittle away!
All can and will and are being be dealt with, little by little bit by bit. In the context of what goes on on that shiny monitor screen it amounts to nothing. I have heat, I have light, I have food in the fridge and water in my taps. I am not being shelled or shot at, I am not starving or terminally ill, I have a roof over my head and I sleep in a bed on my own. For all that I am grateful for and never take it for granted. I watch the monitor screen to remind me that my petty problems are just that.
I enjoy the solace of writing. It makes me think of who and what I am and steadies me when things seem to be getting out of hand, when confidence is shaken and worries creep in that should never have been allowed head space in the first place. It reminds me of what I am supposed to do on every level.
It’s dark outside. The birds are gone. They will be back tomorrow.
The price of peanuts? £2.35 a kilo if you really want to know.
But does that really matter?