There are times when all that is needed is to Keep the Faith.
Today was one of those days as I watched, in dismay, the weather
forecast on Breakfast TV. There was the well-known map of the UK, across which a swathe of bright blue – representing heavy rain – was spreading inexorably from east to west. According to the helpful clock at the bottom of the screen, the
wet weather would sweep past Portsmouth and hit our coastline around 10 a.m. Which was exactly the time our Bird Watching Group was due to gather in the car park at the Bluebird Cafe on the beach at Ferring. The weather forecaster had the grace to look
vaguely apologetic as she reported the unhappy news.
I decided to telephone the Lovely Linda, the convenor of our Merry Birdy Band. She said she would turn up
in the car park, just in case anyone else did, but that she would quite understand if I would prefer to give it a miss. “I’ll just see if anyone turns up and have a coffee in the cafe,” said Linda. Well, I heard the words coffee and
cafe and found myself offering to keep her company. I couldn’t bear the thought of her, lonely in the cafe car park, not when she had been kind enough to take over the running of the group when our previous leader had to call it a day. She deserved my
support, I told Mr B, who was rolling his eyes at the sight of me packing my rucksack and preparing to face the elements. Indeed she did. Plus the Bluebird cafe sells delicious Fairtrade coffee for £1.90 for a large mug. It also has large picture
windows through which we might even spot a few birds. Mostly, to be honest, of the sea gull variety.
Lovely Linda picks me up in her car just after 9.30.
Scottish Christine is already ensconced in the front seat. Great – there will be a least three of us for coffee. We drive to Ferring and the Lovely Linda tells us about the conservation activities – clearing ditches seemed to be her
main task - she has been engaged in over the last few days. I am full of admiration. Scottish Christine admits, ruefully, that she is having enough trouble just clearing the leaves off her lawn.
We arrive in the car park. The rain is coming down in sheets now and the wind is whipping off the sea in huge gusts. The car rocks under the force of it. A van belonging to a Dog Walking Service arrives in the
car park and disgorges four yappy dogs from its rear doors. Bet their owners were happy to hand over the responsibility of walking the dogs on a day like this. Lovely Linda tells us about her Scottie dog whom she had to leave with a new owner when she
moved to a No Dogs Allowed flat in Worthing some years ago.
Another car parks beside us – two new members of our Birdy Group have turned up just to
say “hello” and introduce themselves. How very sociable! They should fit in well with our friendly group. Plus here is Jolly Jean, with the wicked twinkle in the eye. Good heavens, look who’s here! It’s Penny and David who
are off to Crete tomorrow and said they wouldn’t be able to come bird-watching today. They have obviously decided that they can at least manage a short break from their packing. Tall Margaret arrives, with husband Ron who says if we keep a sharp
look out we might spot a drowning water-surfer or, failing that, a ship-wreck. If he was tweeting, he would add LOL. He tells Tall Margaret (for no particular reason – I think this is called a non-sequitur) that he thinks they should buy themselves
wet suits. Tall Margaret does not grace this suggestion with a response.
I am chatting to another new member whose name I am ashamed to say I forgot to ask. She
is expecting her first great grand-child at almost exactly the same time as I am expecting my twin grand-daughters. We talk about how, once you become a mother, you are never completely free of worry ever again. We agree, however, that it goes
with the job and we wouldn’t want it any other way. I tell her about our next Birdy Group meet at beautiful Warnham Nature Reserve where last year we saw so many birds, including a kingfisher who literally posed for us while we snapped photographs of
him. There’s a pretty good cafe there, too...
By now there are twelve of us round the table in the Bluebird Cafe, all smiling, laughing and chatting
away nineteen to the dozen. The rain is still lashing down outside, the white horses atop the waves are galloping towards the shore as if approaching the winning line in the Derby. We sit cradling our coffee mugs, warming our hands. Whatever it’s
like outside, it’s cosy enough inside.
After an hour we reluctantly decide to head off in our different directions, Penny and David to finish their packing,
Tall Margaret and Ron to (possibly) look at wet suits. Scottish Christine and I pile back into Lovely Linda’s car. We say how glad we are we came and didn’t it say something about our Birdy Group that we all turned up this wet and windy morning?
Despite the weather, our Birdy Group Kept The Faith...