After my behind the scenes trip to the museum in Chichester (see yesterday's Daily Blog) I couldn't go home without paying a visit to Mr and Mrs Peregrine Falcon, nesting up high in the Cathedral turrets.
The current Mrs PF is not the same Mother of Renown who raised 42 chicks over the course of twelve years. Last year a new couple took up temporary residence at Number One, Celestial Heights and they have returned again this
year. Four eggs were laid, most appropriately over the Easter weekend, and hatching is expected at the beginning of May. In the meantime the current Mr and Mrs PF know a lot about modern marriage and twenty-first century parenting.
Having said that, in comparison to today's loved-up couples (whether consciously or unconsciously coupling) the Peregrine Pair don't appear to be particularly close. Romance doesn't seem to come naturally to them. They are, in fact,
decidedly snappy with each other but then, it's a testing time in any a marriage, is it not? the anticipation of pending parenthood. Mr PF doesn't fly back with tasty morsels to tempt his spouse while she is sitting atop the nest. Nor, on her part, is she
prepared to shoulder all the responsibility of safeguarding their precious nest-full. She is clearly not the type to be a home-bound housewife. Rather, she and her mate take it in turns to head off in search of food, leaving the other in charge of the house
and eggs. This is, indeed, a Thoroughly Modern Marriage of Equals.
The RSPB volunteers who staff the tent in the Cathedral gardens, helping visitors to look through the powerful binoculars trained on the turret
or to view the webcam which is recording, flutter by flutter, Events On The Nest, say it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues when the chicks hatch. Will Mrs PF expect her mate to do his fair share of chick-sitting while she has a chance to
wing it? Or will Mr PF come over all Hunter-Gatherer on her and insist that she stays home alone, with just a brood of hungry, screechy youngsters for company, while he wheels off into the wide blue yonder in search of sustenance and a taste of freedom from
domestic cares? Who has the easier task, I ask you?
The Middle of the Darling Daughters can certainly sympathise, from her position as mum of tiny twins and a two year old Rampaging Rascal. Like falcon chicks,
the Twinkles expect instant gratification where food is concerned and prefer not to nap when their older brother does as this would leave their Dear Mamma all on her own and she might get lonely. On the rare occasions she manages to take wing for a precious
hour to herself, she finds it hard not to think about what's going on back at the nest. Sorry, the home.
In the Olden Days (I remember them well) it would have been considered somewhat unusual to carry on
like Mr and Mrs Peregrine Falcon. Raising the bairns was women's work (and pleasure) while keeping the ship afloat and a roof over the family's heads was a Man's Responsibility. Then we women burned our bras, demanded equality and insisted on Equal Rights
and Responsibilities when it came to foraging for food (aka holding down a job) and sitting on the nest (aka child care.)
There's no going back, of course, even if we wanted to, and the peregrines' partnership is
A Sign Of Our Times.
When I visited the RSPB tent, there wasn't too much going on. Mr PF was off somewhere, enjoying himself and Mrs PF was sitting protectively on the nest, obscuring all view of her four
eggs, for all the world as if she knew about the intrusive telescope trained on her and her family. I watched and waited a while in case something might happen, before heading off to the railway station where (thinking of My Stomach, as ever) I planned to
buy an egg sandwich and a cup of coffee to consume while waiting for my train back home. Friends who stayed on to partake of a rather more exciting lunch in the Cloisters Cafe before making their way to the tent, were fortunate enough to be in exactly the
right place for The Changing of the Guard and so saw both falcons in flight. Just my luck to miss it!
I comforted myself with the thought that there is always another time. At least I tried to. I have never
found this particularly easy as I can't bear to miss out on anything. Yesterday I should have spent the day with the Tornado and the Twinkles but unforeseen circumstances kept me at home. "There'll be another time," the Middle of the Darling Daughters consoled
me - and of course there will be. Lots of other times, in fact. But there won't be This Time and, as I said, I hate to miss out on anything.
The Twinkles are too young to be bothered that I didn't turn up.
The Tornado (aka the Rampaging Rascal) will just be happy to see me when I do turn up, bless him. I think he sees me as a kind of time traveller who pops up like a bad penny every so often when he least expects me.
As for the peregrine falcons, to be honest, they can take me or leave me. There is no doubt at all that they are more interesting to me than I am to them. I know my place. As do the Totally Modern Marrieds at Number One, Celestial Heights.
To read the newspapers you'd think that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were the only couple expecting a Happy Event. But we know better. Four times over. Don't we?