Scottish Christine tells us that at her Science Discussion Group this afternoon, they will be talking epigenetics. None of the other three occupants of the Lovely Linda’s car - me included - have ever heard
of any such thing. Fortunately, in preparation for her afternoon of Scientific Discovery, Christine has carried out a little research, courtesy of everybody's Best Friend Forever, Mr Google.
Epigenetics, she explains, is where we are influenced by something which happened to an ancestor. So, for example, the descendants of some poor Irishman laid low in the days of the infamous potato famine might inexplicably
suffer from an eating disorder like bulimia or anorexia. There's nothing quite like epigenetics, Christine muses, for loading guilt upon your unsuspecting head when you consider what misfortunes you might have off-loaded onto your off-spring.
I think of traumatic episodes in my life which might have influenced outcomes for my Foursome. In particular, I recall being taken on a rollercoaster by a persuasive Mr B in our courting
days (such an unfashionable term, don’t you agree?) and sitting throughout the ride totally rigid, white with fear and speechless - while all about me other girls screamed in mock terror and clung onto their boyfriends. You would have thought, given
the theory of epigenetics, that all four of my yet-to-be-born children would dread fun fair rides of the Swooping Up And Down Variety - but, no, they all take after their devil may care father. For which, now I have the merest inkling of what I might have
visited upon them, I am Extremely Thankful.
Our conversation on epigenetics comes to a sudden close when we arrive at the Bluebird Café where our Birdy
Group is gathering for our October meet-up. We note that the car park is, if anything, in an even worse condition than on our last visit - the puddles have all joined up to form lakes through which the Lovely Linda, who is driving us, delicately navigates
her trusty vehicle. I silently congratulate myself on wearing my boots.
We are a Merry Band, indeed, setting off along the banks of the Ferring Rife in search
of feathered friends, revelling in sunshine that dispels any thoughts we might have that winter is on its way. Surely the sun will bring the birds out of their hiding places, we tell each other, hopefully.
By the way, those of you who have followed over the years my desperate attempts to be an expert on Things Bird Related, will be delighted to discover that I have made real progress. No, I haven't lost the how to focus my binoculars
properly, nor have I spent all my spare time studying my Book of British Birds, gifted me by the RSPB when I renewed my membership. The secret to my success is much simpler: all I need to do is to stay close to Heather.
Heather is ace at spotting birds and is unfailingly generous in helping other, less expert, souls to see what she has seen. Our first major sighting - a far-off tree on which literally dozens of goldfinches
are merrily cavorting. Even I couldn't miss them once Heather had pointed me and my binoculars in the right direction.
A little further along the Rife, another
tree into the branches of which somebody’s washing appears to have been blown. At least a dozen snowy white pillow cases have been caught up in its greenery. Except that these are not pillow cases, Heather points out, but Little Egrets! One of the pillow
cases - sorry, Little Egrets - turns slightly and most obligingly so that we can see it in perfect silhouette. And as we watch, a heron flies down before our very eyes.
Such a good morning we have, my fellow bird watchers and I. My one mistake was to forget myself and walk too far ahead of Heather, who promptly spotted a stonechat in my absence. Linda was kind enough to show me a picture of what I had missed in her
bird book but it wasn't quite the same.
At the end of our two hour ramble, I sit in the Bluebird Café, nursing a large latte and gazing out at the sea,
sparkling in the sunshine in defiance of the calendar which informs us that it is October already. It's unlikely that there will be any more birds to spot here in the café but I'm not taking any chances.
I sit next to Heather. Who else?