I send a photo to the Youngest of the Darling Daughters: “Guess where I am with the Birdy Group this morning?”
not exactly a Mastermind question, I know very well that my daughter will recognise the spot immediately - beautiful Highdown Gardens at Daffodil Time. It is one of our favourite places at this time of the year, daffodils being this daughter’s favourite
flowers. She carried them in her wedding bouquet and had a cake decorated with sugarcrafted daffs. Every windowsill in the parish church wheee she and Dunk’em Dave were married was brightened up by a vase of daffodils.
My daughter comes back quickly with the correct answer. She doesn’t need to tell me that she wishes she was here. It goes without saying.
I am with the other members of the Birdy Group on our monthly amble through woodland, downs or seaside in search of our feathered friends. It is one of my favourite activities every month. Every month I have to decide on Appropriate
Footwear. If the weather has been fair and our destination is graced with paths, whether gravel or otherwise, then I might be able to get away with my stout everyday shoes. They are not exactly fashionable but, interestingly, I meet lots of people wearing
the same shoes as mine. They appear to be particularly popular among the nurses who visit Mr B. If, however, it has been raining cats and dogs and the terrain is likely to be muddy underfoot then I must rescue my hiking boots from the hall cupboard where they
have lurked since my last foray into Mudville.
The trouble with my hiking boots is that they are both heavy and bulky. When I wear them, I clomp. There is no other
word for it. What’s more, clambering into the back seat of the Lovely Linda’s car when she comes to collect me proves impossible while wearing my boots so I have to unlace them, remove them and stow them in the boot of the car for the duration
of our (short) journey.
Oh, but it is chilly up there on Highdown! It might have been better had I remembered to bring my woolly hat and gloves - but I had left
them in the kitchen, while I occupied myself trying to tie the laces up on my boots and forgot to pick them up on my way out to the car. Everybody tells me I should be wearing a hat and gloves, so I have to pretend, airily, that I don’t feel the cold.
Nobody believes me, of course.
Look, two red kites circling above us! See, the skylark winging it upwards! Hark at the crow, cawing away atop its chosen
tree! Spot the robins, practising for this year’s Christmas cards! Best of all, a duo of tiny gold crests, hopping from branch to branch as if putting on a display just for us.
Retracing our steps, having decided to take a detour into the Gardens before stopping off for a restorative cup of something hot at the tea-room to put its new management to the Birdy Group Test, we make the mistake of allowing Bas
to lead us. He dives into the undergrowth, drawing us after him along the narrowest of paths, overhung by branches, many of them of the Prickly Variety. We emerge, somewhat traumatised, onto the fields above our town. We are back where we started. It
was a bit of an anti-climax, to be honest.
In the Gardens we are sheltered from the elements; we gather underneath a flowering cherry for a group photo.
Hopefully our Merry Band of Birders will make it into the next U3A newsletter. It would make a fitting advertisement for anyone wanting to join us.
The new owners
of the Tea Room appear to be maintaining the previous standards of coffee and cake - but sadly we notice that they have dispensed with the bird feeders outside. It was always one of our pleasures, quaffing coffee while noting down all the birds we hadn’t
seen on our amble (presumably because they had been seduced by the titbits on offer outside the Tea Room) and adding to our monthly tally.
No, of course it’s