My main mistake was to stand behind Bas in the queue at the service hatch where a limited range of refreshments was on offer. We had stopped off at Pulborough Brooks nature reserve on our way back from our first Birdy
Group excursion of the new U3A year - to beautiful Burton Pond.
Of which more later but first I need to explain why it was a mistake to stand behind Bas
at the service hatch. A notice scrawled on a blackboard explained that what might be called “fancy coffees” - latte, cappuccino, flat white and the like - were unfortunately unavailable. No problem, I told myself, a filter coffee with milk would
suit me just fine and I would only be £2 out of pocket. At which point Bas stepped up to the hatch, ordered a coffee - and a home-made sausage roll…
from the oven!” announced the woman behind the counter, handing over a delicious smelling package. I was lost. The words: “I’ll have one too, please,” just slipped out of my mouth.
It was, indeed, as delicious as its smell promised with a filling that contained a great deal more than sausage meat. My sausage roll could have been a candidate in that Masterchef round where contestants are presented with
a cooked concoction and have to write down as many ingredients as they can identify. I’m sure it contained onions of both the red and brown variety, possibly celery, maybe butternut squash - or it could have been carrot. The Lovely Linda, leader of the
Birdy Group, observed helpfully that the basic filling had probably been supplemented by leftovers from the previous day’s meals. It wasn’t necessarily a comforting thought.
Our ramble around Burton Pond looking out for feathered friends was conducted at a gentle pace, taking account of the warmth of the weather - more August than September, we all agreed. Not that there weren’t plenty of of signs
of approaching Autumn with ripe blackberries a-plenty glistening juicily in the hedgerows and bright lime green husks adorning the mighty chestnut trees. It was a walk on the wild side, beautiful, untamed countryside with the wayward branches of ancient trees
presenting plenty of perching opportunities for our feathered friends.
Or so you would have thought. We saw plenty of birds over the course of our ramble
- except that I’m using the Royal “we”. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t manage to pick out the nuthatch, the woodpecker, the blue tit, the crested grebe, the heron. You name it, I didn’t see it. There was, to be fair, an obliging
robin who hopped up onto a fence and stayed there long enough for even me to spot him. You can always rely on a robin, you know. It’s probably why they named that three-wheeled car beloved of Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses after him.
Still, I comforted myself, I would be able to head back to Mr B and tell him all about the many birds “we” had seen. He wouldn’t be at all impressed, of course,
and would simply ask me ( as he always does when I return from my monthly Birdy Group gathering) whether I’d seen any Golden Eagles. No, dear reader, I never lie. Unless you consider my use of the Royal “we” a deception?
You might be thinking that my failure as a bird spotter might have been a disappointment but the best was yet to come - and it was all down to the sausage roll. Sitting out in the
sunshine at Pulborough Brooks with our refreshments of choice, a trio of sparrows joined us. One particularly tame bird ventured nearer and nearer, drawn by the crumbs from the sausage rolls. Resting my hand, palm upwards on the fence, I offered up a scrap
of flaky pastry. Without a moment’s hesitation, the sparrow stepped onto my hand and pecked at the pastry. It was the very sweetest moment, definitely one I will savour.
Like the sausage roll - but even more so.