It was 4am on Saturday morning, and Pablo and I were sitting in the garden listening to the dawn chorus. It wasn’t planned because I am not a morning person. I do not wake with the sun. I do not bathe in dew drops. I squeeze every possible minute out of my duvet, then wait a minute more before bitterly starting the day. But this morning Pablo decided he suddenly needed to throw up, so I got out of bed, wriggling my way down between my husband and son like a graceless, groggy moth emerging from its cocoon. And on returning, I discovered I couldn’t get back to sleep. I could feel a tension in the air; something about to happen. The dawn waiting to break.
And then the first blackbird kicked in, right on cue.
I resisted for a while, convincing myself the birdsong was just as beautiful from the comfort of bed. But in the end I relented, put my dressing gown back on and went to sit outside and enjoy the bloody morning. We have a stack of railway sleepers in the garden waiting to be made into a dipping pond, so I perched on those with Pablo next to me (Tequila wisely remained in bed) and together we listened to the blackbirds, starlings and sparrows all waking up.
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In front of me, my precious pumpkin plants lay in the soil, freshly dug and planted the evening before. I’d bought a tunnel of netting to protect them from the chickens, and inside there were five plants in a row, all lined up and carefully watered, swamped with compost and all the good vibes I could conjure. I’m very excited for these pumpkins. Come the autumn, I’m envisioning a bright and beautiful pile that I can carve and eat and paint pictures of, but really I’m just excited to be growing things at all. Every new leaf is a thrill. I’ve ordered cloches through evil Amazon’s one-day delivery because I can’t let the chickens out until the pumpkin plants are protected. The chickens deserve their freedom but the pumpkins deserve their own little life, too, free from pecked leaves and scratched up roots.
A wren started to sing, and Tequila joined us outside as the sky shifted to medium blue, the colour of a light blueberry. Later, when the sun was hot, the air would be heady with the white lilac blossoming behind me, but for now it smelt of damp earth and cold leaves. I could see the wren silhouetted in our neighbour’s tree, singing his head off. A gull circled, honking, overhead, and I could hear the first stirrings of the chickens in the coop. And as the birds began to die down and Pablo and Tequila crept back inside, the ultimate question then arose: Back to bed - or onwards, upwards, outwards to coffee?
Moments like these are extra special at the moment as life has been a bit hectic in the lead up to my new book launching next week. The Bridleway: How Horses Shaped the British Landscape is published on 8 June with Bloomsbury, and pre-orders are a huge help if you fancy getting your hands on it first, through any online/offline bookshop you like.
You can also listen to a free sample of the audiobook if that’s your favourite medium, and if you’re local, I’d love to see you at my book launch in the beautiful Walled Garden at Cowdray, West Sussex on Wednesday 28th June. Tickets are selling quite fast so I recommend grabbing one now if you’d like to come.