It tickles my cheek, this flicking furry tail. I snake a hand out from under the duvet and rub his head.  Fumbling, I struggle to see the luminous glowing hands on my watch face. 05.55. Early but light is coming under the curtains and cat is doing the ‘I’m starving’ act as if he hasn’t been fed for days. Eventually I haul myself up, succumb to the inevitable, wander quietly so as not to wake she who must, and feed him. Again.

Tiring work

On the way I collect the camera, and after dispensing the first feed, I unlock the back door and go into the garden. I walk the few paces to the position I have stood in now for the last ten years. The camera has changed, and now I take three images to collage to make one view of sky and garden to show the daily progression of the seasons and the ever-changing skyscape.  Typically straight forward (‘bull at a gate’ my dad would say) I have never bothered with tripod and being in exactly the same place – the idea of struggling in all weathers to be that rigorous doesn’t appeal – no, I am happy just to be making a record of life in all its seasons in my own bumbling HGL manner. Marking my position by one end of a garden bench.

12 images (one from each month) merged for a picture of 2020.I don’t just take pix of the garden I play with them to create new images

I absorb the changes, the ever-differing beauty that our combination of sea winds, chalk soil and infinitely variable weather throws up. At my feet blue, red and green compete for attention, and I wonder what was different for the one potato now vigorously growing whilst the other dozen I planted have yet to appear. The apple trees are now both coming into blossom and fat bumbles bumble around them. The tulips wave and pigeons croon.

Apple blossom

Pigeons. Sometimes half a dozen, sitting like vultures in the ash. Sometime a lone hen will sit on a branch until a bobbing crooning cock bounces onto the same branch and bobbing meaningfully, slithers along towards her with obvious intent. She waits until he gathers himself to mount her then throws herself off the branch zooming a few yards to another branch. He stops, bobbing his head and them launches himself after her. Their chase will continue, from what I have observed, almost endlessly as he is like a drunk on a Friday night in pursuit, unable to read the messages, ruled only by his gonads, and like the drunk, he is rarely given the pleasure.

The wren

In the apple the robin trills his ownership of the garden regarding me sometimes from a nearby perch with a beady eye, watching as I fill the feeders. If I venture to the gazebo the wren will start its shrill barracking as it has its nest in the tangle of creepers across the top – maybe for the fifth year in a row. Back gardens are a great nature reserve and the tree planting and gardens of neighbours over the last ten years has created a kind of mini parkland and the number of what our African safari guides referred to as ‘LBJ’s’ or ‘Little Brown Jobs’ has increased. None are deterred by cats or foxes, whose game trails across the lawns tell where they move. The avian crowd no full well where they hide so rarely fall victim, more wary of the birds of prey.

The Lone Potato

Standing in the garden I have seen and heard woodpeckers going about their business. I have watched as a skein of geese flew over, honking on their way elsewhere, perhaps leaving for Iceland. I once saw a peregrine falcon being chased by a charm of goldfinches and another time a harrier being mobbed by a number of rooks, one of which actually hit its wing ( a rook on its own is a crow, or is a collection of rooks crows, with the single bird a rook?). All this often whilst standing in my dressing gown in my corner…

April Moon shot from just outside the back door

Sometimes, when it is warm, the cat sits companionably on the garden bench next to me as we enjoy the bird song and sunlight, more often it is a quick scamper with a soggy moggy to take the images in the rain – so often that I measure how wet the day is according to my own SMI or ‘Soggy Moggy Index’. Last thing at night I let the cat out on patrol, sometimes coming out with him to drink in moonlit clouds and take my own moon shot to see in detail the craters that mark our satellites own history.

Going Toes up

This is the ordinary. When younger I used to stand on my back doorstep of my terraced house and watch lightning playing on the moors as thunderstorms rolled across the Lancashire ‘tops’. I have travelled for work and pleasure to over 40 countries, camera in hand. I have seen the wonders of forests and rivers, of cities east and west, of mountains, deserts and seas. Yet nothing has given me as much pleasure in the past, now and hopefully in future years, if I have years left, like the beauty of England.

Like the poet said, there is no place like home.