Did You Ever See The Rain?

Photo Jo Sinclair
Spring has been the most astonishing carnival this year. Turning cartwheels and showing its bloomers, April cocks a snoop at human crisis. The drench of chlorophyll, the blue skies, the blossom, the sunshine through new leaves. The season is a giddy distraction. Life romps ahead. The sunniest April ever recorded in the UK has been the balm we all need as we adjust to a new reality. Unlucky lockdowners get their Vitamin D  by sticking their feet out of inner-city windows while the nation waxes lyrical about 'Vitamin N'. We gorge on nature like a box of chocolates while scrolling through news of the exhausted, the betrayed, the traumatised, the dispossessed and the dead.

Yesterday at 7.30 when I stepped out into our subdued new world all I could hear was the softest susurration of rain and one or two cars. I had my countryside back the way I like it. No need to dodge the dog-walkers, runners and cyclists in the delicate, rueful or indignant socially-distancing dance we've so quickly got used to. A little bit of rain keeps everyone inside.

Hoping to hear a cuckoo I headed to last year's territory. A few days ago I heard a few brief  notes. Air flights have dwindled but avian summer visitors have poured in. Chiffchaff followed by blackcap followed by willow warbler, swallow, house martin, yellow wagtail, common tern, cuckoo and whitethroat...the new arrivals bring their beautiful silhouettes and songs to sky and leaves.

Nature lovers yearn for the first cuckoo or swift. Each time it feels like being granted another year to live. It's a quiet, profound sense of satisfaction and so reassuring and comforting when all fits into place.

No cuckoo but the lovely sight of swallows, a fair few of them. So that's where you got to! I watched them soar and scud and dip over winding river and glaring yellow oilseed rape. Without the distraction of camera or phone I enjoyed being in the moment. I was quiet and still,  just standing there in the rain.

I'm at my happiest enjoying the private moments of seasonal celebration and chance one-offs but I'm also compelled to share them somehow - maybe for those without access to green spaces, or imprisoned in lockdown.

On the home stretch yesterday there was something I'd have got the phone out for. I like recording sounds and this was not something you hear every day. All the birds of the air were gathered in a cacophony of scolding and complaint, everything from long tailed tit to magpie (hypocrite). The birds were mobbing a predator. The tree towering above me was thick with ivy; I couldn't see, but I guessed the object of their fury might be an owl. A blackcap and a collared dove carried on singing, as if to boast that their territory comes with a protection racket.

All day the rain soaked gradually into the ground, quenching the hard-baked earth. Do you remember when England in April meant April showers? When blackbird song was the very sound of rain coming down on a sunny day.