No sooner had I started this blog than it was time to go to England to catch up with family and friends. My folks live in Winchester which, when viewed with the long lens of living abroad, seems to be the epitome of Englishness (albeit a certain kind of Enid Blyton, lashings of ginger beer Englishness). It makes a lovely break and this time the glorious weather meant much time spent in the garden.
Details from the garden
I always look forward to waking up in Winchester. In summer, the dawn light fades in gradually behind the curtains and the backdrop is silence. Then the chuckle and the footballer’s rattle of the resident magpie family greeting each other after the night, their claws clicking and hopping across the roof. As the light grows stronger the repetitive, triangular call of a woodpigeon echoes out from the apple tree, hushed by the whisper of a passing shower of soft rain. Only much later do the human inhabitants of the street start to add their own chorus to the soundscape.
This morning, waking after a late flight home, there was no doubt I was back in Rome. One needle of light pierces the darkness through the tightly pulled shutters. A hammering begins followed by the teeth-gritting whine of a circular saw. It’s 7 am. Down in the street Franco is unlocking his taxi and enjoying a thunderous conversation with the man up on the sixth floor who has shuffled out onto his balcony to smoke his first cigarette of the day. Metal blinds rumble like trains as they are rolled up from the ground in front of bars and shop windows. Traffic is already humming past on the main road while a car horn is pressed once, twice, eight times, victim of double parking and late for work. As the hour progresses there are car alarms, building alarms and moped after moped buzzing away or circling the street like angry hornets disturbed from the nest.
And yet, underneath all of this human cacophony, I smile when I hear the brisk, urgent calls of the gang of sparrows who swoop down on my balcony for a moment to quarrel amongst the hibiscus. A plumped up pigeon coos vainly from the window ledge while a hooded crow shouts him down from the rooftop forest of aerials and antennas. The sad arias of caged canaries grow in strength with the sun as it reaches across the building, warming their trapped bodies and reminding them of a world they have never known.