I’m just back from family hols in Cornwall where I spent a lot of time sitting on a particular cliff-top rock with my younger boy, looking out at the Atlantic, observing its changing moods and cheering every time we saw a clouded yellow butterfly. Every so often there’d be a call, a caw with a bit of a boing in it, normally four birds all together, and that was even better.
Choughs are so deeply Cornish that they appear on the county’s coat of arms. But they went extinct as Cornish birds, mostly because of changes in the way coastal fields were managed. Towards the end of the last century, farmers took up options to bring back the rough pasture choughs thrive on; the idea was to release captive-bred choughs once conditions were right.
But before this could happen, choughs came over from Ireland by themselves in 2001, and they’ve been there ever since. It’s one of those deeply heartening stories. Birds are mobile – they tend to be able to fly – and if conditions are right for them, they are pretty likely to drop in. Cornish choughs are back: red-legged, red-beaked, family-orientated, boingy-voiced and apparently indomitable. Life should be like that.
So there’s a role model, eh? The analogy is not precise but never mind: choughs came back from a setback undaunted and that’s what I’m planning to do myself. I may no longer be with The Times but I’m still as boingy as hell. And I’ve got a book to write…