This is the time of contradiction. Almost of paradox. Winter has still got its teeth in the country: and so it’s time to celebrate spring. Not spring as glorious detonation of sunlight and joy: not yet. We’re not yet at the day when the world abandons overcoats, women walk the streets a layer or so from nakedness and men wear their jackets on their thumbs.
No. This is a time when spring operates sneaky underground tactics. It lies in hiding and then, when you’re not expecting it, it gives you a blast and lays you out. It’s not the full assault that we’ll feel in a few weeks: it’s more like guerrilla action: the more vivid when it comes through the frosts and the mists of winter on the Broads.
The other day, working hard outdoors in five layers of clothes, I was brought to a halt by a sudden sharp sound. Braaarp! A machine-gun sound, some arboreal freedom-fighter had recognised my vulnerability. It was a great spotted woodpecker, first of the year. Not entirely serious about territory and courting just yet, but wondering if the dead branch he was trying was resonant enough for the Ginger-Baker drum solos he planned for warmer days.
Others too. That zweee: with which the greenfinch punctuates its twittering: here’s a link to it from the wonderful British Library of Wildlife Sounds http://sounds.bl.uk/Environment/British-wildlife-recordings/022M-W1CDR0001389-1700V0#_
If you’re no great birder, click and learn, because it’s an easy one to remember. Hear it again on a cold morning or a damp evening and it will foster your natural taste for rebellion: rebellion against the tyranny winter, lining up with the freedom-fighters of spring.
It’s seriously cold out there right now. I’ve got to go and muck out three stables and frankly I could do without the wind. I’m hoping for encouragement from one of the guerrillas of spring.