This was the moment at which I got the point of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time: a work that was to become one of the great recurring pleasures of my life. It occurs on page 46 of the fourth of the 12 volumes – so it’s quite a long wait — with one of the famous Powellian coincidences. And Powell reflects as follows.
“Life is full of internal dramas, instantaneous and sensation, played to an audience of one. This was just such a performance.”
Nothing could better describe a certain aspect of our relationship with the wild world. On my way to my hut to start another busy day of writing, a sudden flash of gorgeous yet subtle colours: silver, black, deep chestnut: the silver dominant. It was the male marsh harrier that has taken up the place these last few weeks, individual, dominant, apparently a stranger to self-doubt. He was perhaps ten yards away as he passed.
Later I saw the female drop onto our scrap of marsh, apparently in successful pursuit of some scrap of food. And a little after that I saw one or other of them high up, being mobbed by a pair of crows, keeping out of their way with irritable changes of direction.
Three dramas, or perhaps one drama in three acts, and the single member of the audience entranced once again. All drama is demanding of the audience, if only to turn up. Actors talk of a good audience, or a bad one: an audience being a contributor to the effectiveness of what happens on stage.
So there I was, trying my best to be a good audience, holding the rapt silence when appropriate… though perhaps I should have booed the crows, or shouted “look behindjer!” In a busy day the wild world shouted for my attention once again.
I was able to join Eddie a bit later in his own pursuit of daily June wildness and we shared the simple song of chiffchaff and the evening cawing from our neighbouring rookery.
And here’s Eddie.