We were about two hours from the solstice, the moment at which the earth starts to rock back the other way. From tomorrow the nights would begin to get shorter. The long retreat from winter is over, the slow advance towards the new winter begins.
It is a solemn moment, tinged with sadness. Spring is over, and anything that hasn’t been done by now probably won’t be done. The time of beginnings and possibilities and potential is over: the time of assessment and judgment is upon us.
It’s similar to the sadness that comes with the publication of a book. You have put everything into making it perfect: now all you can see are the imperfections. You have done all you could: now you just wish you could have done more.
It was into this sombre moment that a trio of hooligans intruded. My thoughts were invaded by a sudden violent outbreak of derisive whistling and piping, as if there was an aerial competition for the volume and cheerfully insulting quality of the sound.
It was like sitting in a sad and beautiful place thinking sad and beautiful thoughts — only to be interrupted by three teenage drunks blowing unfurling paper hooters in the sincere belief that they and they alone had invented parties.
They were oystercatchers, three of them flying over at breakneck pace on their brand-new wings, frantically overplaying the part of an oystercatcher. Not joust loud: deafening. Not just excited: wild with the thrill of it all.
They had no time for elegiac moments, no taste for delicious melancholy. Now more than ever seems it rich to die, mused Keats as he listened to his nightingale on Hampstead Heath. Perhaps he should have listened to oystercatchers instead.
These birds had no time for aching hearts, no affection whatsoever for easeful death. They were barrelling across the wild still-blue sky, yelling at the top of their voices. Look out, life: here we come.