We were having evening drinks in the garden when I saw the most beautiful bird in the world.
It was singing hard on the exposed and topmost branch of the oak tree, the one in the garden that’s dying back.
The bird was lit with the soft light of the declining sun, and it was as if a single beam had been aimed from 93,000,000 miles away for the single purpose of capturing the perfection of this singing bird.
His breast glowed with a colour I can hardly bear to detail as pink: it was a colour soft and warm and washed through with a little orange, a shade that no paint-maker ever managed to get on even the most lavish of colour-charts.
A little higher I could see just a wink of colour from the crown of his head, a gentle but inexpressibly vivid powder-blue. I gasped at this sudden revelation of beauty, the bright colours set off by darker flanks with panels of faintly warmish white.
This bird of incomparable wonder was, of course, a chaffinch: award yourself ten points if you got there before the big reveal. A lovely bird, sure, and one most of us with an eye and/or an ear for a bird will run into a dozen times a day.
But this sudden arrangement of bird and light and tree and bench, all of it enhanced by a pair of binoculars and chilled bottle – always take both when you sit in a garden — was like seeing a chaffinch for the first time: oh brave new world that has such creatures in it.
I have travelled far in search of exoticisms like macaws and bee-eaters, hummingbirds and rollers. And yet here in my garden was a bird to compare with any of them.