Monday June 29
Please excuse me. I’m going to be a bit autobiographical. A year ago, I was told I was no longer writing for The Times. A bit of blow, that, after 34 years. But you rise above such things, or at least you try to. That’s been sort of the theme of the last 12 months.
Every year for just about the last 30, toward the end of June I’ve headed down to London, SW19 to cover Wimbledon and it’s been great. Wimbledon became something of a signature event. I did it last year in a mood of defiance. I could have stayed home sulking but I thought I’d go there and show the world that I was still functioning.
This year, I was nowhere near the place. This Monday I was on a boat on a heaving, swelling chunk of the Channel, somehow finding the nerve to jump from it onto a chunk of rock. I then found even more nerve – it took some looking for, I’m ashamed to say – to shin up 50-odd feet.
Once there I was surrounded by angels. I was in a city of 6,000 breeding pairs of gannets, spear-billed birds each equipped with wings that stretch out for six feet. They sat tight to their nests, lunging with long-snaky necks as I passed.
I was with Alderney Wildlife Trust and they were working on a project to tag gannets, so that their movements can be tracked. This will give us scientific information, and will provide useful evidence if they decide to build a wind farm in the gannets’ favourite foraging area.
I’ll write about that fuller later. In the meantime, bear with me as I sat among gannets, ears full of the sound of them, nose ringing with the scent of them, while above me they manoeuvred in angelic squadrons and the sea whipped itself into Guinness beneath us all.
Had this been a novel or a film you’d have had to cut this sequence. Too obvious. Too melodramatic. Too much plonking symbolism about freedom and joy and the dear thrill of doing your bit for the cause.
But this was real life and you can get away with such things. They may have been hitting furry balls in Wimbledon, but I was away with the fairies, away with the gannets, away with the angels.
And I felt a joy that I shan’t attempt to describe. But then I don’t think I need to. Not here, dear reader, not here.