We stopped the car so that Eddie could show me the prodigious bracket fungus he found the day before. Then he showed me the fine flower meadow on the other side of the road, another impressive project from our neighbours at Raveningham Hall. And then one of those moments.
The moment when a rabbit seems to rise up on hydraulic rams and become hare: its gait changing in an instant from a bunnfied hoppity-hop to an antelope’s gallop. I love those transformer moments: those times when nature shifts shape in front of your eyes.
It’s more thrilling when a comparatively commonplace creature turns into something special, as was the case here. The other day I saw a swift turn into a hobby: changing the angle of its flightpath in a manner that showed that this was a creature built on a different scale, capable of doing radically different things with the aerofoil surfaces of its wings.
I remember my father finding a distant egret – which I turned, apparently through sheer willpower, into a spoonbill. Sometimes, gazing out at sea, a seagull a mile off short can be transformed into a gannet: a combination of good binoculars and a little magic.
It can be done in song as well. I remember a reed warbler – no it wasn’t, it was a sedge warbler — no, it wasn’t that either. Well surely it must be one or the other. Then from the complex tangles of song emerged a marsh warbler, one of the most versatile vocalists in the natural world.
The high spring tends to begin like that. You hear a nice thin high song, too distant, too faint to be dogmatic about. Is it? Isn’t it? And in early April it’s always a robin but then as the month continues and the spring advances the first willow warbler of the year emerges from the crowd of wintry robins. It seems with this one magic song, this special song miraculously emerging from the commonplace, that everything must now be all right: for the next few weeks, for ever.
It’s been a long threatening. It’s been a windy few weeks: getting up a good old blow every time Eddie and I had an opportunity to have a go. You really can’t canoe in a good wind. Eddie’s a game paddler, but he can’t do enough to keep us going in the face of a proper headwind.
There was still a fair bit of breeze today but damn it, we were more than overdue, and so out we went, paddling our way boldly up the Waveney. Away from the houses and the moored stinkboats. The Adventure Way.
I love this time of year on the river, not least because you meet banded demoiselles. They are lovely things and they love slow-flowing water, so they adore the Waveney. They are like slim dragonflies with inky spots on their wings, with a rather fluttery flight. They can look like butterflies carefully drawn in Quink blue-black ink, the kind we were told to use for homework.
They catch the sun and dance in the light, the body sometimes fizzing iridescent blue. They do so in groups, sometimes in huge bands, though not today. It’s as if drops of the river have leapt up from the surface and taken winged form. They seem to be insects you only ever see in a lovely place on a lovely day: the spirit of the watery summer, and a wholly appropriate animal for the longest day. So many hours of light to dance in.