Changing our tune


At last, it is here, that haunting voice which used to be the herald of summer, but I cannot even remember when I last heard one. Who would have thought that we would rarely hear the cuckoo these days? There are so few cuckoos now that they are on the RSPB red list of birds which are endangered.

In my childhood the cuckoo’s song was common and he came without fail in the early months. But yesterday I heard my first cuckoo of the year.

I was out for a walk in one of those deserted parts of Shropshire where you can still be alone. And suddenly there was that song echoing across the land. A disembodied voice seemingly without a source. I do not think that I have ever seen a cuckoo, even in my childhood though I heard him often.

Now, it is June and according to the old rhyme the cuckoo has changed his tune. It is true, it was more like a ‘cuck-cuckoo’ and slightly hesitant, not the early confident call to announce its arrival here from South Africa.

You will know that it lays its eggs in another bird’s nest, so of course it is dependent on its host doing well. It uses the hedge sparrow and pied wagtail. We have both these birds nesting here but no cuckoos now, it is a warning that something has gone wrong.

A pheasant and a fox also appeared on my walk. The male pheasant in his all his breeding finery was making a loud clacking noise. He was warning that something else was wrong. A young fox sloped past. Perhaps he was looking for the pheasant nest so he could eat the eggs. Perhaps he had already eaten them secretly like a robber.

Once we thought only robbers wore masks, now we are all doing it. And there are advantages – they hide wrinkles, after all we are eighteen months older. And you can hide your real feelings. It is hard to read people’s faces. Are they smiling under the fabric? I always used to look at faces when I was talking to someone, especially the mouth. Now I cannot always do that.

Do women wear lipstick now, it would all come off on the mask, surely? Instead, the materials of the masks have become a focus. It seems that many men have opted for a black mask. It is easy and goes with a suit. Some women have opted for skin colour or flowery material often matching their dresses. I notice on-line shops sell them in their own distinctive fabrics. Who would have thought that? We have all changed our tune.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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