There is nothing in the sky above our house. Every day I look up but cannot see any swallows or house martins. They should be here by now from Africa circling above our woodland were there are plenty of flying insects for them to eat on the wing. They are not here, not in the sky and not sitting on our electricity wires, a pair usually rests here surveying the old shed where they often nest.

But the butterflies have made a good start. As I sit on my bench outside, I can see three types of ‘whites’. There is the small white with black markings, the orange tip butterfly just hatched from its triangular chrysalis and the rarer brimstone out from hibernation. The brimstone is quite a shock to see with its sharply outlined wings looking like leaf like edges in a bright citrous colour.

Another shock for me this week was the arrival of a friend. We do not have many visitors to the house, post COVID, but here was Brenda from my school days in Yorkshire. I first met her over 70 years ago when I started school. We remember meeting in 1950 when neither of us knew anyone else in the reception class. We were put together because we both lived on farms and have kept in touch ever since even when we went our separate ways, she to Southampton and me to Shropshire.

She told me about her first journey to school on the public service bus. She had never seen the school before. She stood at the top of her long lane on the main road waiting for the bus. Brenda said that her mother took her to the lane end and waited with her that first time. The big double decker came and she got on then suddenly realising that she did not know where she was going she shouted.

“Where do I get off?”

“When you see other kids standing up, get off with them and follow.” Her mother called as the bus went on its way again.

That would never happen these days we said and wondered if it was safer then or simply that we know more now.

A few days ago, Mr T and I went for a visit to a nature reserve in Wales. We packed a picnic but when we arrived at the reserve the gates were firmly closed. I got out to read the notice which said that they had detected bird flu in some of the birds. The public were not allowed in to stop further spread.

Back home the sky is still devoid of swallows. Is bird flu the culprit?

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

Here I am standing at our 'lane end' where when I was five years old I stood waiting for the school bus - there were no road markings then but the road is as isolated as when I was a child.


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