The first snow of winter, so late in getting here covers the ground between me and the table. I’m just sucking air, no place to go. Kind of thinking about enjoying the cold. But also kind of the opposite, know what I mean here?
But my eyes are filled with a commotion. They must be recent immigrants these guys. I don’t understand a squeak of their conversation. But they’re uniformed and the one piece boiler suits are nailed with badges and sponsor tags and rivets, well that’s how it looks. They’re young enough to bustle and push at one another, swap places in what might loosely be described as a queue in any other country but England. And this is England, so they appear brash and rude, spilling food onto the floor raucously. My guess is that they’re mechanics in the local tyre and silencer fitting place. That hey have travelled this far together and will look after one another.
But they are gone as soon as they appeared… and the space misses their noise and busyness.
The next visitors are just as confident, but smaller and far less mature. Like, again I’m guessing, like military cadets on a weekend’s residential camp. Staying somewhere near. Yes, they are wearing the same kind of clothes. Brown drab. Drab that is until you look more closely and see all the details where one tone, one colour links into another I recall being told by a high school art teacher that I should not need to outline the things in my paintings with black lines, because God doesn’t. They are still sorting out their own pecking order, some shuffle around the water feature, some race to the table, backing down when one or two more confident ones get too close. But even as I watch I am aware that each and every one has something to eat, despite the apparent chaos.
Less confident, but definitely attractive is a small single mother, who last year brought up her two children in a one-roomed flat above the garage. The rumour mill suggests the youngster’s father was taken by a serial killer who some have seen around these parts. Who’s to know. There were no witnesses … or at least none left alive to tell the tales.Where the children of the partnership have gone since then I am not sure. And I am almost certain she doesn’t know either. Does that make her a bad mother. It ought to, but somehow I keep failing to make myself think of her in that way. She is always energetic, but this morning with pale blue and bright yellow she seems to be flirtatious, as if actively joining the human race that looks for company. It is good to see. She picks up her food and takes it to a nearby bench where she sits and pecks at it, always flicking her head around to see the lie of the land – and more perhaps? She moves away when the black and white robed priest moves across her vision. Moves quickly as if more than just startled by his upright parrot like stature. I identify with her for a brief moment but my eyes are pulled back to the latest arrivals.
Four of them together. Three males, one female. Again long distance with the experienced presence and simple black dress. I am put in mind of the riders of big tourist bikes in the United States. They have authority because in their other lives they are professionals: dentists, airline pilots, university professors. They know their way around even if this is their first visit here. they know how these places work. They are efficient feeders. Nothing falls to the ground. They take their time. A little nibble at the fruit, then moving on. Perhaps they will be back … maybe with other friends. Perhaps not at all.
Further back, in the shadowed shelter of the trees sit three dumpy figures, seeming either to know better than visit this eatery or being unwilling to risk it. They move in unison, like three old grandmothers, looking first to the left, then to the right and he imagines them with knitting needles and balls of wool, nodding and tutting at the goings on and passers-by.
They are still on the lawn when the shy one appears. She reminds me of one of the women who works on the supermarket checkout tills. Red fronted uniform a little the worse for wear. As if she’s just nipped out for a snack. She is shy. But she can sing so perfectly. I have heard her voice and it brightens up the darkest of evenings, just before the sun goes down. But she lacks confidence and will not openly sing, so I hear her songs as if she is in hiding. She bobs and moves quickly but there is little food left.
He will have to go and dig out the bag of peanuts, mealworms and mixed seeds to top up the feeders on the bird table if he wants to see more and let his imagination play like this again.


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