I bounded out of the house today even earlier than yesterday, eagerness and anticipation coursing through my veins. Without a ton of camera, the feeling of liberation and hope was wonderful. And of course it was rubbish. Although two or three Redstarts made themselves known later in the day, during the 6-8am shift it was positively dire. Not a single Wheatear, and and only a couple of Whitethroats. A brief positive note of a Yellow Wag seeping its way eastward - our first of the year - but otherwise little to show for my efforts, so I went to work, from where, at 9.15pm, I have just returned.
No Nightingale breaks today, but succour was provided by attending CMJ's memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral. Mon Père, Chevalier, Commandeur etc, had swung a couple of tickets by virtue of his association with one of the late broadcaster's alma maters, and what tickets they turned out to be. Upon entering we were directed to the very middle, the dome. How did he swing this?! I feel compelled to name drop with abandon. Five seats to my right was Blowers, and eight seats to my left, Straussy. Aggers was sat basically opposite, close to Athers, and in front of me a few rows was Tuffers. Immediately to my right was a daughter of the late, great Johnners, and it wasn't long before I had to stand up to let Mark Nicholas get past. Oh, and Jim Rosenthal was behind me.
For readers not familiar with the game of cricket, or even if they are, who are not familiar with the institution that is TMS (Test Match Special), BBC Radio's ball-by-ball coverage of international cricket, most of the -ers are members past and present of that commentary team, men who I have listened to for my entire adult life. Pottering in the greenhouse, on long drives, sitting in the garden, often in bed and through the night when England are playing in the Antipodes. They're a part of who I am, a part of who many people are, as the packed cathedral demonstrated. I cannot conceive of life without TMS, of life without cricket. That TMS has lost both Bill Frindall, the Bearded Wonder, and now Christopher Martin-Jenkins in such a short space of time is very sad. CMJ was the straight man of the team, but described cricket with impeccable precision, and the broadcasts will never be the same. Old stalwarts remain of course, but Blowers is doing less and less these days, and the team isn't a large one. In some ways it's just not the program I listened to in my teens and early twenties, in other ways it's just as compelling as it ever was, and I always switch on. So it was amazing to see quite a few of the faces - the described and the describers - of the voices that have been a background murmur to a good many of my hours on this planet. And of course the service was uplifting, how could 2,300 people singing not be? Funny to think that Baroness Thatcher is up next, tomorrow in fact, but this was a much nicer occasion, and I'd pick CMJ over the Iron Lady any day of the week. Aggers gave one of the tributes, and during it played many a famous CMJ radio moment, the congregation enthralled.
Backing up a little (the flow of time has never really been of great importance on this blog), after my highly productive couple of hours on Wanstead Flats and Crossess, I spent most of the weekend in Sussex, staying with my sister and her family in a lovely farm cottage at Bodiam. A highly relaxing weekend, including some quality time in a deck chair, but birding options were fairly limited - it being felt that the cousins would gain more, somehow, from a visit to the zoo rather than a sky-watch, but I managed to slink out early morning on Sunday, and went for a poke around the castle grounds. Not much going on, but interestingly a male Mandarin, the only one there, had paired up with a female Mallard. I have no idea if successful procreation is even possible with this combo, but it would sure be interesting!