Sitting at my laptop in these Covid days is a bit like being in a panoramic Zoom meeting but with birds rather than people. The eldest daughter, up north when the lockdown switch was thrown, is happily shipwrecked in Berwick and inhabiting my usual workstation. So, I’m perched at a table that looks out on our garden and, most importantly, the birdbath the Husband gave me for Christmas – which is teeming with avian drinking and splashing.
Zoom has delivered undreamed of virtual freedoms and connectivity in these lockdown days. We had drinks with London friends recently. We’ve not seen or socialised with them for years. Why didn’t we hook up like this before coronavirus, after all, the technology existed? Perhaps social isolation heightens resourcefulness. Perhaps it makes us determined to show the world and each other we’re still here and still being ourselves. Morning coffee with Aussie relatives began for us as their wine-soaked evening took off. We parted ways just as I began to worry that my cousin might actually demonstrate his ten-minute-intensive daily exercise regime (it involved star jumps and burpees and other things I don’t even want to think about, let alone see someone do). And that’s another great thing about Zoom meet-ups. An hour’s enough. And everyone understands that.
Oh, no, that’s right. Everyone understands that except the Husband and his mates who have created a weekly evening in the pub (our local micropub, The Curfew, to be precise) complete with a barrel of beer which they purchase in advance and distribute between them in some convoluted, day-long, anti-bac drenched way. Finally, in the evening, they all drink the brew from the safety of their own homes. One chap even changes his Zoom background to outside the pub when he steps out for a smoke.
Many of us are upskilling in this new home-working and learning environment. Over in the Husband’s bread factory, there was a little awkwardness after last week’s post poking fun at his sourdough creations. However, he’s raised his game (he received much advice from many quarters!) and delivered a loaf with lift, without the help of a Dutch oven – the chosen weapon of many sourdoughers. Turns out Dutch oven has another meaning which the eldest daughter explained to us (pop ‘Dutch oven slang’ into your search engine if you’re that interested). Mind you, neither of the daughters knew what a Dutch cap was. We’re all learning this week.
When I spotted a blackcap in my birdbath, I shrieked: ‘Guess what’s in the birdbath, quick, quick!’ No one came but yells of ‘an albatross’, ‘a puffin’ and ‘a golden eagle’ drifted through the house. And, when I showed them a picture of this delightful visitor? ‘Oh, it’s just a little brown bird.’ Just? Just!
For those interested, there is much to learn and take part in virtually. Local artist friends Katie Chappell, Helen Stephens and Tania Willis have launched a fabulous initiative: The Good Ship Illustration. As well as a fee-based course for creatives, there’s a free Sketchbookers Friend package which includes a weekly speed sketching session with the trio. I’m a total novice and found the idea a bit daunting but I joined a session and it was amazingly liberating and fun.
My favourite Zoom session each week is a church service. It’s a wonder to see all the faces popping up on your screen in their little boxes. People’s faces tend to be screwed up in concentration and fingers loom at you as technology is wrestled into submission (with varying degrees of success). Easter Sunday tapped into the painful reality of abrupt separation from those you love – particularly at birth, death, and times of hardship – just when you need each other most. Poignant and fabulous. Each week some of us struggle to find our mute buttons on the app. Those of you familiar with Zoom will understand that this means that whoever makes the loudest noise will dominate the screen of all those in the meeting. So, for example, you can quite unexpectedly get a view up someone’s nostrils just as the vicar is breaking the communion bread.
Birds are constantly stepping in and out of my window on the garden and battling for birdbath domination. A blue tit will arrive, to be chased off by a great tit or goldfinch, who’s usurped by a blackbird or thrush, who gets the push from a pigeon (or the dove of the title!) or crow. Sadly, I’ve failed to capture any of these visitors on camera, despite lurking in the bushes with the hen who patrols the base of the birdbath as if trying to get in on the action. Perhaps I should join my illustrator friends again and sketch what I see. Until then, I’m leaving you with a seagull on the ping-pong table… Except, at the last minute, I did capture a great tit on my birdbath!