Yesterday, I had met up with friends Caroline and Diane and we were shivering beside a rainy reservoir, behaving like voyeurs, squinting through binoculars in the hopes that a pair of distant grebes might engage in mating behaviour. The weather seemed to have put a damper on things, even for the amorous grebes who never got beyond first base.
But I began to notice, on the edges of my vision, some small familiar birds gliding to and fro. It took me a moment to register – I was seeing swallows and house martins, skimming low over the water for insects.
Their arrival is one of the big events of the spring. They say that one swallow does not a summer make, but there were dozens of them. They had not been there when we first arrived at the reservoir so perhaps this was the very moment they had arrived from Africa. Their calls were certainly joyous.
Historically, signs of warmer weather were always met with relief by a population who had survived the privations of winter, but the academic year in this country means that spring also heralds a negative experience – long light-filled evenings spent, not engaging in country walks, but in cramming for national exams.
With two A Level students in this house and a University finals candidate on the end of a Skype call, this year will be no different for us. Pascoe at least will be finished by mid-May and although he will have many other deadlines to meet as a PhD student, he will hopefully never have to spend summer evenings preparing for major exams again. From now on, he will be able to welcome the swallows whole-heartedly.