Stephen Taylor: An oasis from the stresses of life

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THE RSPB’s garden watch for me this year was very good.

Not just because I saw my first pair of long-tailed tits this year or rediscovered our robins that I thought had gone elsewhere.

Nor did the no-shows diminish the experience for example not seeing the dunnock who on other days is always there and the recent addition to our garden visitors, the chaffinch, who was also inexplicably absent.

It was simply sitting doing absolutely nothing for an hour except watch the garden birds.

I arranged a chair near the window and armed with binoculars the Echo’s bird “score sheet”, mug of coffee and a cake, I was set for the hour that followed.

First glances around the garden didn’t fill me with optimism. It was 3pm, not a traditional feeding time and there didn’t seem to be any birds in sight.

Then as I focused on one bush and looked through my binoculars there was a robin that I hadn’t seen in weeks.

He was preening himself right inside the bush and then as he stroked his beak through the white below his red breast, he revealed black feather down underneath and it looked like he was sporting a tie.

He was blissfully unaware of me entering his little world and shortly he was joined in the bush by his mate and for the next hour they skipped around the garden.

Not in a dissimilar fashion a coal tit and two blue tits frolicked in and out of bushes and on and off the feeder and all beautifully coloured.

The most majestically coloured birds were the goldfinches who were having none of this tom foolery.

Their upright stance and ordered queuing for the sunflower hearts was a model of politeness and respectability and then, on to the fringe of these domestic cameos flashed by some strange visitors.

At first they were just a movement in my peripheral vision, but then I saw their tails!

Here were a pair of long-tailed tits, which are usually seen in a larger flock, but no others appeared.

Also, unusually, they didn’t visit the feeder, but flew between neighbouring trees and maybe, as the light was starting to fail, they were checking out their overnight accommodation.

So an hour flew by, all the business of papers to prepare, reports to write up, documents to check and talks to create were blissfully forgotten for a hour and the haven of the garden, albeit viewed from indoors was just that, a little haven, an oasis from the stresses of life.

One other notable joy over the weekend was the spontaneous appearance of remarkable haute cuisine from our kitchen.

The afore-mentioned cake that sustained me through the birdwatch was an Italian Panettone picked up from the bargain shelf at the supermarket.

Later that evening super-cook used the cake as a base and within half-an-hour a Baked Alaska appeared! Wow! How amazing was that?

Super cook was obviously on a roll because the next day one of the best home-made quiches I have ever tasted emerged from the kitchen; following closely on its heels were hot jam tarts made with the surplus pastry.

So, all-in-all, a weekend of indulgent pleasure, Aves escapism and culinary delights.