Just outside our kitchen window and running along part of the fence is a huge bay tree- more bush than tree really but it has always offered handy screening from the neighbours’ ridiculous decking, built up to our boundary. One huge branch was once enthusiastically lopped off by my father-in-law. After that, we realised he was never to be left alone in the house again. The branch, however, is slowly growing back and now, entwined amongst the thick covering of bay leaves are huge, aggressive brambles.
We have brambles around most parts of our garden and whilst I swear and struggle with them every Autumn, digging up snaking tendrils that cling on to the poor bullied plants, they always seem to spring up again every, well, spring, in a “two fingers up to you,” kind of attitude.
We do pick the blackberries which are plump and luscious; gleaming gems of deepest purple dangling just out of reach so we have to stretch up on a chair or step ladder to get at them. Trip to A and E potential situation.
This year however, we have been a bit thwarted.
Some months back, we noticed a male blackbird, fluttering around the bay bush, looking anxious, darting in and out again, flying off and returning. We could tell he was sussing out the joint.
He was then joined by a smaller brownish, harried-looking bird who sat on the fence-post and shrieked instructions as he pushed and prodded at the bush. Female blackbird was taking no prisoners. Every time we stepped out onto the deck, yards away from her bush she would fly out and shout and stare at us from the fence-post and of course, getting at the blackberries was a no-go. We would have to wait until she had flown off for the evening to pilates or book club and then quickly sneak over, grab a few berries and hurry back inside.
All summer, the bush rustled and chirped to itself, mother shouting at the magpies. My god, she was feisty. We held our breath. Would we see from the window baby blackbirds, their new feathers looking fragile and rumpled, landing with agonising thumps onto the lawn below, whilst we kept a lookout for the neighbourhood cats?
A few days ago, I was over at the bush, staining my hands as I picked and picked and picked. Then I stopped…..I hadn’t even noticed. There was no rustling, no shouting. The bush was silent. The babies had gone. Mum and dad had gone too.
I hope the parents return next year for another few months of shouting but in the meantime, I do hope the world is kind to those babies as they wing their way around the world.