We’re waiting, the three of us. The grey stick of willow, saliva wet and well chewed is thrown afar and returned to us again by Colin. Head cocked, tongue lolling and tail flapping, he looks out for us and keeps us entertained while we sit through the warm spring afternoon into early evening.
Jack’s pigeons are late. There’s been a storm out in the Bay of Biscay and they’ve been blown off course, he should have clocked them in this morning. No matter, we relax on the grey weathered oak bench, our backs resting against the peeling blue painted wall of the cree. We gaze over the valley and talk about this and that and the world and its troubles and agree on solutions to all of them. We started by drinking tea from flasks and munching chocolate biscuits before moving to cans of beer while keeping Colin willow stick busy. In the spreading evening light and for the hundredth time, Jack’s builder’s arm launches the stick in a spinning arc rising high and long over the saplings planted in serried ranks on the land across the lane. It’s his longest throw so far, a record. Colin barks, vaults the fence once more, a black and white blur off and running, disappearing into the plantation undergrowth down the valley slope.
As Colin speeds away, I spot flickering specks in the sky travelling straight toward us across the valley. Jack turns his binoculars on them and confirms the sighting. In minutes, the first bird circles the cree, lands on the roof and folds its wings followed by two more. All three were sent out days ago in hope in the Federation’s transporter, ferried across to northern Spain and all three have navigated north to their home. Jack takes an age to coax them down from the roof with a rattled tin of grain and his gentle voice and clocks them in. The results of the race will come in a couple of days but, for now, it’s that job done. We crack open two more cans to celebrate their return. There is no sight or sound of Colin.
Jack says that if the precious stick is lost he won’t return empty handed however long it takes, that dog has pride and stamina, pigeons are easy compared to Colin. So we wait as the moon rises in a clear sky, the evening chill settles into our bones, owls start to hoot and hunt and a fox calls from down the lane beyond the houses. We open two more cans and sit back and listen to the soundscape. A motorbike races up a distant hill at full throttle, a car engine starts down the lane and drives away and trees shake and rustle at the edge of the plantation. Colin returns, slips through the fence and drops a freshly uprooted sapling our feet. Now, we can go home, get warm and eat our tea. The day is complete.
Roger lives in North East England. Retired in 2012, he now tends an allotment and is getting deep pleasure from starting to write stuff. It’s mostly flash, the occasional poem and is having a shot at writing a script for a radio play.