We had been watching the news all morning and it was not good. The virus has taken a grip on anybody who wanders into its path. There is fighting in supermarkets – over toilet paper and pasta? Our present population is being faced with a situation that many would only dare to contemplate through the medium of Zombie Apocalypse movies and TV shows. The truth is that the end does not arrive with a groan and the drag of long-dead feet, it is silent and unseen.
My little magpie is back. It’s the runt of the litter, its life hindered by not having a decent set of tail feathers. I have seen its siblings, bigger and immeasurably more confident, moving from tree to tree, swooping this way and that for the sake of it, a flourish of their own lives and their chances of survival. My little magpie sits there, on the wall, and contemplates the chances of reaching an upper branch, thinks hard before it pushes off, flaps madly at its disability before landing. It doesn’t do long flights as the exertions required would be too much. It’s alone now and watching me as I take a trip to the recycling bin. Washing my hands has become a ritual I perform after every task or encounter. By the time I have returned to the back door, the little one has flown.
Two of our daughters have flown. We talk to them over telephone and make diplomatic enquiries as to their worlds. The eldest is in London and the younger one in York. We reach out across the country to provide reassurance, that thing that is no longer certain. They are both working through their days whilst watching the weathervane. We are on standby and ready to mobilise. My wife is alert to every nuance and is ready to swoop in and return them to home at a moment’s notice. Sometimes flying for exhibition purposes needs to stop and take account of the invisible storm that is certainly coming.
There are no birds in the air, no sleek magpies showing off, no runt attempting to reach those higher branches, nothing but the breeze being sifted through the leaves.