Coming back from the gym this morning at eight – where, by the way, I had disgraced myself once more; this time by letting out one of those private laugh-barks just at the moment BBC Breakfast dished up a tragic tale. They do like their telly on, and loud, in our gym. I was earphoned-up and oblivious to the tragi-comic timing, listening as I was, again, to the brilliant Down The Line. I got a couple of looks. Old ones mainly. But on coming back, the village, (unlike the gym) still quiet at this time, I heard a wonderful bird call.

I know most of the birds’ sounds around here, it’s not an extensive portfolio, but nice enough to have arrived at that stage in my career where I can cock an ear, and wistfully sigh ‘ah, Coal Tit, how thy song enlargens thee’ – just normal stuff like that. But the song I heard this morning was rich and strong; a percussive consonant’s rimshot with a high piping end that sudenly curved and folded and echoed across the rooftops. It sounded like ‘Twit’ without the second ‘t’.

In the least tree’d part of the street, directly across from where I’d paused, the nuthatch was up on an aerial.

We bloody love nuthatches we do. They’re my Lotus Elan of the birdworld, all wedgy, upside-down-ish and sexy as. A subtle paleness of a Leeds United livery, the subdued colours found in the centre of marbles. One (lonely!) is an almost-almost-regular in our garden – a super-caffeinated kid at a Charlie Chalk’s, nuts, frantic, head-banging. We’ve stood at our kitchen door for ages, talking only in breaths, watching and loving this beautiful nutter. Frequent flyers-in visitors get rewarded with a name (one for another post, perhaps) but Nutjob’s, in all his bonkers exuberance, is proving uncrackable.


Up on the aerial, he’s calling relentlessly (lonely!), and it’s loud. I reach into my bag, get out my phone and with uncharacteristic efficiency I find the Voice Memos thing in under a minute and I hit record. The needle doesn’t flinch, but I know I’m getting him just fine. Why do I want to record this nuthatch? Hey – what you do is what you do, as I once learned on a training course in Luton.

I hold the iPhone aloft and in the nutter’s general direction – partly to get those extra twenty-two inches of sound perfection (yes, I just measured that action) and partly to make my undertaking appear clear and deliberate to any onlookers – acting, to a degree, the very thing that I’m doing, something we all of us do everyday.

In the street I stand, feet planted apart, a concentrated frown and the iPhone held high and directed at the house. And then I notice the old man standing at the upstairs window, and he’s only in his pants. Big white nappy-like pants. Hands on his hips.

We make eye-contact, inevitably.

© Steve Mitchell, Fisher Lane, 2012


About Stevie Mitchell

I come from a long line of cartoons and beer. I was once peed on by a tiger. Hoping the resultant super-powers are yet to come, cos if these are they, then, grrrr....
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