The Twitch

By Kevin Parr

Ted Banger will do whatever it takes to win the annual bird race

Friday, 1 June 2012

Second Chapter



February 4th 2007 -147 species

The pager has been relatively quiet over the last week or so – plenty of good stuff knocking about, but mostly long-stayers which I can tie in with my weekend routing.

High-pressure has dominated the weather, meaning little wind and little likelihood of anything unexpected showing up and frazzling the pager network.

With this in mind, my weekend route was easy to plan, and Abi was more than happy for me to have an overnighter as long as I was happy for her to get her hair done on Saturday. After sitting with Lucy last Saturday while her respectable shoulder length bob was hacked into a weird floppy fringed mess (a ‘Rihanna’, I am reliably informed – some singer who is supposedly going to be big this year), Abi decided she wanted something similar.

As it turns out, she has had an identical cut.

I am not impressed – she is 37, not 17, and should keep herself looking a little more respectable. How will I be taken seriously at work functions when my wife’s floppy fringe means she cannot even look someone in the eye? I am a manager for god’s sake. And the way she has spent this evening flicking her head in order to keep both eyes on the telly – she looks like she has a facial tic.

‘Well you have a nice, new, trendy cut..’ she argued, during the adverts.

‘I have a respectable, modern style,’ I affirmed, ‘suitable for the office, but identifiable by my younger subordinates.’

‘It’s messy.’

‘It’s tousled. There is a difference.’

Another weekend pass could not be sniffed at, though, and I opted for an early start on Saturday and headed down to south Dorset, the only downside being that I would have to drive – it was Kerrie’s birthday weekend, and Mick didn’t dare miss it. Her family are big on birthdays, and they would have all been round on Saturday – Kerrie always likes an old-fashioned ‘tea party’. Fancy cakes and crust-free little sandwiches. Her brothers would drink beer, but everyone else sticks with the Tetley – squash for the kids. Mick doesn’t dare drink – for fear of his loosened tongue getting him in trouble. He lives in utter fear of his brothers-in-law. And rightly so – the three Bowers Boys may all now be in their forties, but they are just as menacing, and wouldn’t think twice about pummelling Mick into dust if he stepped out of line with their baby sister.

It does work both ways, though.

Mick used to get into many a scrape when we were in our late teens and early twenties. He’d either get pissed and mouth off, or get pissed and shag someone’s girlfriend – either way, he had many a fat-lip on a Saturday morning.

That all changed when he started seeing Kerrie, though. Obviously he wasn’t still out shagging, but he would still get verbal after a few - only now, the whisper would go round, ‘that’s Kerrie Bowers’ boyfriend’, and anyone with any sense in Woking would back off.

Of course, Mick being Mick, he didn’t see this new invincibility as a temporary and misplaced privilege, instead he fancied himself as a bit of a boy, and abused his new-found status at every opportunity – pushing in at the bar, and generally getting louder and cockier than ever before.

People would leave him to it, but you could see the resentment building.

One day, though, down at The George with two of Kerrie’s brothers – I can’t remember which – Mick overstepped the mark.

He fancied a game of pool, and strode over to the chalkboard, scrubbed it clean, and wrote his name at the top.

Immediately, a couple of the kids in the pool room took offence.

‘Oi, mate – you can’t do that!’

‘Yes I Fucking can.’ Mick snapped – ever the diplomat.

One of the guys playing at the time followed Mick out into the bar, pool-cue in hand, calling him back, only to stop in his tracks when he saw who Mick was drinking with.

But, with Mick grinning as smugly as only he can, his brothers-in-law calmly went over had a whispered conversation with the chap, took the pool cue, and then wandered straight out of the pub.

I wish I’d seen it (Roddy, the barman, saw it all though), but Mick’s face must have been a picture. The pool player strode over, plonked a fist straight onto Mick’s nose, and went back through to the pool room.

The Bowers boys then wandered back in, gave the cue back, and returned to their pints, muttering to Mick something along the lines of, ‘if you can’t back it up, don’t dish it out’.

Mick was blubbing by this point and stumbled home with a bloody nose and a lesson learnt.

And the chap with the pool cue got taught a lesson, too. The Bowers followed him outside as he left and gave him a ten-second pasting, explaining to Roddy afterwards, that, despite being a twat, Mick was still family.

Lodmoor, in Weymouth, was the first port of call, where I nailed a spoonbill within minutes of arrival, a user-friendly bird the spoonbill – big, white, and both confident and unmistakable.

Pintail (not sure how I missed that so far) and black-necked grebe soon followed and meant three new ticks by 0830.

I texted Mick the news of my grip off – knowing it would wind him up – and got an abrupt reply, ‘Beware the killer gulls’.

A bit below the belt, that. He knows how much I dislike gulls, and it isn’t a phobia, I have good reason.

It did prompt me to have a quick scan of the birds on the marsh, though, and mediterranean and yellow-legged gulls were ticked before I began to get a shiver.

The gulls can wait. For now.

I will wait for a ross’ or sabine’s to appear and hope to tick a few others at the same time. Hopefully, Mick will be around at the time and will drive us, meaning I at least can have a sip or two of something to calm my nerves.

Another bleep. The pager this time, and one of those moments when the sun and planets must have momentarily aligned.

A solitary sandpiper had been called at Radipole Lake.

A mega – a lifer for me – was potentially a mile away, at the very place I was next headed.

My head began to swim. Mick would know, he would have got the same alert, and, sure enough, my phone hummed with another text from him.

‘You at radipole?’ he asked.

‘I will be, Mick’, I thought. But couldn’t reply yet. My fingers were cold and unlocking the car was proving a pain in the arse (I must get a new battery for the key fob).

To anyone not in the know, Lodmoor and Radipole are two sites in Weymouth almost within ‘scoping vision of one another, and I reached the latter in a couple of minutes.

I was surprised to see only a couple of cars parked, but figured that I must have been one of the first here, barring the spotter. On the plus side, one of the cars I recognised as being that of Mike Phelps – aka The Penguin - member of the Board and 2004 champion.

This was exceptional news, not just because I had his mobile number and could now head straight to the spot, but also because his presence not only added credence to the call, but also the likelihood that another Board member might just appear and give all present a solid, certified tick.

Another text from Mick – again I ignored it, for the moment, at least.

I found Mike and four other birders, all with smiles the size of a spoonbill’s bill – though Mike’s expression quickly changed when he saw me.

‘Edward,’ he shook my hand solemnly, ‘good to see you. Terrible news about poor old Peregrine.’

I must have looked at him blankly, as he quickly continued.

‘You haven’t heard? John Perry passed away yesterday – he’s been in a coma since that awful crash on Sunday.’

‘I didn’t know.’ I uttered. In fact, I hadn’t even heard that he had been in a prang. Though that might explain why the M25 was so empty when we left the services last weekend.

‘The Board felt it best to keep a tight lip on it this week – out of respect for his family...’

The Board. Yes, of course, with Perry dead, there would be a vacancy on The Board.

Blimey, if there really was a solitary sandpiper in the reedbed beyond those scopes, then I would be sending Mick the biggest double whammy in texting history.

‘..the funeral is a week today – Bath crem.’ Mike continued.

Funeral. Next Friday. I had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t dreaming. Whitcombe would have to give me the day off for a close friend’s funeral. In Bath. Opportunity knocks. I could stay down on the Friday night, bag a couple of ticks on the Saturday morning, and be back home in plenty of time for a shit and a shower before Abi and I’s rearranged ‘evening in’.

Another two day tickathon without anyone getting the arse!

‘Sorry Ted,’ Mike was talking again, ’must be a bit of a shock for you – come on, this little fella will cheer you up.’

Mike motioned in the direction of the one scope not currently being gawped into by an excitable birder, and I happily accepted the invitation.

And there it was – or rather, there they were. Two birds filled my view, both slightly tucked up as they dozed upright. Before I could embarrass myself by asking any unknowledgeable questions, Mike was explaining.

‘The green sandpiper is on the right. Sorry, you would have spotted that, but I thought it perfect to frame them together to show the subtleties.

The eye-ring on the solitary is so well defined.’

‘Stunning.’ I murmured, but my mind was already wandering. Mega-tick – in the bag – and I hadn’t even had breakfast.

Hmmm…brekkie – I was sorely hungry.

‘Thanks, Mike – but I’ve got to dash. Feel a bit disrespectful, you know – gazing at a mega while poor old Perry is lying cold in a box.’

‘Of course, Ted – you are right,’ Mike was clearly feeling a pang or two of guilt, ‘we really shouldn’t be here at all at such a time.’

He reached for his tripod and started breaking down the legs.

I panicked a little – if Mike left, before another Board member arrived, then we might not get ratification.

‘I’m sure that Perry will be happy you are here, Mike,’ I offered, ‘in fact, perhaps we could dedicate this bird to his memory – maybe let the rest of the Board know so they can come and see it in his honour…I’ve got to go, though, because…well, I think there are a couple of people I ought to bear the sad tidings to..’

Mike reset his ‘scope.

‘Lovely idea, Ted. Spot on – I’ll get on the phone. And it would be desperately sad not to enjoy such a fabulous bird.’

Result. I nodded, as earnestly as I could, shook Mike’s hand and left – pacing quickly to the car park.

Breakfast first, I thought, then I’ll text Mick, and then I’ll head down to Portland.

There’s nothing quite like a Full English after a few hours in the cold of a February morning. I wrote Mick an essay of a text, gabbling really, between sups of tea – the smell of frying bacon getting my juices flowing a treat.

He replied before I had a chance to butter my toast. A stunned, panicky text. He was painfully aware that this could be his best chance of bagging a solitary sandpiper all year, and the fact that I had, with seemingly assured ratification to boot, had obviously got him quite worked up. There was little he could do, though, it was already late morning and the in-laws would be arriving imminently if they hadn’t already, so taking a five-hour toilet break was out of the question.

I smiled to myself, losing a lump of black pudding to the floor in the process. Poor old Mick. Were it closer to home he could probably get away with a sneaky trip out, while if it were at the other end of the country, then it would be so unfeasible that he wouldn’t feel so torn.

But Weymouth was within reach – he could maybe drive it in two hours – though it could of course fly while he was en route - maybe it would be there tomorrow – maybe it would be a longstayer. Too many maybes…

I am sure, that had I not been in the company of Mike Phelps, then Mick would have asked me to give him an alibi – certify his presence here. And I am glad that I cannot be put in that predicament, because it would upset him when I refused. At the end of the day, travelling partner or not, he is a rival for the title, and it might just be this bird that gives me an edge.

Another text from Mick, and the rest of my message had obviously only just registered.

‘Shitting Hell – Perry’s dead!?’

I waited until I had laid down my cutlery before I replied.

‘Funeral Friday. Bath. Gt Bustard on way back?’

That would have appeased him a little. The great bustard is one of those pain in the arse species that you have to go to a specific site to see, in this case Salisbury Plain, but will pick up precious little else along with it. It’s also not officially, ‘on the list’, due to the fact that it is a reintroduced species. The Board, though, are all but certain to include it the moment it successfully breeds – becomes self-sustaining – and that could happen this year.

While running through options last year, I had thought that a Spring trip to the Plain could tie in montagu’s harrier and stone curlew, as well as the bustard. But I had already ticked the first two by the time my scheduled trip arrived. In the end I wasted a whole day for one tick which didn’t even end up counting. I cannot afford such inefficiency if I am to succeed this year, which is why Perry’s funeral is such a bonus.

I drained the last of my tea and headed for the car, but my pager had buzzed before I could start the engine.

‘Cattle egret – Weycroft near Axminster’

I grabbed the road atlas. Axminster was only 35miles or so away, and a cattle egret was a bigger tick than the long-eared owl that had been called at the Observatory yesterday. Perhaps I wouldn’t be going to Portland after all.

It took about an hour to get to Axminster, and then at least another hour driving around the country lanes surrounding Weycroft before I found the egret.

There was only one other person on site, a field I had already driven past at least twice, who grinned as I pulled up on the verge.

I cannot recall the chaps name, but he was local, and the guy who reported the bird.

I think he was a little bit excited to have a rarity on his patch, and was keen for me to look through his ‘scope.

I obliged, even though I could make out the egret with the naked eye, stalking (or should that be storking?) around the cows toward the top of the field, waiting, presumably, for a wayward hoof to squelch something tasty from the mud.

By the time I had taken a cursory glance through the telescope, it became rapidly apparent that I was in the company of an anorak.

‘Here, look at my field sketches,’ he was thumbing through a posh looking notepad, ‘I took a few drawings here and then popped down to Axmouth to sketch the little egrets on the estuary – I think you will find the comparisons quite fascinating.’

‘I bleedin’ won’t,’ I thought. This guy should get together with Phelpsy – the two of them could spend the afternoon marvelling over the variants of egret bill colourations, before masturbating over one another’s field art.

I just do not get it. They are just birds. It’s about ticking boxes, not studying them to the point of exhaustion. I have had regular arguments with Mick on the subject, and yes, I can appreciate some birds more than others – of course I can. A sea-eagle is a pretty damned impressive sight, and even the spoonbill at Lodmoor I took an amount of pleasure in seeing, but some people will spend all day looking at the same bloody bird. Just as Mick has done.

I know birdwatching was his guilty pleasure as a child – a passion he quite wisely kept quiet until his latter teens when he wouldn’t be quite so ridiculed – but on occasion he still lets himself get too involved.

The snowy owl in Cornwall two years ago (my first ever twitch) is a case in point.

I’m still not quite sure how he persuaded me to go along, but after five hours in the car we found the bird quite easily. Mick simply looked for the huddle of people with binoculars and asked them to point it out. We could only see it through a telescope, and even then it was just a white blob, so Mick wanted to wait for a better view.

Two hours we stood there, and it didn’t move.

‘It’s got to fly soon,’ Mick kept saying, but I was cold and more interested in the local pub that Mick had raved about, with Doombar on draft and sexually frustrated local sirens serving it (to be honest, it was the pub that persuaded me to come).

Sure enough, when Mick had finally admitted defeat and we had thawed out back in the car, we had a belting night, complete with a lock-in. And we couldn’t get locked out of the B&B because the landlady was enjoying the knees-up in the bar with us.

She then later, as I may have mentioned already, got her knees up around Mick’s ears back at the B&B – an act which prompted us to get up at silly o’clock on the Sunday morning and go back up to the moor to see the bloody owl again.

‘It will blow the cobwebs out,’ Mick argued against my protestations, ‘and it’s one of my favourite birds – I really want to see it fly.’

I remember making a clever crack about Mick having already blown out Mrs Bellchambers cobwebs, which was not well received, but succumbed to Mick’s wish.

He was, after all, in a state of hyper-guilt, so prolonging the inevitable blubbing as we headed home was no bad thing.

Surprise, surprise, though, the snowy owl was still in exactly the same place – tucked up in the heather half a mile away.

Mick simply unfolded his telescope and got himself comfy. I was already bored, and took to people watching instead.

Three chaps were hurrying up the hill towards us, all in camouflage coats and hats, stumbling through the undergrowth like drunk paratroopers.

They soon reached us and asked Mick for a location of the snowy owl. Mick pointed it out and one by one they spied through his ‘scope, called, ‘Got it!’ and, without even pausing for breath, were off again – back down the slope towards the road.

I could hear them chattering as they went – they were off to Hale, I think, next, for a scoter, then the Lizard for the choughs and then to the pub for lunch.

That sounded more like it. Action packed – results driven – no wonder Mick had never actually won this bird-race he entered. A year may be a long time for a race to be run, but he was wasting an awful lot of time looking at the same set of feathers.

And he would have sat there all day, had Mrs Bellchambers not put in her appearance.

There were a dozen or so people there when she appeared, draping herself over Mick like a love-sick puppy. As Mick pushed her away her coat had flapped open, she was naked beneath it, and it was not a sight for hungover eyes. I wretched a little, but had no time to dwell on the image – Mick was charging off down the hill in terror.

‘Bring my telescope, Ted!’ he shouted over his shoulder.

Another Twitcher came to my aid in East Devon, pulling up unwittingly alongside the most boring man in the world.

I said nothing as the pair engaged, field sketches already on view, but slipped back into the car and headed back to the A35. The day could not have gone much better, and I was ready for a pint.

I had a lazy start this morning, partly because I had a couple of pints too many last night, and partly because the weather front promised for this evening had arrived sooner than expected in the early hours.

Peering out of the window during my early morning pee revealed a beautifully blanketed pub garden with snow still falling, but by the time I went down for breakfast at ten-ish, the snow had turned to sleety rain and anything on the ground had long since melted.

Breakfast was a bit of a struggle – god knows how long it had all been sitting there, the egg was like rubber - and I kept burping up reminders of last night’s whisky. Why did I go onto whisky?

In truth, coming to the Adder Arms, was a decision made with ulterior motive.

Yes, it presents a good birding location on the edge of the New Forest where not one, but two great grey shrikes are currently in residence, but more importantly, when Mick and I stayed here last year, one of the girls behind the bar had caught my eye.

I say girl, she was a woman, really. Early thirties at a guess. Her name was Donna, and she definitely seemed to like the look of me.

Mick noticed before I did.

‘She wants you, Ted..she can’t take her eyes off you.’

I wasn’t quite so convinced at the time, but looking back, she did seem to smile at me longer than anyone else in the bar, and she would linger for a second or two when giving me my change, making sure our fingers brushed.

Nothing happened, of course, and perhaps it is no bad thing that she wasn’t working last night (if she still works here at all – I didn’t actually ask after her). I did want her to see my new haircut, though, just to gauge her reaction – I’m referring to the hair on my head, incidentally, not the itch-fest that is regenerating in my boxer shorts. Christ, I’ve had to carefully chose my underwear over the last few days, soft cotton acts like Velcro against freshly sprouting pubes…

I did drive into the Forest, heading for Bishop’s Dyke and those shrikes, but the snow was still quite thick across the open heath, and the roads pretty dodgy, so I diverted north when I reached Lyndhurst, back to the M3 and home.

The shrikes would be there for a while yet, but would have almost certainly be tucked up under a gorse bush this morning. Out of sight, and out of the cold.


February 11th 2007 – 153 species

A strange, strange week, though at least I’ve got the 150 up, a little later than last year, but I am making ground rapidly.

My marriage, however, may be a little trickier to patch up…

Mick found himself in Weymouth on Monday – always handy working in sales, though I’m not sure how many clients he actually has in South Dorset – and gripped the solitary sandpiper.

Or so he says.

Mike Phelps had stayed with the bird until 1557 on Saturday 3rd, when he (and the sizable crowd that had gathered) watched it fly south.

At 1606, a solitary sandpiper was recorded just south of the Observatory on Portland.

Here it was viewed (and photographed) for just over two minutes, whereon it flew south out of sight and out to sea.

At no point was the bird picked up at either location through the whole of Sunday 4th – and there were an awful lot of people looking, especially at Radipole.

Then on Monday 5th, there is a single report of the bird at Radipole at 0937 from a certain M Starr, though he had no fellow witnesses and the bird has not been seen since.

Naturally the initial rumblings this week have been fairly dismissive of Mick’s claim. The Board met briefly on Wednesday evening (virtually through Skype) in an unofficial meeting, primarily to discuss the funeral service for Perry (hence the ‘Scope guard of honour outside the Crematorium on Friday), but also to speak about the solitary sandpiper.

With the bird now officially being recognised as a symbolic tribute to the late John Perry (the suggestion of which has meant my balls are currently more golden than David Beckham’s), its significance is ever greater, and the lone sighting made on Monday 5th February, therefore, seems destined to be rejected at the next official meeting.

Of course, Mick is up in arms and threatened his resignation on Thursday (‘From what, exactly, Mick?’ I had queried) only to calm down a bit on Friday when it dawned on him that Perry’s seat on the Board was now open and he was a viable candidate.

Come the post service chitchat on Friday afternoon (not a single birder actually made it to the wake – all instead spotting an opportunity for a tick or two…. It is what Perry would have wanted.) Mick was fawning all over Claypole, The Guvnor and all the rest of the remaining Board members - withdrawing his sighting verbally (‘it must have been a green’ he simpered, ‘I just wanted to see it for Perry..’) and kissing more arse than is healthy.

‘Are you going to apply then, Ted?’ Mick asked, as we got into the car. His tone suggesting that he was keen my answer should be in the negative.

‘Maybe, Mick – I’m undecided yet. I need to focus on other things at the moment.’

We had spent two and half hours in the car already that morning, and Mick had not once asked after me. How a man can talk solidly for that long about the validity of a sighting is quite astonishing.

‘Just because it’s called a solitary friggin’ sandpiper,’ he argued, ‘doesn’t automatically mean it was solitary.’

A fair point, but I argued that most American birds that find themselves on British shores do so on their own, and that as the solitary sandpiper was a migrant unusual in the fact that it did, normally, migrate alone, (hence the name) the likelihood of two turning up in Weymouth, in February, at the same time, was, well, a little slim…

‘What’s going on at home then, Ted?’ Mick almost feigned genuine concern.

‘Much the normal,’ I answered, ‘Nicola went round to a friend’s house to do homework on Wednesday, and didn’t get back until gone midnight. Stinking of fags.’

‘Smoking won’t kill her, Ted,’ Mick was reaching for his own packet. ‘but Aids might…is she taking precautions with all these lucky little pricks?’

‘I hope so, Mick.’ I couldn’t be bothered to get angry.

‘Anyway, if you don’t apply for Perry’s seat, you can second me……hello, what do the Old Bill want?’

Our slow crawl out of the Crematorium was explained by the presence of two policemen near the entrance, who appeared to be cross checking registration plates with a list on their clipboards.

Mick’s registration was apparently a match..

I wound the window down as we drew near, a constable coming round to my side of the car in order to speak to me independently.

‘Sorry to bother you on such a sad occasion, sir,’ he sounded genuinely sincere, ‘but I am PC Nicholls investigating the events leading up to the RTA in which Mr Perry lost his life.’

‘Okay…’ I was trying not to sound uneasy, but it’s never straightforward when you talk to a uniform.

‘Were you present at the er,’ he glanced at his notepad, ‘Medway Arms, near Sittingbourne at lunchtime on Sunday 28th January?’

‘I was, briefly, yes…’

I had to be a little careful now.

I hadn’t really considered the hand I may have played in Perry’s death until this moment, and was suddenly aware that my face was reddening.

I could feel myself shutting down. Clamming up.

‘We just stopped for a pee’, I muttered, and recall the quizzical look on the PC’s face.

He’s onto me, I thought, and the next few moments were a blur. I remember being given a card, with his name and number, but not the completion of the conversation.

My head cleared as we pulled away, Mick pulling a wheelspin in a silly little display of defiance.

‘Bloody pigs,’ he was off on a gabble again, ‘why the fuck should we know what happened to Perry’s car? Something flicked off it, they said, but they don’t say what.

It’s just one of those things, something has hit another driver, he’s panicked, clipped Perry, and the poor guys dead - a million to one shot, just like your brother, Ted….’

I switched off at that point, there was really no need to bring my brother into the conversation. I reached for the road atlas instead, but Mick pre-empted me.

‘It’s alright, Ted, I know where I’m going. Time for a great bleedin’ bustard. Let’s hope it counts this year.’

We didn’t hang around for long up on the Plain, having seen our bustard, Mick and I were soon heading south towards Ringwood and our overnight accommodation. I had left Mick to book it, and had expected us to be heading for the Adder Arms, so was taken aback when Mick pulled into a Travelodge carpark.

‘I can’t have any temptation, Ted.’ Mick had sensed my shock. ‘I’m here for the birds, nothing else. The shrikes, that is, and maybe a hawfinch. If we get up early we can head to the roost site.’

‘What about the Adder?’ I argued, ‘I expected us to be going there…’

And I had hoped that Donna may have been working – not that I would have done anything, of course…

Mick turned to me and rolled his eyes.

‘Truth is, Ted – and this goes no further – I stayed at the Adder back in the Autumn. For work. And, you remember that bargirl you had you eye on?’

‘…Donna..?’ I knew what was coming.

‘…yeah, Donna….well she had a drink with me after closing…one thing led to another…and, well – it’s probably best we don’t go back.’

‘Right.’ I was speechless. And, to be honest a little jealous. She had definitely been giving me the eye last year, paying me the attention.

‘I tell you what, though, Ted,’ Mick had lost his guilty edge again, ‘she was something special. Hadn’t had it from her old man for five years she reckoned. Un-be-lievable..she didn’t stop..’

I had stopped listening, and just followed Mick into reception and down to our room while he banged on and on about banging.

I don’t think Mick stopped talking until we arrived back in Woking yesterday afternoon, he was probably wittering away in his sleep, and he certainly avoided any opportunity for temptation.

We had pizza delivered, my first ever from ‘Domino’s’, and pretty tasty too - and my mood did lighten a little when Mick produced a bottle of Laphroig from his overnight bag.

I tucked into the single malt and slept well, waking to Mick’s gabblings about getting to the Hawfinch roost before first light. We made it, and saw both great grey shrikes at Bishop’s Dyke, but I was feeling somewhat morose when I got back home.

The girls were already out when I arrived, while Abi was just out of the bath.

‘Have a shower and come and join me…’ she cooed.

I necked a couple of very large vodkas and jumped in the shower, the alcohol working it’s tingly magic within minutes.

Maybe sex with my wife wasn’t going to be too much of a chore after all.

Sadly, though, from thereon, the evening worsened.

We were soon engaged, so to speak, and all was functioning as it should.

The vodka was numbing my brain nicely, and I was experiencing a genuine feeling of warm connection with my wife – physically and mentally.

Then I looked down. At the wrong moment.

Abi’s fringe had flopped at a funny angle, and in that split second I saw Lucy beneath me.

I was having sex with my daughter.

This was not good for my performance, and my senses were rapidly softening.

I closed my eyes, desperate for an image that might perk me up again. Any thoughts of Abi, though were merging with Lucy. Their matching haircuts. They were one.

‘Are you okay, honey?’

Oh god – Abi had noticed. Unsurprisingly.

Mick sprung into mind. Even worse. But then I thought back to his illicit descriptions of Donna from the Adder Arms .

Donna. That’s better. Much better.

Abi groaned her approval at the change in circumstance.

It was great again, I was going to explode, but then at the point of detonation, I couldn’t help myself.

‘Who the fuck is Donna?’

I had blurted out her name. Abi was already across the room, screaming.

‘No-one’, I stammered, in post –orgasmic confusion.

‘She must be someone – you were fantasising about her!?’

‘No, I wasn’t – I was thinking about Lucy....’


‘Our daughter?....oh my god….you sick, sick bastard.’

Tears were running down Abi’s face as she ran from the room, visibly wretching. The shower was running, the toilet flushing.

‘Oh well, sofa,’ I thought, ‘you and I will be getting to know each other pretty well..’


February 20th 2007 – 155 species

February 28th 2007 – 163 species


How long can a bad mood last?


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