Yesterday markontour and the crew of the Burton Library Astronomical Survey Team (Marine Division) enjoyed the rare pleasure of following two kingfishers in succession, their electric colours lighting up the afternoon as they bobbed and weaved their way along the banks of the Trent and Mersey canal. Earlier, my Dad and I had been going through a box of my sixth form poetry essays, in a vain attempt to clear space in my parent’s loft (all that got ditched were a few surplus copies of ‘Funding London Underground’ – a campaign publication I had worked on in the late 1990s). Thus inspired, I spent the afternoon, when not at the tiller, trying to find a poem about my favourite bird.
Luckily, during a spring visit to Britain’s bookshop capital (naturally in Wales), Hay on Wye, I had found what should have been the perfect volume – Leonard Clark’s slim volume ‘The Poetry of Nature’. Sadly it seems the kingfisher was not so big in 1965, although I did enjoy re-reading George Meredith’s ‘A Lark Ascending’ (best followed by listening to British Sea Power’s beautiful song of the same name), and Wordsworth’s ‘Lines written in early spring’. I’d like to think that he was right: “And ‘tis my faith that every flower / Enjoys the air it breathes.”
But no mention of kingfishers could I find. And then I remembered the poem etched into a flagstone outside Walthamstow Central tube station, which I occasionally stop to read when I’ve already missed the train I was aiming for:
Walthamstow to the city Monday to Friday,
Same rush, same carriage on the 8.20.
When the brakes squeal we look up from mobiles and Metros
To the surprise of cows grazing in Lammas Meadow.
While the engine idles, a walker follows her dog
Through sedge and reed, all the grasses of the marsh.
And there she is! Flash of orange and blue, a kingfisher
Skimming the misty river, making the everyday sparkle.
Kingfisher, by Michael Shann
Featured image credit: Matt Sewell