- Well, let’s start with big news: the bird-feeders are back in full winter use on our roof terrace. Hey, it’s important – it’s often the closest I get to hanging out with anyone in a lockdown. Over several winters this modest dining spot has built up quite the clientele (and several mentions in this column) and now there’s often a queue to secure a place for a nut or seed experience.
And, over the years, the nature of my guests has changed. In the early days a flutter of goldfinches with their geisha-red cheeks would cause some excitement, as would the occasional darting visit of a long-tailed tit. Oh, yes, I know everyone by name, that’s the burden of a maître d’. The next year, a woodpecker dropped in – this felt like an LA restaurant cracking the Hollywood crowd and, while he has lost favour in some quarters, my partner would alert me to a sighting with a, “Mr Woody Allen is here!” Also pulling up was a popping-pink jay – yes, we unimaginatively nicknamed him Jay-Z.
And, finally, the ring-necked parakeets. At first they were timid, flying away when they spied me through the window. Now? They are their own little fashion gang, landing en masse to squawk, dine and preen in all their emerald-feathered fabulousness and to generally rule the roost. They are the influencers of the avian world – noisy, self-obsessed and quite ready to eat you out of house and home without ever wondering whether anyone else needs a bang on the nuts. It means that the catering plans have suddenly had to be revised and, this week, a giant sack of peanuts was delivered (well, I guess the airlines no longer need them) and another bag containing enough seeds to plant a wildflower meadow.
But it seems I should be grateful. This week a little bird in Zürich, who knows a thing or three about quality of life, sent me details of a report that says that having birds in your ’hood can increase life satisfaction as effectively as a rise in wages. A group of German scientists interviewed 26,000 people in 26 European countries and discovered that the more birds there were in a given region, the happier people were with their lot. (There are a few caveats but let’s not allow troublesome facts to waylay us on a Saturday.) You’ll have to read the Ecological Economics journal to get the full lowdown but it throws up some interesting possibilities. Could cash-strapped businesses sidestep any mention of an annual pay rise and just offer bird feeders instead? Perhaps a budgerigar to particularly high performers? Or a turkey that escaped the butcher’s block this year? Would an ostrich be a good replacement for the company car?
While I am mostly sunny, the dismantling of neighbourhoods continues at a pace and hits you. If you stand still and just look you can see it all over London. On Monday our neighbours got into their car and left the street for the last time – a new chapter to be started in rural Devon. Her job as a hairdresser had vanished again and his company had become wedded to staff working from home. So why would they stay paying city rents? The landlord of a nearby pub, meanwhile, is very busy – selling off his beer glasses and furniture. He’s handed back the lease. When I head into Midori House, I cycle past more and more boarded-up premises. Yet, even now, I am confident that the city’s power endures below the surface. If every club, bar and theatre could open tomorrow, this place would go nuts. We just have to wait patiently, like a chaffinch behind a parakeet at the birdfeeder of existence.
The new lockdown has also seen the relaunch of the Alfred Hitchcock festival chez Tuck and – I cannot imagine why – we watched The Birds this week. Now there’s a film that makes you wonder if your nut order was so wise after all.