Thursday, January 19, 2006

Breakfast ritual, starling noises, squirrel,

In a cafe, I watch a regular customer order his "usual" breakfast. He is an upright, elderly man, who wears an overcoat, scarf and a tweed cap, which he does not remove. He is greeted by the owner of the cafe as a regular; there is nothing in the least bit eccentric about him. Breakfast consists of a pot of tea for two, a banana and three eggs scrambled on "one toast". When it arrives he pours two cups of tea, one of which he applies himself to immediately, while he places the other opposite him, together with the scrambled eggs. He lays the knife and fork provided on the other side of the table, as though it, along with the second cup of tea, is intended for another person. He then moves to the counter fetches some tomato ketchup and makes an even pattern of blobs of sauce on the eggs. He then proceeds to peel and eat the banana. This task completed, he produces a notebook from his pocket (by this time there are two people with notbooks in the cafe - he and I). He does not seem to be writing in the note book rather drawing lines, making squares perhaps, which he does with a fair amount of concentration. By this time, overcome with curiousity, I order a second cup of tea myself. Does he regularly order scrambled eggs for an absent person, as a sort of tribute, I wonder? But after a good five minutes he reaches across the table, turns the knife and fork round, and begins to eat the scrambled eggs with evident pleasure.

Starlings invade the Grove and neighbouring streets, not in flocks, but distribute themselves evenly over roof tops, chimney pots, aerials and in the branches of trees. They do not always have a good press. "Untidy eaters, " I remember a schoolteacher observing, when I was a child, seeming to equate them with badly behaved children. But they have a beautiful plumage and provide a pleasant chorus of twittering and whistling noises, like the woodwind section of an orchestra tuning up. By coincidence, I find in the charity shop in the High Street, a book called Wildlife on your Doorstep. On the cover is a photo of a starling with nestlings. It tells me in a chapter on starlings that more than 4 million pairs breed in Britain every year, and that, in the winter they are joined by at least 30 million individuals that migrate here from northern and eastern Europe.

On the free-standing road name sign for Christchurch Avenue, sits a squirrel, nibbling at a nut, which it holds and rotates in its forepaws. So deep is its concentration on the job that it does not see me for what seems a long time, and when it does, reluctantly moves off, the remains of the nut pressed into, and somehow retained, in the fur on its breast.


Clare said...

Oh, that breakfast man is very intriguing. I wonder if he was taking notes about you!

Anonymous said...

I love squirrels they are very good to eat

Anonymous said...

I liked that breakfast man - such persons are rare to meet and they make our lives not so ordinary. No matter he looks strange. He lives his life in the very individual way.