EVERY … SODDING … YEAR!
Come six months … nested or not …and we’re off.
Like a clock.
Tick tock. Tick tock.
Twice, in fact.
Down the globe. And up the globe.
Down the globe.
It. Is. Doing. My. Nut.
You may ask: Why do we do it?
I’ve never actually been convinced myself.
More than likely.
But who’s to say?
Don’t ask them, though, whatever you do.
That’s all you’ll get.
And they say the most fantabulous things.
It’ll be fun, they say.
It’ll be an adventure, they tell me.
If I wanted an adventure, I’d … I’d … well … I’d find it closer to home.
Where I hatched.
Where I saw the world for the first time.
Through a crack in the shell.
And what a beautiful world it is.
Home, I mean.
I like Scotland.
I really like Scotland. I’d gladly stay here all year.
I mean, who’d want to leave?
I’ll tell you who.
They always want to fly off with the sun.
In Scotland, I’ve got a nest.
Okay, so it snows. Now and again. But it’s not bad. And anyway … I like snow.
But they inveigle.
Historically, they tell me, historically we’ve always flown south for the winter months.
Historically, my feathered arse.
Historically we used to rule the skies.
But we don’t anymore.
We’ve been relegated.
To the status of, and get this: target.
And that’s a thing.
To worry about.
Have you ever seen jet engines?
Very big. Very dangerous.
Getting caught in one of those would put an end to our little holiday real quick, wouldn’t it?
And to get to the airplanes … you’ve got to get past the power lines!
Don’t get me started on the power lines.
Never saw it coming.
As far as I’m concerned; stay on the ground, in our nests, in Scotland, and there’d be no danger of any of that sort of thing ever happening!
Makes perfect sense to me.
Yet here we are. Migrating.
Currently over … where are we? … Dover? … oh … Dover.
I should’ve known. Seeing those things there.
The magnificent, the regal, White Cliffs of Dover.
Oh, I’ve never seen those before.
Only every six months for the past five-and-a-half years.
We do it only because they insist on doing it. The migrating thing.
And if I was the decision maker? Well … it’d be different then, I’ll tell you.
I’m Gary, by the way.
And these flying here with me are … my friends.
My nemeses, more like.
To call this lot birdbrains would be a compliment.
Actually, they’re my flock.
My flocking friends.
I, along with my fellow flockers, am a plain swift.
A plain swift.
Plain. That’s good, isn’t it?
Not a flamboyant swift. Not an elaborate swift. Not even a mildly interesting, I’ll-talk-to-him-if-there’s-no-one-else-at-the-party swift.
Just … plain.
Hell. Even plane would be better.
So plain, in fact, that our scientific name doesn’t even warrant full Latin.
Thank you very much.
It ain’t easy, I’ll tell ya.
My wings … are small.
They get tired.
I get tired.
I just want to rest.
In my nest.
But not today.
As it goes, my brethren and I are, as we always have done, on our way to the winter nesting grounds.
In North Africa.
On an island.
An island, of all things.
Granted, home is an island. But it wouldn’t be if we never left it in the first place!
Do you know what you have to fly over to get to an island?
I don’t like water.
And I don’t like fish!
But what else is there to eat?
When you’re flying over water?
To get to the island?
And the island we’re going to?
One of the Canaries.
Who comes up with this stuff?
I mean honestly.
They coulda called ‘em anything.
They chose … the canaries.
What can you do?
We number about four thousand. A modest crowd, us.
Four thousand plain is as plain does swifts.
Big ones. Small ones. The ones that always have to be at the front, leading the charge. And the ones we always have to wait for, bringing up the rear.
And then there’s the one that we picked up somewhere around Seville. He’s not a swift. Plain or otherwise. He’s a house martin, he is.
Probably lost from his flock, we thought at the first time we saw him.
Turns out, right we were.
Not the most social of avians. Not the sharpest beak in the bunch either.
A bit annoying, at times. But he’s adopted us. Travels with us whenever and wherever we go.
And, predictably, he’s called Martin.
He, like me, tends to blend in around the middle of the squadron.
Not too noticeable to anything that wants to grab us and plenty of warning should a jet engine be approaching.
Flapping away. In his own little world.
Well … at least he’s happy.
I watch over him. After a fashion.
Don’t let any of the others give him too hard a time.
I can do that when I set my mind to it.
I’ve done it before.
And I’m sure I’ll do it again.
In six months.
Like I did six months ago.
I told them. What I thought. All of them. And when I did, I laid down the law.
That’s it, I said, no more, I said, we’re staying here from now on and that’s final. I have made a decision and I think it would be good for all of us, even Martin, to stay here. On this island. Canary Island. It’s warm. All year. No need to go anywhere else. There. Done.
They said I was acting like an idiot. Like a hatchling. Like a petulant hatchling.
I said that regardless of what they do, I’m staying. Even if they decide to fly back north, they can do it without me.
My mind was made up.
And that’s when I heard the unbearable, undeniable truth.
Now I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, Martin said to me, but everything, Martin said, everything we do … we do together. We belong together.
And you belong with us.
One collective mind. One allied body. One shared desire. To migrate. And we do it. Together.
It’s how we’ve always done it, he said.
And it’s how we’ll always do it.
Then I looked at him. And he looked at me.
And he knew that I’d eventually, as ever, capitulate.
And then I did.
And he knew I did.
And that’s when he said Gary, Martin told me, with his cracked beak and wonky eye.
Face it, Gary, he said.