And a warm welcome from Thorpeness, Suffolk, a smugglers’ village that was re-designed from the sand up in 1910 by Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, the son of a Scottish railway magnate. Ogilvie’s vision was for the village to become:
[A] Temple of Tranquillity, where the Soul of over-civilised Man may escape the thraldom of the Great Cities and find its Self alone with Nature and at one with God.
I’m sitting here in the hour after dawn, listening to birdsong, and watching my phone.
For the second time in my life, I have downloaded Merlin, a free bird identification app from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
As everyone keeps telling me: Merlin is insanely good, using my phone to ‘listen’ for bird calls and flashing the screen when it identifies likely matches.
In the last half hour, Merlin has come up with twenty-three bird IDs.
I’m pretty sure some of them are false positives, surely, but, for me, it doesn’t really matter. By exploring the database, I can still learn what a coaltit sounds like, whether or not there ever was one footling and furtling in the bushes behind me.
This feels a lot like magic — not only because I personally have no idea what a siskin or a dunnock sound like (except perhaps a pair of Shakespearean insults), but also because of the speed at which Merlin works.
While writing just now, I was keeping half an eye on Merlin’s radar — magpie, chaffinch, robin — when I saw it pick up a greylag goose.
Now, I may be an idiot, but even I know what a goose sounds like and I couldn’t hear anything. Black mark for Merlin, I thought.
Then I looked up.
In the distance, and now here, over the houses, two teams of geese are sledging across the sky, all at once, here and above me. In the silence of a Sunday, I feel their wings beat the air.
How Merlin could detect these geese before my human ear, I’ll try not to wonder too much on — but I’m so glad that he did.
Time enough for me to stop writing, look up and, for a moment, marvel at this Temple of Tranquillity.