Beloved thinks a kestrel has been nesting on the roof. Granny isn't so sure. But she loves the idea of it. Such unhomely birds, kestrels; the look in any hawk's eye comes from another planet. To have one at home on your roof. .... Feeding young, encouraging them to fly. Oh yes. Certainly there is a kestrel here driving away ravens, perching on the balcony, hunting over the land -the way it dips down deep means that the hawk hovers eye-level sometimes, just outside her kitchen window. But a nest? TOO much.
Last week she was in April London - full of hot scents blown on cold winds. Unreal - to her. Here looks like burnt summer already. Last week too, come to remember her writer friend, she sat in a large not very full church surrounded by writers and publishers, all of them dressed in the way people do for these kind of events - black? too much maybe? Bright colours? ditto. Black with a coloured scarf/tie then? That will do. The effect a bit like an aviary full of grey/brown/black birds with the odd red beak, or yellow crest - rather melancholy, but not totally downhearted. Granny, also melancholy, but not quite downhearted either, felt this not just for her friend but for the fact that the whole group turned into her into a kind of Rip Van Winkle. This was once her world - inasmuch as any world ever was/is; she is not a joiner. But is not her world any longer, not really. She'd somehow, what with this, what with that, left it behind a long time ago. It is one aspect of growing old(er), the estrangement from once familiar worlds; full of ghosts now of those who are no more; full of life that no longer has much to do with you. (This is not a complaint, you understand; just a resigned comment.).
Many faces she recognised and couldn't put a name to - no doubt a few of the half recognised faces thought the same of hers. Some people had aged, greyed, dimmed; others looked as if they had been sitting in a box since she last saw them ready to be brought out for such occasions, looking like new. Readings from her friend's work, mostly very funny, set the congregation laughing. As did the address from one of the doyennes of this particular part of the writing world, narrating her sometimes prickly relationship with the dead writer. Bob Dylan followed Bach. Hymns were played but not sung - no hymnbooks. (Did they think reading them too much of a busman's holiday for people whose job was to write and read? Or maybe they just dreaded hearing them sing.)
At the end while the congregation sat wondering who would move to leave first, a voice rang out across the church; no proper tune at first -just the equivalent, in American musicals, of recitative in opera. Everyone looked puzzled. And then, suddenly, there it was, a great burst...'SIT DOWN SIT DOWN SIT DOWN SIT DOWN, SIT DOWN you're rocking the boat...' Granny laughed out loud here; so did several others - the ones not looking stunned. As an epitaph for her awkward friend - as prickly in the rather awful manner of her death as in her life- it couldn't have been bettered. The tune has been playing in her head ever since. The only problem is that the lift of joy, not to say exhiliration, which always overcomes her when she hears it, will now, always, have running through it a darker, sweeter thread of grief.
Ah: kestrels. Such unhomely birds.
Granny did not stay for the post ceremony drink. She sloped off and bought some t-shirts in a shop in Regent Street, conveniently close by - the not too decollete kind of t-shirts that don't dip too deep and show what's missing. Not that she cares about that but other people, the squeamish sort, might.
And now here she is again, though due to head off again on Thursday. Sorry about that. She'll be back in a week or so, she promises. But writing from London, for how long she does not know. Today she should hear whether or not she is about to move house. Property buyers - many of them - are much more awkward than her dead friend. And in their case entirely without scruples. She sighs and awaits her fate.
See you all soon.