European Robin by Jean-Jacques Boujot

European Robin Photo by Jean-Jacques Boujot


I’d never really believed we could find one at all, these clever, teddy-eyed, bauble-shaped puffs of feathers with red dickies that stood on snowy festive fence-posts and showed Mary the key to the secret garden.



I came to England and suddenly it was all about the birds.

That can’t be all, surely? That can’t be everything there is to say about that? What happened? Was it the breakfasting thrush? Maybe I was just lonely and far from home and people were scary and had closed faces and walked purposively up and down streets I kept getting lost on. Maybe the birds were alive and warm and near and comprehensible and everything else was far and cold and obscure and spoke RP. Or maybe it was that through-the-looking-glass thing. English birds were all story-told, imaginary creatures, except they weren’t. Nightingales. Barn owls. Kingfishers. Woodpeckers, like in the cartoons, everywhere except where I lived. Ducks that actually looked like the decoys. Robins, like on Christmas cards! What if I could find a robin! They lived here.

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