Alex James: In awe of the eternal music of spring

Rural Notebook

Share
Related Topics

I woke up early, at 4am precisely, opening my eyes on an unlit world suspended in a perfect silence. It was as if we had drifted into a big black cave during the night.

Even way out in the shires, away from the metropolitan hum, absolute stillness is rare, precarious and easily shattered. From dawn till dusk an unstoppable cacophony reigns: dogs, children bouncing around every nook, filling every frequency like a gas, and beyond the fast-flowing turmoil of the house, a constant background rumble of engines: Range Rovers, diggers, fence-post thumpers and over the past week, a large number of helicopters in and out of Cheltenham races. Even in the dead of night, there is almost always a breeze stirring a bough or rattling a window, or a sheep coughing somewhere in the distance.

I lay there waiting for a sound but nothing came, even as my ears adjusted to the silence, scanning all wavelengths. No distant car or faintest breath of wind, no creaks or scurrying in the loft. Unlike the stress-inducing noise of the city, the background whirr of the countryside is a restful thing and it can be quite eerie to be confronted with a complete void: a rare and powerful accompaniment, silence. Sometimes, in fact, total calm can be as overwhelming as jet engines but, from the friendly warmth of the bed, it seemed nothing but immaculate, comforting.

I think I woke up early because I wanted to catch the sunrise, but when I reawakened and came downstairs at 6am it was already daylight. The wind speed indicator confirmed perfect stillness. A silvery lilac transformed to gold over the course of a cup of coffee. Opening the back door it was all caw, woof, tweet, cock-a-doo and the odd burst of semi-quavers from the pheasants. I stood completely still, in the ecstasy of this gentle spring overture. Still waters run deep. There is an intimacy to the early mornings. I'd shared something almighty: a communion of sorts.

My choice: fags or cheese?

I started smoking again and stopped over the weekend. At dinner on Saturday night, I sat next to a non-smoker and apologised for blowing all over him, my last hurrah. "Why stop if you enjoy it?" he said. "Probably won't kill you, you know. There are plenty of old people who smoke, and plenty of old people who drink, for that matter. There are no old fat people, though." True. Maybe I should give up cheese instead.

Stretching across the line

I took my morning exercises in the fresh air today, for the first time this year. We have crossed that magic line in the diary where it is suddenly warmer outside than in and we don't have to close doors any more. Spring always takes me by surprise. Blissful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne walks down the stairs from a submarine during a visit to the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane on August 31, 2015 in Faslane Scotland  

Sorry George Osborne, but it's Trident that makes us less safe, not Jeremy Corbyn

Kate Hudson
Fighters from Isis parading in Raqqa, northern Syria, where the ‘Islamic State’ has its capital; Iranian-backed Shia militia are already fighting the group on the ground in Iran  

Heartlessness towards refugees is the lifeblood of jihadist groups like Isis

Charlie Winter
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent