Is there any day quite as awkward as a substitute Bank Holiday?
Although these rare days ought to feel like a gift, there’s something peculiarly pointless and hollow about them: the event they’re standing in for has come and gone, leaving a disconcerting void between the pleasure of the occasion and the pain of returning to work or school. One is never quite sure whether to embrace the extra day joyfully or ignore it and crack on with everyday life.
Unable to make up my mind, I started today by potting up tulip bulbs that hadn’t been nibbled by Mr Ratty or succumbed to grey mould. I promptly ran out of compost – shoddy planning – and went indoors to tidy my office, strewn with samples, boxes and paperwork that appealed to me less than getting stuck into Christmas. Three floors below, The Beau slaved away over a stack of ironing that might have dwarfed the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Not wishing us to squander our ‘free’ day by filling it with domestic chores, I suggested that we head down the coast to Pegwell Bay to see if we could spot any overwintering birds. Like many horizontal landscapes, Pegwell Bay can be bleak and unassuming, a patchwork of intertidal marshes, brackish ponds, scrubland and mudflats. There’s also the remains of the old cross channel hoverport that ceased operating in 1982. Today we were lucky, the sun low and golden, transforming lichen-covered elders and apple trees from scraggy urchins into gilded aristocrats. Across the River Stour, two dozen seals basked on the silvery bank facing us.
The Beau knows his birds and eagerly pointed out shoveler ducks, little grebes, teal, redshanks, curlew, cormorants, grey herons and an enormous flock of lapwings that took flight, tilting and turning in the clear air. Despite its proximity to Ramsgate and Manston Airport, Pegwell Bay is a haven for migratory wildfowl.
There was very little to see in the way of plant life, just a few rose hips hanging on for dear life and the emerald-green foliage of alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) getting ready to surge upwards when spring arrives. A little patch of hedgerow cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum) caught my eye, still spangled with dew as the sun slipped quietly below the horizon.
Highland cattle have been drafted in to keep the grass down – quite what they make of a scrubby plain in East Kent I do not know, but they seemed intent on their task.
Returning home, we did at least feel we’d made something of our day, although work and the inevitable challenges of 2023 are beginning to loom large. As if by magic, my motivation will return in the morning, but for now the only things coming into clear view are a glass of red, a pair of slippers and a good book. TFG.