Porters and wildlife
My attempts to go for a short run each morning are, sporadically, continuing. My innate disinclination to exercise is battling with the endorphin rush of actually being able to go outside without freezing, being sliced to shreds by a howling Ural-fresh wind, or rained on.
So, Sunday morning I was out doing a few laps of the college sports ground. Pete the Porter (you couldn’t make these things up) was out on patrol with Sam. The Porters’ uniforms are a black jacket and slacks, white shirt and black tie with a pattern of white college shields. Sam is a dark, dark honey-coloured golden retriever. Seven years old and still wildly excited about tennis balls. Whenever Pete is on duty at the Wychfield site, Sam tends to come along.
I’m fond of Sam, but don’t really spend enough time playing with him. He reminds me of my family’s old goldie, a wonderful dog called Hunny.
I waved to Pete as I jogged past the fenced tennis courts. Pete was inside, checking on the nets and rounding up a few stray balls. Sam was on the outside, intently watching Pete for any sign he might bring a ball back outside the fence with him.
On my next lap I noticed Pete shooing Sam away from something and picking up a limp, black shape in his hands. At first I thought he had a dead bird in his hands. Something in the tall trees by the pavilion was cawing raucously. Sam was very quiet, but looking at the bird Pete was holding with an intensity normally reserved for tennis balls.
I jogged over. Pete had a black bird with white wing markings cupped in his hand, and was coaxing it to sit on one of his stout fingers.
“What have we got here?” I asked, puffing.
“Carrion crow,” answered Pete quietly. “That’s Mum and Dad up in the tree complaining.”
He looked at the bird a bit: “I should get you on a branch somewhere.”
I jogged off. It was a strangely compelling image: a big man with a weathered face, tending a juvenile crow; both in their black-and-white uniforms against the white of the pavilion wall.