I've never been one for watching the soaps on TV. Well, that's not strictly true. A lifetime ago, when I had spare time and no children, I'd happily settle down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and catch up with the goings on in Albert Square, shedding a tear or shaking my head at the behaviour of those EastEnders.
But for a long time now, those hours between seven and nine have been swallowed up with getting everyone fed, the youngest bathed and into bed, helping the older two with homework and trying (though often failing) to get all in order for the next day at school or at work. With recent events, our normal, daily timetable has gone up the left. Everyone rises that little bit later and bedtime has been moved a bit further around the clock accordingly.
Which may explain why, for the first time in years, I found myself on the sofa with my eldest daughter just as those famous, synthesised drumbeats kicked in, heralding the start of a new instalment of EastEnders. I didn't know who half of the characters were, but it's amazing how quickly you get sucked back in to wanting to see what happens next.
While there were a lot of gaps in my current knowledge, I was able to fill my daughter in on the back story of some of the characters, their parents and the scandalous activities they'd all happily been engaged in. It was a great outlet for my daughter and I to have a good gossip and it made me realise just how much I've missed that kind of chinwag. Not a nasty dissection of people, just one of those casual, 'Did you see what such and such has done to her hair?' or 'Did you hear your man has bought himself a big new car?' type conversations.
I know we're all meant to aspire to more highbrow discourse, but can anyone seriously say they don't enjoy a bit of a gossip every now and then? Sometimes it's a great way to let off a bit of steam, at other times it's great for a bit of social bonding in a group, getting everyone giggling mischievously together. Humans have been whispering in corners probably since early man first got annoyed at a noisy neighbour in the next cave over.
In the last few weeks I've come to the conclusion that we're not the only species who enjoy having a lengthy natter. I've always loved spending time in the garden, having a break from whatever I'm doing and getting a few breaths of fresh air. But usually it's exactly that, a moment or two snatched from a busy day. I'm often thinking about what's next on my 'To Do' list and feeling so guilty about taking a break that I'm back at the grindstone before I have time to properly take in my surroundings.
The last few weeks have afforded me the time to really study the goings on in the garden and top of my list of favourite subjects to watch are the garden birds. I don't know if they were always so numerous and so very vocal but they're certainly not holding back at the moment. I've been watching the rivalry on show, the fighting between breeds and what I'm sure are family members, gossiping over the seed we put out for them. I've started to notice individuals amongst our visitors and their personalities, whether they're bullies or the more put-upon members of the group.
While sitting in the garden last week, their shenanigans ended abruptly, they all disappeared and a strange and sudden hush descended. A massively large, very dark bird appeared in the sky, hovering about my house, with wings which, when outstretched, must have been close to six feet or so across. Thanks to a bit of detective work on social media, I was able to discover that we had been visited by a young golden eagle which was incredibly exciting for us to have witnessed and, more than likely, incredibly terrifying for the birds. When it had disappeared from the sky, the little birds returned, screeching and chirping as loud as their little lungs could manage. The golden eagle clearly gave all us gossips, feathered or otherwise, plenty to talk about!