Last night, I went out into the dark garden and stood listening for hedgehogs.
It’s only three days since Spiky Norman returned with his new lady-friend Tigs and I hadn’t seen them – only the evidence of their messy dining at the hedgehog canteen.
But last night, the soundtrack in the back garden consisted of a breeze brushing the big palm fronds against the fence, croaking from the pond and the enthusiastic crunching of hedgehog food.
Spiky Norman was there, larger than life, relatively undisturbed by my presence, hoovering up his dins. It was good to see him back.
I had a glimpse of him by the light of my phone. I’ll didn’t try to take a pic but I’ll get some good ones when the evenings get lighter and warmer. Among hedgehogs I’ve observed in the garden, I believe Norm to be a most handsome fellow – certainly the biggest I’ve seen.
I start each day with a stroll around the garden, making mental note of the teeny changes day by day, checking the pond, watching the birds.
It’s too easy to take the sounds for granted. The first birdsong of the day is either a robin or a blackbird. Within minutes you might have a chorus of blackbirds, all singing from their own territories in gardens all around.
Sometimes, I might get woken by a pigeon but it’s not singing – it’s clog-dancing on the roof.
A pal, John Gamblin told me that BBC Radio Three has introduced Slow Radio to celebrate the sounds that people love as antidotes to the fast pace of life. People like waking up to a couple of minutes of birdsong on the radio. He thought an audio file of the frog chorus would be good.
I think it would too, although people who haven’t heard it might not recognise what the noise is. Individual frog croaking isn’t hard to identify, but when all the males are singing together, their pale blue throats swelling above the water line, they sound for all the world like a pride of lions in an extremely good mood.
Just lately I’ve been listening to podcasts of Desert Island discs and it strikes me that you could have a similarly interesting revealing programme if subjects chose their favourite real life soundtracks instead of songs.
Listening to particular recordings that have strong associations would effortlessly take your mind back there. It would be a wonderful way of slipping into a deep and refreshing night’s sleep. My top soundtracks would include…
Seagulls crying and waves breaking gently on a beach – shingle for the best effect.
Bees buzzing close and distant skylarks. The sounds of warm summer days.
The other-worldly calls of distant humpback whales. I later found out that although they sound like mothers and calves, they are males. Magic.
The frog chorus. Like big cats purring and especially soothing if I wake up in the early hours. .
Young buzzards mewling mingled with the sounds of the River Wye rushing at the foot of Symonds Yat Rock. Maybe also the sounds of youngsters messing about in canoes.
The Welsh national anthem being sung at the Principality Stadium before a big game and the roar as the game begins. Guaranteed goosebumps.
Leo cat purring loudly cwtched up next to me on the sofa.
The discordancy of violins, cellos, wind instruments tuning up, the tapping of a baton and the expectant hush before the first glorious bars of the Magic Flute Overture.
There’s one more soundtrack that evokes vivid memories.
In Reims, walking back to the hotel from dinner one night with Captain Sensible, strolling through the Cathedral precincts in the dark, we became aware of a soft hum…which turned into a low murmur… of voices. Such a lot of hushed voices.
We turned the corner of the front of the Cathedral and paused. Everything ahead was in darkness but we could feel and hear the presence of what must have been hundreds of people.
Curious, we sat on a wall at the edge of the throng to share the big secret, the reason for this huge, unexpected congregation.
After a few minutes, music started – muted, then dramatic… and the whole Cathedral front was suddenly bathed in light. It was the must incredible music and light-show, demonstrating the history of the Cathedral. A real treat.
I didn’t keep a soundtrack of it. But I rather wish I had.
Oh wait. Here it is. But it was the sound of the hidden audience, waiting in the dark, that was the *really* special thing.