‘Blackbirds in April’

Month by Month, Part 1

This new mini-series will collate three pieces written by Ophrys, our correspondent, committed choir member and nature enthusiast inside HMP Rye Hill. They were written, roughly month by month, over the course of April, May and early June, and track with great care the small changes in the natural environment and wildlife from within the grounds of Rye Hill. Even in this restricted space, great variety and joy emerge.

I thought how surprising it was that with the clocks going back overnight on Saturday, the following day the birds were singing louder. Then I realised I had come out an hour earlier! Thank goodness I had not shouted out anything to draw people’s attention to the rich blackbird song that was boldly cascading across the boundary wall and dripping liquidly to those listening to it. I looked about to see who was: in fact, there was no one except myself. Just the blackbird and me.

It is interesting what the difference is in one hour’s earlier access to the exercise yard, especially on a Sunday. No background sounds to impede the song of the blackbird. Few men up and about, & perhaps the wind was favourable; it was a bright, sapphire blue morning with just a hint of chill. Beautiful. A dunnock, or hedge sparrow, sung out his short, trilling, rolling call, like a jangle of car keys against a musical triangle. Hardly a dawn chorus, but a little joy nevertheless.

The mower has yet to be brought onto the ‘lawn’ areas of H Wing, so at present a profusion of golden yellow dandelions are resplendent amongst the ever-growing grass. Doris Lessing, the author, once wrote a book – I think it was her – called ‘The Grass is Singing’. With those little bright dandelions scattered beautifully through the green it seemed, fancifully, to me for a moment, that the blackbird and the grass and the small wildflowers were all in tune & voice together.