The Bird Feeder
All winter, at dusk, there’s just me and this man down by the lake. I am finishing my walk or run with Dylan, he is arriving with a carrier bag of bread to feed the swans and the ducks and the coots. He has a nice new silver German car, I notice that, and he wears an anorak with a furry hood, like a Parka. I notice that too. We say Hello to each other and that’s about all. Yesterday he extended the Hello to a ‘Soon be light.’ I stopped in my jogging to say, ‘Yes, then they’ll all be out,’ by which I meant the part-timers, the people who appear on my private land when the weather gets nice. You find them on my private beach too.
The bird feeder had no particular interest in my remark, choosing instead to head down a different path.
‘Soon, none of this will be here,’ he said.
‘What d’you mean?’ I asked.
‘Well, you know, everything, it’s all changing. Changing all the time.’
‘Climate change, d’you mean?’ I said, warily. I’m not a climo-scepticist, but I thought I might be speaking to a climo-evangelist here, and I avoid evangelists of any sort because you can’t have a conversation with them, you just have to listen to their manifesto until such point as you extricate yourself.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘Not that, just everything, all changing, all the time. How much longer can it go on?’ he asked.
I didn’t say anything to this. In the old days when I was a fresh-faced ingénue, I would have tried some sort of rejoinder, to be polite. But (as Betty Wright sang) I’m older now. Instead of a rejoinder I regarded him as he dipped into the bag and started to nibble at the crust from the top of the loaf he had in there, an economy white sliced, I noted, rather then the leftovers I had imagined. He is quite slender, he looks as though he could do with the food.
‘Think about cars,’ he said, ‘We won’t need them soon’, he said. ‘How much longer can cars last, really?’
‘Good question,’ I said as I started to jog off. He was not an evangelist, he was something else.