You can tell when she is tired. She starts to suck her thumb more vigorously and strokes her ear lobe, plus her eyelids look noticeably heavy. She has been tired for half an hour now, in-fact, she is overtired and fighting her bodies natural urge to sleep. Every time she is laid down on the sofa and wrapped up, she looks like she is about to succumb, then smiles and starts to stroke my face – I cannot help but smile back – then it becomes a game. It is probably because she fell asleep in the car seat on the way back from the food shopping. Yes! The car seat! She has never been driven to sleep purposely, but if she misses this nap then the repercussions could continue into the ensuing days. We are going to give it a try.
Within five minutes of being in the seat, she is asleep and we are driving without purpose. The off-road buggy, rain-cover and changing bag are all in the car boot, so really, we can drive anywhere. She needs to sleep for an hour, ideally, so we head away from town and suddenly, the coast seems like the perfect destination and we can get out and go for a walk. It starts to rain, not that heavily, but it is persistent and the wipers have to be clicked up into second gear to clear away the raindrops. The sky is much greyer when we reach the cricket club car park and as we’ve only been driving for forty minutes, the engine will have to keep running to continue the sensation that we are still on the move.
Five clicks of the handbrake and she is awake, grizzling for a s’nack’ and some water. The buggy is put up, she is hastily but gently put in it, the canopy is over, rain-cover on and we are off up the old coast watch track in the driving rain. The buggy’s rough tread helps it to negotiate the muddy brown puddles and we talk all the way to the squat brick shelter. To be fair, though, it’s a one sided conversation about the importance of good sleep patterns and the wonder of bird migration. The rains tenacity increases and it bounces off the rain cover, splashing into the canvas bag tray at the bottom. She’s happy, babbling and laughing each time that the buggy stops and I crouch down to look through her ‘viewing hatch’. We smile and continue walking.
The elder bush is alive with the movement of birds. We can see several Chaffinches, some Reed Buntings and a charm of Goldfinches – that all take flight, coalesce and then separate into the surrounding bushes. We make it to the shelter and as we enter, on the brick windowsill (albeit, long devoid of an actual window) sits a sodden Goldcrest, visibly exhausted and trembling. It does not show concern for our presence and sits for a few minutes, watching, as she eats some coconut rolls and has some water; the Goldcrest, drying. We talk about the journey these birds will have just undertaken; the weather, the loneliness – the magic! The Starlings start to trickle over the cliff like a black band twanging in the wind. They stay in formation, ordered and purposeful, as they continue to stream over the clifftop. Over the next ten minutes or so, hundreds of them emerge from the misty murk and arrow into the beet tops of the field next to the shelter. She has seen the miracle that is bird migration firsthand. I smile – she giggles – and we begin to walk back down the track, once again negotiating the pock marks and puddles.