It was back in the 1980s that the Slow Movement was first manifested, as an Italian guy objected to a McDonald’s in his neighbourhood. From Slow Food came Slow Cities, Slow Living, Slow Design, Slow Travel…. zzzzz You name it, there’s probably a slow version. In the 1987 novel The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho introduces an exercise of walking slowly, very slowly, especially after a meal. You see life differently when you take it at exceedingly slow pace, is the gist. There was some truth there and I got a lot from this message when I first read this book not long after I started my first post-university job, working in a law firm. I started going out for a very slow walk after lunch, taking time to observe and to see.

After a while I forgot about Paulo Coelho and his slow walk exercise. I was reminded of it when Mtoto first began to walk and we started to take things at his pace. I don’t always walk like that and more often than not, Mtoto is accommodated to us, either travelling on our shoulders or in his buggy.

Today though, was slow walk day. It started after Quaker Meeting when we went to have lunch at the benches at the top of Parc Trembley. We weren’t in a particular hurry to be or go anywhere. Most of all, we just wanted to be. So we followed Mtoto’s lead. Mostly, it was L doing things with Mtoto, while I had the opportunity to birdwatch. We did some picking up of sticks and games were played. Chasing. Catching. Hide and seek. I had time to stop and look up. Lots of looking up. Nuthatches revealed themselves in abandon. Best of all, the Nuthatch preening with its beak in the mid-afternoon winter sun.

Nuthatch. Photo: Jez Smith

Nuthatch. Photo: Jez Smith

 

More observation and I realised there weren’t so many, just five or six, but they were getting about a bit, on every tree and every branch. Blackbirds, Crows, Robins, Pigeons, Blue and Great Tits were all there. And four birds on their own-some, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a Greenfinch, a Hawfinch and best of all as it is new to me in 2015, the angry looking Goldcrest.

Goldcrest. Photo: Jez Smith

Goldcrest. Photo: Jez Smith

Down through the park, Mtoto climbing on logs, reaching over fir tree branches in his way, negotiating his way past holly branches and learning that he could hold the stalks but not the leaves. Into the Jardin de la Paix (Peace Garden), we played together at the shallow ponds. We looked at our reflections and learned that they were easier to see in the shade than in bright sunlight. We dragged sticks along the water and saw the ripples that they made. Flicking water made drops that made circles in the water. We dropped our acorns, previously stored in one of the cavernous Mountain Buggy pockets, and some floated and some sank. With sticks, we brought the floaters back and played with them again. We ran over the bridge, calling out the address of Monsieur Goro from Voila le Facteur by Naokata Mase. We jumped, we ran, we walked. Towards the end, Mtoto got our French bird book out of the buggy and started reciting the names of birds that I had seen today and he had heard me calling out. For some, he pointed to their picture but for others he called out and pointed randomly at text. And after two hours we were all of about 300 yards from where we first started (that will do for Janathon stats). These are the days.

2015 Birds

45. Goldcrest