Thus far 2011, a few highlights aside, has been a memorable year that I’ll work hard at forgetting. Face-to-face confrontations with mortality bring a lot of things into focus and for the most part they’re less than pleasant. The loss of loved ones and old friends has been difficult but, if nothing else, has raised a dusting of memories that had settled imperceptibly over the years. What it has also done is to give perspective. But then, I always take the view that the only way one can fully appreciate perspective is by considering it from as far away as possible.
By August that necessitated a change of air, some time away from things and more than a little reflection. Sweden would provide that; the trickling autumn migration was about to become a deluge, friends would visit from Switzerland and Dubai and a little self-indulgence seemed possible. I looked forward to some lazy navel-gazing days in the sun on the deck but the weather conspired against it; it was wet and windy in Skåne. There was, however, a way to avoid the cold and get some sun en route, if we travelled a long way round, through Sardinia. So while the disaffected youth of Britain was burning buses and wrecking corner stores in Tottenham or stealing mobile phones so that they could send each other inconsequential text messages I was sitting in the lush and secluded garden of the Nora Hotel Club, enjoying a long, chilled Campari and fresh orange-juice.
Autumn did what it was supposed to do and provided enough distractions. And there were some sunny days in Sweden when not very much happened at all.
So this awful year moves towards its close. 2011 proved to be an exceptional autumn from a birder’s point of view, a dusting of new memories has started to settle and now – still with the funeral of a good friend to navigate next week – a feeling is starting to emerge that 2012 has got to be better.
Sometimes you just have to take the time it takes and keep your head down.