Thursday, 22 May 2014


Two days ago an event happened that always makes me smile: it was the tell tale sound of screeching high up above. The swifts had returned from nine months in Africa to the skies around my home.

They are incredible flyers, twisting and turning at high speed like natures military air display. In fact swifts are the fastest of all birds in level flight, with the highest speed recorded at 69mph. For the average six years of their life they never land except to breed. Just above my bedroom window a pair of swifts have nested for the past few years, which is an added bit of fun to this annual visit. The distinctive high pitched screech they make as they dive and streak across the sky is unmistakable, and occasionally they swoop down and back out again into my small enclosed garden, clearly having lots of fun. They truly take my breath away.

Speaking of which, the day after the swifts arrived I was driving my van to drop off some building materials. As I was going to head out for a cycle afterwards, I had loaded my bike in the back. As I approached traffic lights there was a sudden loud screech lasting about five seconds from the rear of the van. Initially I thought that maybe a tyre on the bike had burst, but the sound was unfamiliar and chilling. As I pondered what on earth it could be the cab started to fill up with what looked like smoke and I could barely breath. I pulled over quickly and opened the side doors of the rear of the van. Immediately a dense cloud of blue powder billowed out. The bike had come loose of its bungy cord and fallen onto a powder fire extinguisher. In five seconds flat it had emptied the entire contents into the rear of the van, covering every square inch in fine powder, in places a centimetre deep. It took almost two hours to clean it up, but I reckon I'll be finding the fine dust forever more. Not as an enjoyable a sound as the screech of the swifts. At the time it made my blood run cold.

Which brings me neatly to the last screech of the past week. Yesterday I had to have some blood taken for some tests the doctor wants to do. Probably nothing to be worried about as the main reason is to check my cholesterol levels. Anyway, for as long as I can remember I have had a phobia of needles. I even turn away from the TV screen if a needle comes into view to go into someone's arm, but lying there seeing it happen live is not something I cope with very well.

Let's just say that's one screech no one wants to hear.

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