A loud splash made me look up from the Sunday newspaper. From the swimming pool, a dark grey mass of indeterminate shape rose unexpectedly on heavy wings and flew, sodden and clumsy, to the poolside. With its yellow beak it pulled bleakly at its wing and chest feathers, and waddled, plump, pigeon-toed, a few steps forward. It was an African olive-pigeon, the largest of its kind, and I thought for a moment it must somehow have fallen out of the willow tree above. But then, to my surprise, it took to the air again, and crash-landed once more in the icy water. A few more dunkings, and it took off, low and heavy, into the garden.
Extraordinary. I have never seen a pigeon, of any kind, land on water as if it thought it were some kind of a gull, only heavier and less buoyant, and then repeat the exercise, for all the world as if this were an ordinary, everyday event. Evolution, I thought – either this olive-pigeon will master this trick, this change of identity, and breed itself and its offspring to evolutionary success, or it will simply freeze its sorry ass off, or, lingering one day in the pool until its feathers are wet and heavy as a soaked towel, fail to take off again, and drown.
It is Fathers Day today, and I made myself rather a yummy lunch. Originally I had in mind the idea of doing duck, but yesterday, at the fishy shop, I saw they had in some beautiful fresh yellowtail, and I bought a small one, whole, and put it in the fridge for today. This morning I paged though some cookery books – Jamie Oliver, Marcella Hazan – and then, in one of my Spanish books, found just the thing: fish drizzled with a sherry-vinegar infusion of olive oil, garlic and a touch of chili, and baked in the oven on a bed of potatoes. It was fabulous – the fish firm and tasty, not dried out, the sherry vinegar giving a little lift to the oil, the chili providing a dark warm hit, the potatoes a waxy, oily, mildly toothsome base.
There was more than enough for two, and afterwards, after a couple of glasses too of a more than passable chardonnay, I was tempted to go for a little Sunday afternoon snooze. I thought how good it would be, to curl up under the covers with Rob, and drift away – that human touch, the warmth of two bodies at peace together, so much better, much luckier, than tasty fish or sodden fowl.