Curious cacophony in Crookham as Banksy goes ballistic: a tall tale to swallow

Coping with a warm lockdown evening in Godzone and watching the swallows fly

What was that curious cacophony in Crookham last weekend? Don’t worry: it was only Banksy going ballistic at government’s labyrinthine Cummings and goings!

Was I alone, last weekend, in hearing a strange (and not entirely pleasant) noise emanating from the northern end of Godzone? No surprises when we learned that it was Banksy’s bonce exploding as he digested the news of the Cummings and goings (his term) of the Prime Minister’s chief (and very special) advisor.

Regular readers of Voice of the North will think they know what he did next: but I regret to report that the egregious old hack exaggerated his account beyond all credibility, rendering it a tale too tall to swallow.

Maybe he did actually take to the road with that living saint, the long-suffering Mrs Banks, and his last remaining chicken. Suppose they really did fetch up at our modest home (by no means a castle: we are indeed modest, having – as Churchill once said – much to be modest about).  But it is impossible that we could have stuck them in the “brick-built outside lavvy”.

Because it’s a handsome 19th-Century pigsty – solidly built, moreover, of stone.

Nor could the wine-tasting have been by any stretch of the imagination an eight-hour stint. I’d have given up and gone to bed after six hours at most: Banksy would by then have collapsed into the corner of the sty, dribbling a bit and obsessively reiterating a line from the old song, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: “Cummings for to carry me home.” Sadly, at that point I can envisage Mrs Banks declining to take him home at all. So, a night in the doghouse – or the pigsty – for him.

M’lud, such flights of journalistic fancy won’t do. I mean, where will they end? Next we’ll find people claiming that they can travel 260 miles from London with suspect Covid-19 and make a day-trip to Barnard Castle to test their eyesight, all without breaking the rules of lockdown. No, it’s unthinkable.

In any case, we could never have accommodated the Bankses in our pigsty: it wasn’t available. At this time of year it is reserved for the swallows.

Emphatically NOT an “outside lavvy”, this solidly-built pigsty is a seasonal nesting site for swallows

It’s always a pleasure to enjoy sunny evenings, such as yesterday’s, sitting on our deck (pictured above) and watching the newly-arrived passerines perform their aerobatics, particularly focusing on our regular pair of hard-working visitors, who circle a few times before ducking and swooping into the sty’s entrance when they think we’re not looking.

But this year all is not right. Ever since it arrived on St George’s Day, we’ve been anxiously observing the progress of one solitary swallow. To be sure, there are plenty of other swallow couples around, while house-martins similarly find nooks and crannies to build in next door: but all appear to sneer at our pigsty.

Of course, I can’t be sure that the lone bird was parent to the brood that successfully hatched in our facility last year – as they do most years. But we are becoming seriously worried that he or she is finding him/herself on the shelf. I mean, the other half is leaving it a bit late, surely?

If our lodger proves to be a swallow singleton this year, it all seems a bit hard. These birds fly literally thousands of miles to overwinter in the warmer climes of South Africa, then head back up here to breed.

It can’t be easy. Have you noticed how, around the end of April, we’re invariably plagued by powerful north winds? How must those swallows feel? They find themselves in sight of the white cliffs of Dover, only to think, “Bugger me! Eight thousand miles in, and we’re hitting that sodding headwind again!” No wonder they arrive up here in Godzone looking a bit bedraggled and knackered.

8,000 miles each way? By comparison, 260 miles is nothing. But, then, we’re assured it was nothing – nothing important, at any rate, if you can swallow that.

Our fingers are still crossed. Take a swallow of whatever you’re drinking on the next glorious English summer evening (tonight?), and toast our poor, lonely resident passerine. Here’s hoping its hopes of parenthood this year aren’t, well, toast.

I really wasn’t going to mention the Cummings and goings again. But I must add a postscript to the story that appeared on Twitter. A man called Bernard Castle thanked Twitter users for their solicitous interest in him. He declared that he’d never expected to become famous as a beauty spot.

It’s an ill wind…


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