The Few

by Henry Berry


When I was married we had a plane. Well, a third of one, to be precise. When aircraft hangarage appeared on a statement of essential needs in my divorce case, I remember my lawyer, a well spoken Cantabrigian, using the f word in astonishment.

The plane was kept at a flying club which, like many, was an old WWII RAF airfield, and some of the old boys who flew in that era still used it as their gentleman’s club. Blazers, embroidered badges, pale fawn corduroys, or Crimplene trousers, Viyella shirts – these were their style icons. And their neckwear – tatty maroon and blue ties, signifying their service, or, for the more flamboyant, cravats. The few.

I was chatting with one of my dearest friends (online of course, as all chat is these days) and she liked my references to lapwings. As, recently, her friendship has kept me sane, this piece is dedicated to her.

But it’s about lapwings. The connection with the old boys at the flying club is that I can’t think of lapwings without thinking of them. There’s something about the lapwing on the ground that looks as though it’s a stuffed specimen even when it’s alive. It has this slightly faded green plumage and a dull eye. It looks like its been packed away in a crate, brought out and had the dust blown off. And it has all of the faded ego of a flying ace. That mad crest! A cravat wearer, for certain. An ex-flyer who long ago lost his marbles. An avian gin and tonic drinker. A reminiscence with feathers.

Lapwing flyingWhen the birds venture into the air, it’s as though they are Spitfire pilots who long ago forgot how to fly, or are too pissed to remember. Their pre flight briefing consists of, “Remember the glory days? No, of course you don’t. Well, just go up and go doolally. That’ll do.”

So up they go, and blow around in the sky, like fighter pilots flying Spitfires made out of paper. Kites, out of control. Mad squigglings that turn out, after all, to be birds.

Somehow they survive it, get their undercarriage down, and land like they’d got one wing shot off. Then into the clubhouse for another G & T, unperturbed.

Lapwings are silliness, in a bird.

But like all of nature, their call is freedom. And so they save us.

In times of turmoil, watch lapwings.

Never mind listening or talking therapy. These birds are of a generation that needed – needs – none of that, and, in their continued act of flight, in the face of all evidence of its infeasibility, they represent the unfailing wisdom of just keep carrying on carrying on.

And to them, just as to my few, those most beloved of friends, never before has so much been owed.


Henry Berry lives in a rambling old house in the rural Vale of York, England. His writing focuses on external and interior, mental landscapes inspired by intimate contact with the countryside immediately around his home. His blog can be found at www.henryberry.blogspot.com/

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