One for sorrow, two for joy, they have always been around me, those wonderful black and white birds. It’s not so unusual to meet one, two, three or four on my way into work in the morning. I watch them fly from treetop to rooftop to pavement and back again.
I wonder whether the tall fir tree is where they have made their nest, out of the wind and affording some shelter when it pours with rain. It pours here when it rains. The roads fill up with water and betray the local council department of works. The drains are full of leaves and debris and the rainwater glistens with effluent.
These bright, cold and frozen mornings that are just beginning to get lighter as the season opens up, promise warmer weather to come. For now, the roads are treacherous with ice and I watch my step. Up ahead a couple of magpies hop and peck and croak their throaty song. They flap and float up into a roadside tree.
As I draw level with the sleeping spray of twigs that will become a ball of green leaves in the next few weeks, I notice that my totemic birds have alighted on its frosted branches. The light is still poor, the sun scorching the underside of whispering clouds a violent red.
In the tree I see not just one for sorrow and two for joy, but many times that. I run out of the rhyme at seven and start again only to hear the poem peter out again. There are fifteen magpies decorating the black and white branches with their black and white plumage. That was something to see this morning.
That and the roaring red sky.