He's used that word again! O-oh!
It's a long story, so bear with me. No pun intended, honest.
It is often the case that a child who grew up surrounded by countryside will veer off on one or other of Life's diversions during late teens. Wild life rather than wildlife, if you will. But hopefully undergo a metamorphosis when older and re-emerge as a nature lover once again.
This certainly seems to be the direction that my life has taken. After the wilderness years, the imminent arrival of a family nudged me back on the right track. A muddy track with puddles, but a track, nonetheless.
My partner in this endeavour was not nearly so keen in those early days. I recall a blazing row in a Westphalian wood in Germany and a field guide whizzing through the air. Walks were walks back then, none of this poncing around with optics and stopping every five yards to peer skywards. Well, we're all older and wiser now, though she doesn't seem too feather-spittingly distraught at having passed up on Black Kite, Black Woodpecker and Black Redstart, to name but a few. And why were they all black? It wasn't even the Schwarzwald.
Fast forward several decades and here we are in a much different scenario. One of our number went off on a gap year in the autumn of 2006 and the thing that got us parents through those empty winter days was a Garden Bird Survey for the RSPB North Bucks local branch. That's what took our minds off the imagined terrors facing our wee lass as she ventured across the globe. This in turn allowed my wife to blossom as a nature lover and she's not looked back. I don't seem to be the most keen birder at Tense Towers anymore, judging by this morning when a shout of "Long-tailed Tit! Yes!" preceded a feminine hand ticking off another square on the form.
She has a good eye (actually, she's got two good eyes, and they still have a mischievous sparkle when she laughs) and often spots things that I've missed. Her adoption of optics is impressive but hides are still boring, I'm afraid. However, her waking thoughts, as she rises and opens the curtains, are to see what's in the garden and on the feeders. Now that is naked birding.
I did seek permission for a photo of this, by filling in the forms in triplicate, two weeks in advance and supported by profuse assurances of tastefully arranged framing, but to no avail. Sadly, the ladies of the local WI have missed out on a possible recruit.