A few nights ago, I woke up practically every hour. It might have had something to do with my having had a prolonged nap in the afternoon. Be that as it may, it did give me the chance to do some scientific observation. So I can tell you that the robin was quiet until one o'clock. Catching up on lost sleep, I imagine. Then he had a burst of twittering for a couple of hours. About 3.30 to 4 am, blow me if he wasn't joined by a blackbird, and they proceeded to sing a duet. I must say the blackbird was the better musician. Now I'm used to blackbirds leading off the dawn chorus. At least one used to in Stanford. But what time of day did he call this? It would be getting on for two hours before rosy-fingered dawn began to creep across the eastern sky. I can only conclude that the sap is rising with this balmy daytime weather we're enjoying. This week the first butterflies have been out, the yellow brimstones bouncing around in the sun. Somehow it's appropriate that they're always first, with their cheerful sulphur-yellow wings and small orange spots. This year they've been closely followed by the darker tortoiseshells. I imagine they all hibernate somewhere, enjoy a few days of free-flying and mating, and then lay their eggs - and die. I love their freedom and mobility. They are, I believe, a symbol of resurrection. Now there's something to look forward to. No more wheelchairs and walking sticks: just gravity-defying freedom! I guess then there'll be some dawn chorus!
Oh yes, I nearly forgot. The University Challenge scandal! I was ashamed to have been trained at an Oxford hall. You'll remember, the final was between red-brick Manchester (with thousands of students) and little Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Manchester were going strong, and then in the last 10 minutes or so the questions suddenly became more literary and classical and Corpus romped through to win 'emphatically'. Now I'm not saying anything about the question setting, except that if there'd been more science.... But I don't need to, because it emerged quite soon that one of the students from Corpus wasn't a student. He HAD been, but he was now working in the city. Apparently it's not the first time something similar had happened (someone had changed college and was in his former college's team). 'Cheats!' the media howled. The trophy was taken away and given to Manchester. What was odd was that in all the comment following the shock-horror revelation no one seemed to observe that the contestants introduce themselves saying something like, 'I'm ..., studying ...'. I'd have thought the issue was more one of truth than one of cheating. Let's hope the Oxford boat crew next week are all bona fide students.