Late last year we decided that we would record all the birds who visited Mustard Park during 2010. Occupants of Mustard Mansion enjoy gazing out of the window doing naff all and this was a way to make that produce some helpful research data.
A small notebook was purchased and a pen placed adjacent to same (agreeing that this pen would remain in place) and on January 1st we began. A few ground rules were established using RSPB criteria. Even if three sparrows fly away east one second before four arrive from the west you cannot count seven. You can only count the maximum of any species you see at any one time.
Species that spend most of their time in the air can be counted over the garden, as long as you can be sure what they are (swifts or housemartins easy; gulls difficult). We count gulls only if they actually land, which they will risk if they are hungry enough and there is bread on the lawn.
Enough ornithology. Why, why in heaven's name, do I get so completely uptight and pissed off when the pen is missing? Mrs M wants to know and after 37 years I believe she deserves a thought out answer.
I am a creative thinker. That's not bragging it's a style thing. I make no claim to be any good at it. This means I go off on thought-tracks from time to time and get distracted. It is not unknown for a trip upstairs to involve three trips - two to do something more interesting I thought of on the way up and the third to do whatever it was I wanted. As fellow sufferer Michael Stipe (again, I make no claims for creative similarity) says, 'This makes me a good song-writer and poor company at dinner parties.'
So, Mrs M knows that in our house when she wants a pen there will be a pen. She doesn't find it possible to ignore the nearest pen and, once taken, has no system for putting it back because there will always be a pen fairly near.
If I spot a bird and there is no pen I will, by the time I've found a pen, have forgotten I wanted it to write down the name of a bird and will be using it to plan a Bible study, write a potential blog-post or do a cross-word in the paper whilst boiling a kettle for a coffee break.
Either she leaves the pen alone or I become the tattooed, memory-loss guy off Memento. The decision is hers.