Art, Don and Wen, Albion, travel, TOLL

A flirtation of peacocks

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We had worked long enough, finalising details and ironing out glitch after glitch in the script for the workshop. It had to be right… it would be going out later that day. We needed a break and decided we would take the car and go find a pub somewhere out on the moors. It would rest both eyes and mind. We knew of a place just on the edge of the moor above Hathersage. That would do.

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Except…it was a Sunday lunchtime and the sun was shining on the first day of spring… and everybody seemed to have had the same idea. The car park was packed. So were all the parking spots across the moor…we had never seen it so busy, even in high summer.

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We dropped down into Hathersage and headed through the town. There were a couple of other places we could try, but everywhere seemed too busy for those who just wanted a quiet break. Skirting the Ladybower reservoir, we headed out to a tiny pub that has been a place of celebration in the past… and we deserved a small celebration, we thought, on completing the workbook. Anyway, when the car park there is full, there is a field in which to park.

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We didn’t need it.. there was plenty of space so we carried our drinks to a little table outside in the pale sunshine. Even the dark cloud that almost immediately robbed us of warmth didn’t drive us inside. It seemed fitting to  celebrate the vernal equinox outside the 13th century inn, surrounded by the wild moors, with racing clouds reflecting in the mirrored water below… and the eerie cry of peacocks. What else would you expect?

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We couldn’t leave without paying our respects to the resident incongruities. Even knowing they are there, these bejewelled dinosaurs seem completely out of place against the rough stone and russet tones of the Yorkshire landscape. Yet there is a whole muster of them, along with a gaggle of geese, in the back yard of the inn, looking even more surprising against the scruffy  patches of grass and tumbledown fences.

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They roam free here and it is not uncommon for them to visit the patrons of the pub or to find one wandering across the road. The males strut, and they are well named a pride of peacocks… or an ostentation. Iridescent feathers catch every scrap of light, seeming to ripple with rainbows across feathers too perfect to be real. The females, although their feathers are soft and thick, touched with an echo of that mesmerising colour, are rather less gorgeous.

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In all the times we have sat watching them, fascinated by their plumage, we have not seen one display. But it was the first day of spring and there was definitely something in the air. First one, then another, raised its train as the females grazed unconcernedly. You would be forgiven for thinking they took no notice at all, but the intricate and intimate dance of courtship had begun and, watching for a while, you can begin to see the delicate movements of an age-old pattern falling into place. This wasn’t a pride of peacocks at all, it was a flirtation.

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The males, apparently confident of their glory, were in truth diffident pursuants of the unprepossessing females. As each raised its train, displaying a thousand jewelled eyes, arcing it forward like Dracula’s cloak around their ‘prey’, rattling their feathers to make arcane music, the peahens eyed them indulgently and continued to graze. In spite of all appearances, the peacocks were the supplicants… the females were firmly in charge of the courtship.

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The little yard fair tingled with excitement as it blossomed with beauty, a reminder if ever there was one, that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of environments. At one point six peacocks were displaying all at once… too many to capture in a single frame. Even though these gorgeous creatures live in an environment alien to their ancestors… even though  the sun had gone in… it was the first day of spring and the rhythms of Nature are not to be denied.

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