When I was a kid and training to be a journalist in Cardiff, one of the richest seams for mining quality stories (you were expected to find a real exclusive every week), was the magistrates courts up in the valleys, wearily called to order after another wild weekend.
All human life (and most human excesses, vices and crimes) could be found here, although after a seriously debauched break, it was often a bewildering mystery to said human life quite how they had ended up before the beaks.
These were tough, hard people in a hard place.
I was reminded of days past as I stomped and splashed over the moorlands of the black hills above Abergavenny before dawn today with Alan Wright, towards the old Pwll Du quarry.
I’d collected Alan at 2.30am and driven down through worsening conditions, so that the moors and quarry, sluiced with drizzle, wind and rain looked like the alien planet in “Prometheus” when we arrived.
Ravens, yes; Merlin, yes; Kestrel, yes – but not surprisingly no sign of yesterday’s Rock Thrush which had been seen here yesterday.
After nearly four hours of being buffeted by the gale on the edge of the quarry’s cliffs and drenched by the rains, we called it a day and I began to sleep-drive back to Merseyside.
Inevitably half an hour down the road, distracted by Red Kites and what looked like a fly-by Hawfinch (?), the sun broke through and the Rock Thrush reappeared in the hills above the quarry.
We whizzed back to Pwll Du to enjoy prolonged and wonderful views of this marvellous bird as it hunted wasps amongst the scree and gorse just above us on a sheltered slope round the hillside from the quarry.
In the sunshine it stood out as bright and pale as a very big Wheatear (albeit one with a red tail, orange flecked belly and lovely scaly and pale-edged uppers), but when the low clouds scudded back over it could really blend in to its background – what a stunner.
You’ve gotta love autumn…Thanks for the company Alan! Thanks for the show Rock Thrush!