Wednesday 27th July 2011
I WAS approaching a conurbation of several thousand buildings. Bright lights shone here and there and I could sense the pulse of activity, the thrum of machinery, the surge of effluent. It was essential that I cease flying, before others on the ground saw me and gave chase.
Among the nearest cluster of cells was a large pen, containing several trees and an unlit edifice, one end of which was a square, stone tower. Landing on top of this monument would allow me to survey the enclosure below while remaining inconspicuous, my intention being to identify a hiding-place among the rhododendrons or under the branches of an evergreen.
I started my descent, mindful of the volutation often in force around turrets, anxious to avoid being buffeted against the parapet or the long, white pole attached to the leeward wall, which was the side I had chosen for my landing.
At the very moment that my feet touched the stonework, however, the whole building shook violently, as, in the hollow of the tower, a mighty hammer smote a mighty bell. I slipped backwards off the ledge and fell awkwardly, needles searing back and shoulder as one of my wings collided with the pole.
Again and again the bell struck. Downwards I spiralled, flinching with spasms of pain. Only rapid and strenuous flailing with the undamaged wing prevented me from hitting the ground head first.
Blows to arms and knees would mean bruises and further discomfort, but, as far as I could ascertain, my crash-landing had not been seen or heard by anyone in the vicinity. The wing was buckled, twisted, probably fractured.
Nevertheless, I allowed myself a moment of twofold congratulation. On the one hand, the absence of on-lookers had saved me any embarrassment; on the other, I would be able to report to Arthur, were I to see him again, that I had been able, even while hurtling down to earth, to read the two pointers on the church-tower, and thus establish the time of my fall as being precisely ten o’clock.