22nd April


Once, when I was about thirteen, I was standing in the middle of my bedroom, not thinking of anything in particular, when a hairbrush flew off the top of the chest of drawers, three feet away, struck me on the arm and fell to the floor. This was quite a surprise. I tried to reconstruct what had happened, looking for a rational explanation. Had I been close enough to knock the hairbrush accidentally? No. Had there been a gust of wind from somewhere, or had the hairbrush been positioned right on the edge of the chest? No. I was forced to conclude that it had indeed flown, propelled by no discernible external force.

Later, I read somewhere that adolescents, subject as they are to great physical, hormonal and emotional changes, may generate some kind of magnetic power that attracts objects. It’s an interesting theory, but one, I suspect, with absolutely no scientific basis.

Yesterday morning, when I was opening the shutters in the sitting-room, I suddenly remembered this incident. I remembered the strangeness of it, the urge I had felt to ‘explain’ it, the mix of thrill and disappointment when I could not. I then indulged myself by carrying out a foolish kind of experiment. Concentrating my mind on a row of objects on the mantelpiece – a candlestick, a postcard, a small dish, a shell, a box of matches, another candlestick – I willed each of these objects in turn to fly from its position. Nothing happened. Could I persuade one of them to budge even a fraction of an inch? No. Recalling that I had not deliberately provoked the original incident with the hairbrush, I turned away and – without seriously expecting a result – considered, not those objects, but the fact that spring was finally here and that I might get out into the garden in the afternoon, to do some tidying up.


Ach well. I went through to the kitchen to make myself some breakfast. As I filled the kettle, something smacked against the window, then fell from view. I went outside. On the ground lay a blue tit – tiny, delicate and, though quite dead, warm with the life that had just left it.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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