I have measured out my life in many ways, but as a recent re-settler in the country, the natural calendar takes on a new salience. Today in Norfolk I see no swifts, where but a couple of weeks ago they still gyred overhead, pell-melled noisily down streets and scrabbled impossibly under the tiles of a nearby cottage, the most welcome of house-breakers. They are one of the earliest departers of our summer visitors, already seeking warmer climes in unimaginably long hauls - even this year's fledglings may stay air-borne for three years.
The gap they leave in the skies, though, makes their cousins, the swallows and martins, seem even more valuable as a promise that summer may still have some warmth to impart, some last blossoming of golden days that will provide the blooms of insects to sustain them in their own migration. As they wobble ahead of me along the lane, I exalt in their aerobatics. But my heart will still leap when I see next May's first Swift, and their screams shall echo inside me.