A satirical website carried a picture of an evening sky and a caption, “Stretch in days upgraded to ‘grand.'” It is a piece of gentle fun poked at the seasonal greeting exchanged with even complete strangers. One can be at a filling station, or a supermarket, or in the post office, or the bank, and say, sometimes to no-one in particular, “a grand stretch in the days”. In the country the amount of daylight really does affect people’s moods, longer evenings really make you feel more cheerful.
The stretch goes both ways, morning and evening, and the alarm clock now rings in daylight. The feeling that spring is upon us comes not just in the growing light, but in the sounds around. The dawn chorus of the birds seems more audible, more assertive as February draws to a close.
Birdsong is one of those sounds rooted in the consciousness, a recall of childhood days deep in the English West Country, the sound of the promise of another day.
Memories of other noises remain from those years when anything seemed possible, when the stretch in the days announced the coming of times when much of daily life would be spent outside and the world would look different.
Longer days brought sets of sounds that differed from those of the winter that had passed. Quiet weather meant my dad’s car pulling onto the gravel beside our house when he got home from work was more easily heard. The arrival of sheep with lambs in the neighbouring fields brought much bleating as the sound of an approaching Land Rover would bring them running to the gate. A new year’s work in fields, reviving after the winter, would bring tractors rattling over the unmade surface of the lane beside the house. Spring brought people out, there would be the sound of a neighbour calling his dog as they walked down the road in the evening time, the sound of children’s voices as they headed home before darkness. Happy days always included being outside to play after coming home from school.
A grand stretch in the days brought a grand multiplication of the sounds. Some of the sounds seem as clear in the memory as they were at the time. Perhaps it is about a desire for security for the sounds recalled are secure sounds; sounds of a world in which people were safe; in which the world was unchanged, unthreatened. Grand sounds.