I've slept on the sofa for the past few nights in a bid to prevent The Man from my snuffling, sniffling and coughing as I battle the cold from hell. While our bedroom fronts onto the busy street, our lounge oversees a row of gardens that separate the next terrace from ours. The traffic is muted, you can hear the birds, and it's like being in a different world.
View of the gardens in the recent snowstorm.
And in the middle of the night, the sounds are even more unearthly. One night I was awakened by the foreign song of a strange bird. Stupid thing, I muttered; it's not even light yet. As the singing continued, I became less annoyed than intrigued. Its tune was unlike any run-of-the-mill bird, and I was reminded of the time The Man and I saw, to our surprise, three large parrots perched in the trees of Kensington Gardens. Further research revealed that west London -- Kensington, in particular -- is home to a number of parakeets and other exotic aviaries. That's all well and good until they start singing outside your window at 3 a.m.
A sound I am now well acquainted with but that terrified me at first is the howl of the urban foxes. Yes, you read that correctly -- London is home to foxes that exist on rubbish and prowl gardens for treats. I grew up surrounded by raccoons, skunks, wolves and deer, but I'll never forget the first time I saw a fox in London. I was in Camden Town (you can't get any more urban than that) and I saw one streak across the street into the tall grass on the other side of the road. At first, I couldn't believe my eyes, but when I mentioned it my friend he just shrugged as if it was commonplace. Last week, looking out my kitchen window at dusk, I saw the shadowy form of a fox as it scaled the garden wall and jumped off into the undergrowth. They are the prowlers of the city night and their terrible cries have haunted my sketchy sleep this past week.
And finally, you have the noise of the other horrible species: the binge drinkers. They are nothing if not consistent. Every night, no matter Monday or the weekend, you can hear them make their way home, shouting, kicking cans and generally being as obnoxious as possible.
I prefer the parrots and the foxes.