IN the middle of the afternoon, when the sky was an even grey and seemed low over the rooftops, it began to rain, a gentle rain that was almost a mist. I looked up, and knew that rain was in the air because the blackbirds were singing. The light rain fell, and continued to fall. Two birds sang close at hand and three or four at a distance. At intervals they stopped. The silence hung in the lowering sky, and then the singing began again. I went out and found two of the songsters. One was high on the top of an elm warbling his heart out to another I could hear faintly, but the happiest singer of all sat on a tiled roof and sang to out-do all the blackbirds in the neigh- bourhood. He was still singing when dusk came and the others had given up to cry their challenge in the laurel bushes and complain of stealthily moving cats. When the first lights went on in the cottages down the road, the lone singer bobbed once or twice and flew from his perch on the roof into a holly-bush where he no doubt roosted for the night. A neighbour passed me and remarked that it was a miserable evening, but then he had missed the blackbird's song.