AS I LOOKED AROUND ME I caught sight of a stag beetle, about three inches long, on the black iron gate next to the Writers' House where I had stayed the night. It was a hot day and I carried my jacket over my shoulder.

In the centre of the old town, now being redeveloped, two cops swaggered around an illegally-parked car. I found a vegetarian restaurant and joined the queue.

Then, locating the station, I found a swallow lying on the concrete near an underpass. It was alive and gasping, its beak wide open. I picked it up and felt its mad heart. Its wings were not broken. Thinking it was just stuck because it was lying on the ground and was thus unable to take off again, I launched it up into the air.

It made no effort to spread its wings or fly, and simply dropped to the earth again, landing awkwardly in front of some bushes.

I walked on, having learned the futility of gestures.