These past few seasons I’ve developed a habit. I brood among a strip of sycamore and maple trees located close to the city’s edge. Holding fast to the river valley’s steep southerly bank, the trees offer a dappled sort of cover, from wind, sun or rain, and the flat-bellied sightlines of my quarry. Thirty feet below, 100 flippers distant: common seals haul up. A cow and her calf; joined very occasionally by a calf-less cow. From this distance, they appear as simple, curved shapes, as if formed by one continuous line. Try to imagine the kind of creature drawn by a child’s hand. The seals’ softened outlines are in-filled with tones and shades subtle enough, and so changeable, as to give the appearance of colour passing across the skin. Straight from the water, the mother cow’s pelt is an inky slick of purplish-black. As it dries, patterns of brown marbling and mottling appear, before finally curdling to clotted cream, stippled thickly with chocolate.