Friday, 27 September 2013


I read somewhere recently in a recent survey of uk roadkill the most common victim were blackbirds. Sorry, I can't find where and when I searched I found an Independent article saying it was badgers - a discrepancy which could led this post down a very different route. Blackbirds, though, are slow responders to danger, which means they will more often than not leave it to the last minute before the fly 'out of the way' of traffic, aka fly across the path of passing cars.

Only a few months ago I killed one. It was a strange event: shocking and cartoonesque. I was driving along the A6. A blackbird suddenly swooped across my path. A single black feather spiralled up over the bonnet and away. I drove on. The lack of thump made it worse, and I was haunted by the sight of the feather for the rest of my journey. The fourteenth way of looking at a blackbird.

All roadkill is a result of overpopulation. The encroachment of humans on the wildlife population of the country.  I mentioned the 25% / 50 year disaster in my last post.

I find it absolutely stunning that this is not considered newsworthy. Instead our tv adverts hammer on about sofas and cereals. Our news focuses on how man kills man or currently, 'recovery'. Is it because David and Boris think they can escape it in bunkers? Do they disbelieve it? Is it too boring for an electorate to engage with? It obviously won't sell papers.Talk on the Today programme this morning was frustration with the policitians for arguing over scientific evidence while there is no discussion over economic policies that do/don't respond to climate change.

Fifty years. That's in the lifetimes of many many parents. Why aren't more people talking about it? I know Facebook is not thermometer of public opinion but when I first posted this information in a status update it passed virtually uncommented upon. I posted a picture of my first tomato harvest and received double the amount of interest. Surely these people overlap in their concerns? Is it because it's a hopeless case?

I am truly perplexed.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

No Benches in Amazon

I was in the bookshop at Salts Mill at Saltaire yesterday. For an hour. There is much space between bookshelves, many books are set front facing, benches line the walls, and staff do not ask if they can help. Their salespoint is central and big should you need any. 

I mooched along shelves of picture books, books on textiles, dipped into The Poetics of Space, a craft book on making minibooks, natural history books, kids' books (one I loved and scanned my mental list of under three year acquaintances whose birthday was imminent - about a rabbit who says poo bum) philosophy and poetry books. I took some notes, jotted down titles and authors, got over stimulated, then excited at what I would do when home. 

Eventually we collapsed in the cafe for lunch. We'd bought two books. And talked about buying more cheaper online, getting them secondhand. Blah blah. Nothing to help the bookseller's cause. Nothing to stop to world domination of Amazon. And yet while there I kept thinking this wonderful slice of the afternoon could not have happened if all we had were ebooks.

I read ebooks. They're very handy for someone who thinks she needs to take six books on a three hour train journey, just in case... But I also completely value and recognise my need for physical connection to a book, for being able to physically flick pages, run my fingers across a picture or line, and take in the different sizes and textures of a book display. All this, to an extent, can be done online at home. But not being at home shifts my antennae so I stumble upon titles that surprise me. Not being at home, sitting on an unfamiliar bench dipping into the third chapter of a book I may not buy within the hour, sharpens my receptivity to what I read. 

I need to take something of it away with me, I need to lodge what I read and subsequent ideas. Not possessing it makes it more vital to use or store for later use. And if it proves to be absolutely relevant to what I come to do then I will hunt it out (probably online, I'm not perfect). I want to keep my focus, not to graze on everything the internet promises. I want my grazing to be physical, as I wander from the natural history to the craft section. (Perhaps the physicality is inevitable since I'm engrossed in making another poetry pamphlet, using more delicious paper and card, incorporating charts and tearing.)

Jonathan Franzen's Guardian piece on technoconsumeriam, particularly within the book industry chimes with my own disgruntlement towards the trumpeting of technology as definer of what is published over its role as provider. A friend tells me optimistic talk amongst techies is that within 50 years we'll be living through avatars. I presume if this is the case (and if there's truth in carrying on as we are will lead to of all speciesbeing extinct in 50 years*) we'll be 'living' in worlds designed on second generational memories of this physical world. A water vole? You'll have to use an otter instead.

*Prof Veronica Strang, an environmental anthropologist specialising in water

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

On the Cusp

The geese are inching their way back. I've seen three skeins in the last ten days - of maybe twenty or so birds in each. Not so many for starters - we get arrows of hundreds when they come proper - but it's a clear seasonal marker, despite the swallows still hanging on. I'm told the ones that are still here now will probably not make it back to Africa for winter. So not such a good thing to have summer stretching out a little longer, for them at least.

And of course the sileage is being harvested. The starlings go crazy for the lime bright fields and, it seems, once they've eaten enough from the soil, they come to bounce on our roof to shake out grubs from the tiles. And shit all over it and the ground surrounding the house. So while we miss out on the yellows and golds of the early autumnal shift, we do get white.

Then, last week, there was metaphorical change, with Seamus Heaney's sudden (to the unknowing) death. Another realignment, a coming to terms with unstoppable movement. Seconded by David Frost two days later.

Heaney wrote so beautifully on death. In 'The door was open and the house was dark' he talks of feeling 'a not unwelcoming | emptiness' after a friend's death. There is nothing but it is 'not unwelcoming', suggesting it is something worth being alert to. Memories, reflection, understanding the relationship, the absence, perhaps. But nor is it welcoming. The space is in suspension, as are the emotions contained in it.

This cusp is an odd place to stand - or fly if you're a swallow about to depart - being neither one thing nor another, not in one place of another, a balancing act depicted in so many of Heaney's poems. What a fitting, final act of this poet to depart at the border between summer and autumn.