1. Dawn over London
At about seven o’clock this morning I spent a few minutes looking out on the scene from my kitchen window. As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, I live in a flat on the sixth floor. It overlooks a small and very attractive park in the Crystal Palace area of South London. Dawn was not far off, but the millions of lights of this sprawling city were still on – mostly yellow streetlights interspersed with reds, greens, blues from advertisements. And weaving in and out among them, on every side, the white headlights and red tail-lights of cars and vans as drivers alone and drivers with passengers made their way to work or to whatever was calling them at that time of the morning. The sky was just beginning to lighten with a pale yellow glow tinged with pink spreading from the east. Across it flew a large black bird – a crow, of whom there are many round here. And higher than the lone crow, the heaving bulk of a British Airways 747 jumbo – from Buenos Aires? Hong Kong? Beijing? – dropping ever so slowly down on its final approach into Heathrow twenty miles to the west.
And then – cutting across all this, like a knife through butter, came the song of a bird. Powerful, confident, full of life and exuberance, ringing out across the park. A mistle thrush. For those who don’t know about birds, the mistle thrush is part of the same family as the ubiquitous blackbird, and slightly larger. It’s resident in the UK – among other countries – and is sadly, like so many of our birds, in serious decline. This specific male (only the male sings) has been around in the park now for about a month, on and off, hoping no doubt, eventually to attract a mate. The mistle thrush’s song is not melodious, but it’s incredibly strong, confident, exhilarating. Mistle thrushes will sing in pretty well any weather – rain, gales, hail, snow. In fact in some parts of the country I believe, the other name given to them for that reason, is ‘storm cock’.
The sound of that bird singing his wonderful song, a sound which seemed to thread its way right through and across virtually the whole of west London as it lay spread out before me at dawn was very moving. I stood for some minutes looking and listening, thinking nothing, just taking it in.
Eventually, feeling very still and aware, I turned away, back into the flat to make my breakfast. I switched the radio on. The news. Welcome to the world of human beings. Conflict. Chaos. Pain. Cruelty. Intolerance. Anger. And outside that wonderful bird still singing.
2. My recently published book, ‘Albatross’
In my last post I said I would very soon start posting selected chapters from ‘Albatross’. I’ll be putting up the first of those over this coming weekend, if not before. Meantime, once again, here’s the link to it –