Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Combined End of the Beginning

A weekend struck-through by a third bout of man'flu this winter set me thinking more widely than the usual particularly narrow field of view...

So many memories from the old days. So many days when luck was on my side and yet plenty when it wasn't, memories that mysteriously emerge heavily rioting from a fog like a ponderous bream from murky water as I attempt to draw them out for recollection

There have been days when one's fortune seemed overwhelmingly unjust to others and others that are simply forgotten, and for justifiable reason

I have been lucky to have found the outdoors, or maybe it is the other way round, but then that is no doubt the mantra of anyone who enjoys thoroughly an enthralling pursuit away from their work which is more than just sport or a hobby but a way of life, a state of mind

This for me is how I view being anywhere in fresh air but particularly imbibing the sights and being stimulated of the senses in the countryside, even though there is nothing natural about it if one takes the view that man's influence renders things 'unnatural'. There is not a single plant or organism outside the influence of man, without doubt, and the great outdoors is only great within those limits and set against that context. The range of our everyday lives is wholly subject to the influence of ourselves and our ancestors

50 years I have wandered where the feeling took me and at every turn there is regret, occasionally at my own stupidity, but more often over the actions of others

As a teenager, and maybe before, it was fundamentally obvious that unendingly and obsessionally tampering with what I will call 'life' was a means to a gloomy end. Even at that formative time of life it was beyond being unquestionable that there was no need for any car to be capable of less than even 40mpg; there was no logic in straightening watercourses and literally destroying the food chain and webs supported by them to such an extent that, even when the error is identifed, it can never be corrected as the true loss is just a faded memory; there was a noticeable decline in what is now termed biodiversity (yes, give it a name and we can all live with it, "My child is out of control!, He has attention problems", well have you considered that feeding him a diet of blue smarties, coke and electronic games might not be natural?); development goes ahead paying lip service to biodiversity because national planning guidance says it must, and for that reason alone; agriculture rapes every last inch of land and can only be diverted from its destructive combine by subsidy

It is no risk as far as I am concerned to state here that it is possible that in ours or our childrens' lifetimes the world as we know it may come to an end. I do not consider this the miserable rambling of one obsessed by 'doom and gloom' but just a calculated statement of fact

To my mind it has long since been questionable that the earth behaves as a single organism and that it can't be that long, in terms of the time-line of life on earth, that it is about to change, as far as we are concerned, for the unfathomable worse

Highly likely is the possibility that the extinction of one too many organisms will act as a fairly sudden catalyst for massive change as we head for the inevitable restructuring of Gaia to the exclusion of life as we know and enjoy it

Today was a strange one, two of the family were ill with heavy colds and yet we needed to vacate the house as building work was underway which we wouldn't be able to live with. The day therefore became one of wanderings and, in that now somewhat old-fashioned way, we drove. We drove partly so that we didn't visit friends or relations and spread the bug to them and partly to revisit areas of countryside we hadn't seen for a while south of home and into the north of Oxfordshire

We drove about forty miles and, in all that way, through drift-crisped verges and scenes of wild desperation; through stiff easterly winds biting on exposed arable fields; under snow-laden branches of apparently lifeless trees we saw just four mammals, two pair of roe deer, and I remarked how odd it seemed to see them wandering the fields and yet not being owned by the landowners but, of course, we should be used to the presence of wild animals we should expect them to be there and not have to search for them with a metaphorical nit-comb in the flea-bitten wig of the outdoors

Yes, so many memories. Memories of water voles pushing tiny flared nostril-speared bow waves and diving at the last minute sight of my presence through their tiny glistening pin-head eyes pursued to the edge by released mink and hanging like a milk tooth on its last eye-wateringly painful thread of flesh; of myriad multi-coloured butterfly species now seemingly lost for ever in any number and maybe soon for good; of vast shoals of tiny gudgeon now quite simply devoured by the dim-witted alien attack of the zander; on catching the diminutive native freshwater crayfish in a minnow-trap, inspecting it with wonder, and returning it with care to the stony sun-sparkled and commensurately tiny River Swift; of hundreds of yellow wagtails falling in fields from migration brighter than custard such that it seemed the whole population of the country was descending on us at that very moment; of hoardes of chirping house sparrows attacking the breadcrumbs in the back yard of youth; and imagined memories that can only be gleaned of a balance of existence never fully experienced from an era, indeed another world, when otters and bitterns, water meadows and working mills, red-backed shrikes and adders, lush growth and a vast and wide array of lifeforms washed around in a delicately poised environment such as we will never see again nor appreciate to even the most infinitely miniscule degree as common-sense fades away hand-in-hand with the advancement of the modern world

How I wish that, just occasionally, time spent by the water might be punctuated by the 'plop' of the water vole, how fulfilled life would again be

"But we're alright, we're nice and warm here,
No one to hurt us except our friends"

Gaia - James Lovelock/Oxford University Press 1979
The Combine - Paul Weller/Universal Music Publishing Group 1977


  1. you should read Asimov (think thats how you spell it)foundation trilogy which became 5 books and you will know where gaia comes from

    1. I get your drift Ian but wasn't that sci-fi rather than driven by research as in Lovelock's case?

  2. just googled it, asimov was long before the lovelock book which it says was published in 2000

  3. Hmmm, 1920. You live & learn. Thanks for that, looks like I've got a touch of heavy reading ahead then!

  4. Back on the case this morning Ian, the foundation books commenced 1951 and through to about 1989 it seems...rather a lot of them too! I can see the link you are making but Lovelock's Gaia series conversely isn't fictional it's a scientific understanding of the machinations of the earth, how man has affected it, what the future holds and what some answers might be. Global warming, depletion of Ozone, etc, etc. Depressing if you want it to be but equally inspirational stuff, well worth a read and cheap a chips 2nd hand from Abebooks and the like