appetite for distraction (24/May/18)

tired and frustrated and angry at seeing yet another urban space fall to development, becoming yet another house, more housing, another slab of concrete and glass, not so slowly and surely filling in the gaps between, the space to breath, to move, to grow…. the worst is seeing gardens sold off for this very purpose and then green spaces being commandeered or fraudulently-claimed by local Councils and sold for short-term profits, even so-called brown-field sites, historically industrial to a greater or lesser degree… or perhaps could be called ‘pre-loved’ sites as such with the potential to be loved again and not buried beneath yet more of modernity’s blind avarice…… there’s a growing stolen generation of land happening before our very eyes buried in blockeries instead of rockeries or laid to waste beneath tarmac…… now of course there’s always a case for more housing and even more roads in certain circumstances but in many places there is plenty of housing stock, but for some reason it’s cheaper to buy new than renovate existing, and if you build anew the logic is invariably to pack-em-in, as many to a plot the size of a footprint with living spaces no bigger than matchboxes, rabbit hutches, coffins…… other gardens morphing into tiny runways strangling insignificant beds of uniformed planting that soon grows neglected and replaced with astro-turf, the ‘wondrous no–maintenance garden!’…. because it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a garden nor resembling nature in any shape or form… street trees pruned and butchered within an inch of their trunk for so-called health and safety concerns of “leaves on the road” or, heaven forbid, pollen… despite the fact that trees, shrubs, grass, flowers, even moss, yes the wrongly much-maligned moss is a perfect air-scrubber… they regulate temperature through shade, dappling, their soft non-reflective surfaces of the leaves, bark, stems respiring moisture and cooling, breaking up the wind, providing shelter, prevent or reduce wind-tunnelling and damaging vortices that buildings create which ironically cause their own destruction in storms… plants slow and deflect the fall of rain to the ground reducing flooding and run-off, are home to animals, wildlife, beneficial in themselves… plants feed us in more ways than one, not just spiritually but actual sustenance, growing food isn’t just something to be consigned to ghettoes we lovingly call ‘the countryside’….. most frequently overlooked of all is greenery simply has a feel-good factor often without even knowing why, we gravitate to it to sit and think, ponder, take a moment, destress…… sometimes we should ask what we can do for nature, not what it can do for us…… humans have an innate relationship with the natural environment which is increasingly being side-lined, muted, denied and in some cases forgotten altogether buried beneath outline planning permissions, local plans and developers wallets… the adage ‘use it or lose it’ has never been more important in this regard and ignorance is not bliss at all, it’s a missed opportunity…… it’s not rocket science to know the value of green space even without miring it in balance sheets, natural capital and economic forecasts, and I know this has all been said before, over and over, again and again………

© 2018 robert greig

the first note (21/April/18)

blackbird tells the robin it’s time to wake up now… robin tells the great tit there’s just enough light to alight the uppermost branches and sing… or sing-saw-sing-saw as they more commonly do…great tit tells the blue tit not to be so slovenly but get its feathered rump out here forthwith… blue tit tells the chaffinch, the stout and lazy but ever-so proud chaffinch still plumped-up in its plumagelical coat and hoping for a sleep-in after a heavy night out on the twigs… but then the wren will sure to be sure this won’t happen as it’s been there all this time, small as it is, practising its stealth below the light, below the lowest clumps of the lowest leaves rifling through the debris putting food first as there’ll be plenty of time for song later but then sounding a lyric so resounding and ever-long lasting as to knock even the burbling goldfinch off its perch busy doing impression of bubbling brooks… and they all tell the dunnock but dunnocks are dunnocks and being dunnocks and far too haughty refuses to play and pays little attention to demands that he join in the chorus to the noodling of beaks and trilling of tales of flighty adventures from yesterday and always, always, does what a dunnock will do, as dunnocks will do what they want, as dunnocks this is their way… meanwhile the chiff-chaff and willow warbler wait in the wings holding their wings to themselves for now, waiting their turn, for a gap in the looming cacophony, the chiff-chaff hoping then no one will notice they only have two notes and the willow that can’t help but long for something or other, maybe an end to its song that it’s never yet found as its melody trails in descending tones… by now there’s kerfuffle, the blackbird’s aware, there be thrushes of other kinds sticking their oar, or syrinx, into the mix, the mistle and appropriately-named song thrush, the former brings somewhat and edge to proceedings, while the latter a fluid enchantment which the blackbird can only ooze jealousy while jealously keeping its own random tunery lining the dawn… the three of them waiting, waiting to see, who’ll get their first, get the first, get the first early worm, the blackbird, the mistle, the song, who’ll be the first to snaffle a slug or a snail or wrestle the wiggly worm from its hole… not to forget that high upon high the jackdaws stare down wondering what all the fuss is about, what is this thing called a ‘song’, what is this this they call ‘singing’, what it this mellifluous rhapsody strafing the silence that leaks like the dark with each minute that bleeds into dawn… and the rooks, well the rooks, an occasional caw, one here and one there, to them it’s just all so beneath them and anyway they have got nests to build with sticks bigger than themselves so don’t have time to fritter and waste on such minstrelsy ditties, their gavottes and their fugues, sonata, toccatas, rondos, etudes, their mazurkas or serenades, ragas and reels, not least because they can’t do it themselves… and so the garden wakes, wide-eyed and shimmering, hugging the breeze and growing new leaves and all because the blackbird sang the very first note, all the while keeping an eye out for cats.

© 2018 robert greig

the day I found cows in my garden (14/April/18)

the day I found cows in my garden was quite a long time ago now… back in the days of yore perhaps, or back in the day, as they say, either way was truly bizarre and most unexpected, a sight to behold and a moment of disbelief… I didn’t even know they liked gardening… if you asked a cow for their top five likes and dislikes I can’t imagine gardening would be one of the former, nor even one of the latter, though I imagine liking salt would be a like, as would be rubbing their rumps against rusty wire fences, as would drooling, or salivating to give it its more respectable name……. and I surely never planted any cows in my garden and suddenly they experienced a surge of growth overnight like snowdrops can do… nor was it cows of the parsley kind, nor cows of the slip kind, although some one I noticed was slipping and sliding in attempts to clamber the slate steps to the patio but, even though cows have legs, they aren’t that adept at going up stairs, a bit like Daleks, finding themselves at a bit of a loss and disadvantage…… so there they were, munching away, poaching the ground, leaning on shrubs, nibbling leaves, or tongue wrapping and tearing them anyway… I didn’t count them, I didn’t have time too, take my word there were plenty and plenty more cows than anyone might want in their garden… perhaps they had a memory when they were roaming woodlands as originally they would have been and on the continent still habitually do in the domesticated herds, as my garden is part-orchard so plenty of trees, and bounded by a hedge full of outgrown trees…… it’s quite a wake-up call pulling open your curtains to be faced by a cow, or in fact several staring back looking undoubtedly as surprised as I did… where did that human come from?.. where did those cows come from?…… needless to say I rushed out, barefooted as it happened, after pulling myself out of momentary shock and awe on first seeing, to which they, also barefooted, or probably bare-hooved as they would be being cows and all, hot-footed (or –hooved) it out of there like a gang of naughty children who knew they’d done a bad thing, all the time wondering where they got in from the field next door as I knew they couldn’t have just landed there, parachuted in, as I saw no parachutes which I find is a sure sign no such thing happened…… it didn’t take me long to discover their secret entrance of incursion as they all to a cow scuttled skiddingly on the now poached grass headed straight for it to escape this pink-hued, barefooted creature alarmingly waving and flailing its arms in their direction and making noises in a language a cow clearly wouldn’t understand as it wasn’t in cow-speak…. they’d broken through, or sauntered through, a hole in the hedge where clearly I didn’t know there was such a hole but a hole there was, a hole now big enough to squeeze a cow through, in fact a whole herd, and as cows have a habit of following the herd it seemed that it was the most natural thing for them to do…… I never found the ring-leader, tricky identifying the top-dog among a herd as they weren’t dogs, they were cows, cows in my garden…. so that was the day quite long ago now I woke to find cows in my garden.

© 2018 robert greig