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The Death Of The Birds: A Winnowing

Monday 25th June, blue skies, mild breeze, cool bright and clear. Saturday we took the train to Shoreham, and walked up through Old Shoreham (an interesting place, confounding my persistent image of "Shoreham" as a derelict power station, and a big shingle bank covered in quirky houses like giant beach huts) to the nettle guarded path up to the bypass and beyond. A very grey and blustery day, but with the reward, as we climbed, of the larks, so many of them in the end (mainly invisible) that their song seemed a continuous fabric, a glorious soundscape, filling the wind-tossed air above the fields of barley. Speaking of Gove's latest bold announcement, which Nick Clegg says is a complete blindsider and His Mate Dave knew nothing about it... But who would believe Nick Clegg? They sent him to Rio, and we know what that means. So yes, probably, "O" levels and CSEs in some form are on their way back. "what's tragic," says Peter, (still partly a Maths teacher at his college) "is not even the mad and rubbish things the govt does to education, of which this is certainly one, it's the way they keep on DOING them, never giving anything a chance to bed in, never giving teachers or students a chance to figure out how to make it work..." "Mm," says Gwyneth. "All these years, it's been like, the business and govt people who wanted to be fashionable back then embraced one idea from the revolutionary years of the Sixties, the concept of Continuous Revolution; never letting people alone. A great way for managers to look busy, eh? Because it was the one thing they could understand. And they've never let go."

We walked along the "butterfly bank", downland where the complete absence of butterflies wasn't a terrible shock, due to the wind and the cold, slow season. July and August may bring them out, and where we met one vivid caterpillar creeping on the vivid purple wild thyme, which I tried to convince myself was an Adonis Blue larva, but I'm afraid it was a Burnet Moth infant, as the Adonis Blue larva is a freestyle take on the whole caterpillar idea, looks like a tiny sea-cucumber and is pretty unmistakable, besides rare. But I was thinking about the birds. We have a picture book, Birds Of Britain And Europe; dating from 1980, but even in the nineties, even ten years ago, its information was still fairly current.

Swifts: HABITAT: Almost anywhere. Feeds over water, frequent in towns and cities

not anymore

Starling: HABITAT: Virtually everywhere: a highly adaptable species

but we got the better of them! Starling population has plunged by 90%

& so it goes on. The heartfelt comment ex-farmer Alan Lloyd added (thank you Mr Lloyd) to my Prometheus Unbound entry says it all. A small suite of birds (eg wood pigeons) can survive and prosper, on intensive farming, but most of the farmland birds, ground-nesting birds, must die. Most of the urban birds must die. Most of the woodland birds must die. Even our enemies the urban Herring Gulls are less of a screaming crowd now, up on our archaic chimneypots here in the Crescent. The hungry generations did tread down the nightingale in the end.

& what remains? It was a stormy day, a bit relentless for any bird*. As we walked down the Adur, we saw one stunning Little Egret (now that's a bird practically unheard of in the UK in 1980), one oyster-catcher, a whole heap of swans, a sparrowhawk, and a big, very red dog-fox, his brush soaked and back muddy, trotting through a field, having obviously just swum the river. Heading quietly for more rabbits than you could count.

Watching: A Royal Affair. Thoroughly engrossing & thrilling, and not afraid to wear its (political) heart on its sleeve. Mikkel Boe Følsgaard took a great part as mad King Christian. & did you know, the "happy ending" is more or less true? Caroline Matilde's son Frederik DID restore the reforms his mother and her lover died for (to be fair, arguably they died, in real life as here, for being young, stupidly arrogant, and horribly careless; but that's not going to make a worse movie, is it?). Also, I really love the sound of the Danish language.

Reading: Ad Infinitum, Brian Rotman. Having problems with the Post-Modernist Prolixity we thought so fine twenty odd years ago, which now seems to have genre fantasy writer's disease (= never use one word where 500 will do!), so I keep thinking yes, yes, but get on with it. However, will persevere.

The church is St Botolph's on the Adur, which we visited and made our turning point. Saxon, more than Norman, a very quiet place. It's one of the 500 Holiest Places in the UK. Certfied, and in a book and everything. Wow. I looked up the book and found somebody on Amazon complaining that his own country's best and secretest holy places had been left out. Fer God's sake (so to speak). Rejoice, my son. Rejoice. Fame isn't everything.

And before I forget, to cheer me up, and probably you too if you read this blog, here's a really nice blog I found earlier: Jonathan Pomeroy
Specially the SwiftCam

* Except the crows, (in flocks, so rooks?)we haven't got the better of them yet. They were out in the wind, and revelling in it.