We live in danger of eventually becoming the thing we hate.
There’s nothing like a ludicrously portentous opening sentence to give a rather inconsequential blog post a bit of snap, is there? Hate is rather a strong word for it, after all. But after a decade of bimbling through the streets of London, I have come to be wary of the Emergency Stop Pedestrian. This behaviour seems to be much more prevalent in tourist-heavy areas – or ‘Red Zones’ as I’ve started calling them – snazzy new mobile phones, too, have a lot to answer for. I don’t normally have to be wary of roving ecologists, though.
But today, I finally became that person. Walking through the Brunswick Centre, a sound suddenly brought me up short, causing the unfortunate lady behind me to collide with my rucksack. She said something that sounded an awful lot like ‘flanker’ and I can only assume this was a reference to my broad, manly shoulders. I wasn’t paying any attention though, as right there, above the sound of people spewing out of the Picadilly line, was an incongruous high kee-kee-kee bird call.
It’s a weird thing sometimes, being an ecologist. A few flashes of colour in the right pattern, or notes in the correct arrangement can send you questing through the plashy fen or staring moronically up into the sky like some kind of loon. I’m not even particularly good at bird sounds, but a faint yet shrill call in an unexpected context is apparently all it takes for me to cause an obstruction to a public thoroughfare.
I eventually tracked the Kestrel, wind-hovering over the Russell Hotel, and stood to watch it for a few minutes, all the time thinking to myself ‘you’ll not have much luck up there’. It didn’t hang around long but I was surprised no one else followed my gaze.
Perhaps people are always staring up at the sky in Russell Square. Perhaps I just look like the type. Maybe I am beginning to take on a decidedly incoherent appearance in my old age. It was enough to break up a little of the Christmas shopping drudgery for me. Between the Kestrel and the Assyrian reliefs in the British Museum, I’ve had quite a day.
* * *
As you may have noticed, it’s not just the Emergency-Stop-pavement-walking I’ve been guilty of today. I’ve also just splurged onto the page a screed of nature writing produced merely for its own sake. A paean that does nothing to inform or provoke discussion. This clearly goes against my own ethos of nature writing. I should probably be horse-whipped.
Well, if one will go about having opinions and writing them all over the internet, one will inevitably get called out for a hypocrite sooner or later. The thing is to brazen it out, I find.
And who cares? I saw a Kestrel over Russell Square today and it was brilliant.