Thursday, 18 August 2011
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
We all know that the violence of these riots we have seen are inexcusable. Let's make that clear. The left perspective is not "this is okay" and it is ridiculously simplistic to say "This is not okay, but it's understandable: they're poor". But rioters' violence does not exist in a vacuum without build-up and - most importantly - without effect on legislation.
I hear them called "youths" and "rioters" and "animals" - any word that is not "people". The rioters are not a different species. We seem to want to distance our own race from these "rioting youths", but it is not just possible. We need to remember that they are humans, and then ask what made these thinking people into cruel, selfish, violent, destructive ones.
It's anger, it's opportunity, it's more than just "taking stuff", but that will come out in time. I have ideas, speculations, things of which I'm certain, but explaining why we do what we do is a wing of academia that could fill Croydon...or Hackney or Ealing, and simplifying isn't useful. In a way, it's too late to discuss why; what's done is done, as was said by a young man who used social networking media to arrange some community clean-ups. Maybe he's onto something. Right now, while we watch the riots continue, we need to prepare ourselves for our own fight - one to maintain what freedom we have.
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Bicycles, Birds and Bugs – oh dear!
It’s not just the deer that you’re in for when you take a ride along the Deer-Sanctuary cycle-route in the New Forest. A dynamic landscape and sound-scape awaits.
You’ll become familiar with the marbled rustle-sound of gravel under tyres as you cycle into the forest from Burley. It’ll accompany you, along with the quiet rings and clicks of the bike cranks. I associate the sound with arriving at Gran’s house in the car, but after you’ve tried this 20-mile route a whole new memory will be triggered by that crunch. If you’re taking the kids along, maybe years later they’ll hear the stones grinding outside their front door and remember the gravelly routes provided by Forest Leisure Cycling, such as the Deer Sanctuary path which circles twenty miles of rare wildlife for the nature-spotters amongst you, and leaf-shaped sun-beams for the stop-and-thinkers.
Your eyes are likely to be open to more than the direction you’re taking; scanning the route for deer and ponies and squirrels – but while looking for the big mammals, don’t miss the smaller things. You will probably spot a Dartford Warbler (a tiny, rare bird not much larger than a wren) or come across a Wild Gladiolus (a striking, rare flower) without knowing why it’s amazing to see them. I blame the daft names that the British like assigning to unique things. It’s hard to get excited about a Hobby or Tree Pipit, and yet some of these creatures are found exclusively in the New Forest. Just wait until you’re out there, seeing something that won’t be looked upon anywhere else in the country; it’ll be hard not to get excited! Searching them out requires nothing more than patience, but to make it easier when you go, take my advice: focus first through your ears; you’ll hear more than gravel. There are some great websites out there (some of which are listed below) with audio recordings to help you identify what you might hear en-route. With a little attention to the surrounding sounds, you might just be able to direct your eyes to something very small and very special.
Take the voice of the world’s forests – the New Forest Cicada (Cicadetta Montana). It’s a good indication of how bizarre this forest really is; it’s one of those creatures that, as far as we know, you won’t find anywhere else in the country. This noisy bug lives in sunny clearings near scrub, or at the edges of woodland. In short, keep your ears open on the Deer sanctuary path and you might just be in luck. As bugs go, this cicada’s not hard to spot; it’s quite a big bug, harmless, and its zippy chirrup is unmistakable.
The draw-back of moving so quickly through the forest is far outweighed by the positives of riding a bike when you go nature-spotting; it involves covering a lot of ground, getting some good exercise, and being very close to nature – no car-doors to separate or loud motor-engines to mask the landscape’s own dynamic noises. Combine this with the collage of rare birds that, like the Cicada, reveal their position in their songs, and you’ve got yourself a perfect bike-ride.
But it’s not just the tiny and rare that will keep your senses filled in the New Forest; there are bigger things, too. If little tweeters that fascinate we birdwatchers aren’t enough, how about the Northern Goshawk which can zoom near ground-level through woodland; moulding its body through nooks and tiny gaps at blistering speed to capture live prey. And look out for the mighty Red Kite, once nearly extinct, now flourishing. It’s hard to mistake, with its eye-catching red plumage, kite-like glide and forked tail that catches golden in the sun. The New Forest is by no means the only place to spot them, but what a backdrop the forest would provide! Even this stunning bird does its bit to recycle, preferring to find its dinner already dead – it searches out carrion, and occasionally terrifies drivers with spectacular split-second dives for road kill. To spot one, the sound you’re looking for is a cry that you might mistake for an eagle – high, long, ringing like a cicada, and slightly hoarse like the squeak of a bicycle-chain, or like the sound of tyres on gravel.
For bicycle-hire and cycle-route maps, visit Forest Leisure Cycling in Burley BH24 4AB http://www.forestleisurecycling.co.uk/
Or get geared up and your own bicycle serviced before you go at Forest Leisure Cycles on Christchurch Road in East Boscombe, BH7 6BW
New forest wildlife: Find out more
The New Forest Cicada (Cicadetta Montana) sounds like this: http://www2.arnes.si/~ljprirodm3/montana.au
Brief summary of some New Forest birds and their songs:
Rare and local plants
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Cashing-in on the cock
of a swan-head – a bill in her direction
malted teaser, he sees her
and takes; plucks her
Crossed; he came
Across a lost child, prayers
Skirting her lips in rich O’s, unknows
The stark revere of the flinch
Of crossed legs. Biting,