Friday, 10 April 2009

alternative wildlife

At the end of my small garden is a mixed-native-tree hedge. We planted it about 10 years ago and it contains hawthorn, beech, holly and hornbeam. It has developed into a beautiful good old-fashioned hedge such as surrounded most fields here in Gloucestershire when I was a kid. As such, it provides not only a secure and attractive backdrop to the end of the garden but a haven for wildlife. It might only be 40 feet long but you would be surprised at how many visitors it gets.
The garden also contaons a stand of three closely planted silver birches which by clever design, makes the garden feel more soacious and whose white trunks stand out strikingly againt the backdrop of the rest of the garden.
As a result, the birdlife is very varied. At any time one might see thrushes of various kinds, blackbirds (who at this time of year are shameless in their pursuit of each other for breeding purposes!), flocks of goldfinches and long-tailed-tits and a couple of fat pigeons who may well end up in a pie at some point.
The hedge seems to allow passage of the avian visitors from the nearby common and woods. It seems to be a very welcome sanctuary and causeway linking various other oases of wilderness together.
The hedge stands on a bank: Once a wall marking an ancient field boundary, it is now covered in soil and looks very naturalised.
Often, i work from home here at the dining room table or upstairs in the spare room where I have an office of sorts. Being a sociable creature, I do miss human contact when I work from home. Eventually, I find myself talking to the walls, or to my chilli seedlings on the propagator on the window ledge. I even occasionally, near the end of a long day, get small terse replies. Chillis are not great conversationalists and walls are notoriously tight-lipped.
So, it did not seem strange to find my underfed imagination set to work one day to allow me to see the other inhabitants of the hedge.
At first it was a feeling of being observed. No human could be seen, indeed, the garden and house are not overlooked.
But there was that nagging sense of someone watching me.
Not being a believer in such whimsical notions as any form of "sixth sense" (though five seems inadequate to describe the subjective experiences we have on moment-by-moment basis: What about hunger pangs and "heeby-jeebies"?) I dismissed th enotion.
But it persisted. And one day, glancing up unexpectedly, I saw a tiny green face barely bigger than a 50p piece staring at me from between the hawthorn leaves.
It looked unblinkingly at me for a few moments, a slight smile on its lips, before retreating back into the undergrowth. I blinked a few times before shaking my head and resuming my dull emails.
But gradually, other faces occasionally started to show themselves.
I initially dismissed them as pareidolia: That tendency to see patterns of faces in clouds and wood grain and suchlike that is a quirk of the human brain.
But then one day in Autumn, they finally showed themselves in full. A group of tiny people, about six inches tall, climbed down the retaining boards at the bottom which served initiall to hold the soil back before the roots took hold. They seemed very confident, although they moved quickly, as small creatures often seem to do.
A rag-tag bunch of tiny men, all in brown-green clothes, some with grass capes, others with tiny turned over wellingtons that look like they might once have belonged to action man who was now forced to carry out his missions barefoot. They carried small pointy sticks and had little baskets which contained such things as acorns, ash keys, sycamore "helicopters" and the odd shiny thing which I could not make out. I think they have a penchant for shiny things which is why car keys occasionally go missing.
The looked around showing a prudent vigilance but not in any nervous sense. Down they came to the pond and filled up little skin bags with water, lowering them down on wat appered to be the pudding string I used to keep in the kitchen drawer but which had mysteriously vanished at Christmas when the turkey needed preparing.
A cat appeared suddenly on the fence and looked down at them with what seemed to be mild fear and trepidation and then proceeded after some moments consideration, to clean itself distractedly.
They paid it no heed and carried on with their task.
The one of them, a wizened chap with a beard and tiny flat cap, looked straight at me and winked. I was taken aback and just smiled a gurn of confusion back at him as best I could manage.
Then quickly and with no signal, they hauled up their buckets and glancing about them, trekked back across the lawn where they disappeared into the stems of the bamboo thicket.
I blinked a couple of times and wondered briefly if there had been hallucinagenic bread mould on my sandwiches or similar.
And then, there was the bearded face grinning at me from the bamboo stems, just for a moment, gap toothed and mischevious.
And then it was gone.
I don't see them often, only occasionally. But they leave me presents of crab apples in September, wild garlic and small garlands of daisies, the design of which leads me to suspect feminine hands at work in whatever community they live in.
In return, I leave them food. I know they are fond of stilton. Oddly, they seem to prefer the rind and so this is what I believe is called a "win-win". And sometimes, on days such as the equinox in spring, or winter solstice, i leave them a miniature of port which I purloin from hotel rooms. After that I don't usually see them for a few days.
But in a world of keyboards and GPS, of phone masts and low-emission cars, it is comforting to have my little friends there, just out of sight. I am not sure if others see them. But I do. They brighten up the periphery of my world.
Keep an eye out round where you are. With regional variations, I am sure they must be around.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Rediscovering my words

Hello blog. Its been a while. I am not sure why. I have been mildly busy but not cripplingly so. My time has not been saturated with the need to spend all my days emailing customers, generating presentations, flying all over the lace.

Actually, I am writing this on a plane. It is the first in nearly three months. Not that business is bad or demand dried up for me or my products. No, there just hasn't been any reason to see anyone face to face.

I haven’t missed it particularly. My self-esteem hasn't suffered with the inference that I must no longer be important. I have rather found it very restful. I can have a life were I do regular things like dance and go to the gym, be there every evening for the kids to ask me questions or ignore as the whim takes them.

I have, oddly, missed the space of a couple of hours where I am forced to sit and do nothing in particular. Nobody can email me here or call my pone demanding trivial but labour-intensive tasks be performed. Perhaps that's why I got out of the habit of writing.

I miss writing though. Its as if the chaos and thrash of the inside of my head must remain unexamined and disjointed in my head.

Some thoughts and feelings I need to express. Leaving them in their raw, undefined and vague-sensation form is unsettling at best and almost physically uncomfortable at worst.

Other ideas which float about are merely pleasing to extract and play with. I get great joy from the vague nagging of a concept requesting to be untangled, described and expanded upon.

Its as if there is some kind of box in here which is full of knotted-up threads which once untangled can be woven or sewn into bright colourful tapestries. But in their raw, messy state, they just really clog up the everyday workings of my brain (which is why the milk gets absent-mindedly "put away" in the microwave or the keys get left in the front door when I go to work.

Many ideas are currently circulating in my mind and it would be a shame to let tem languish unexpressed, especially given the disruptive influence they exert over the prosaic business of day-to-day life. To write them down is cathartic and as long ago as I can remember, I have done this as a form of release.

I suppose then, that means I must be by nature a "writer" that is, one who is compelled to write for is own sanity as well as for enjoyment.

And so, there will be more: more thoughts about the many things that preoccupy me when I should be doing something else, which go round and round of their own accord inside my cranium when I am riding my bike to work (though not when I am cycling for fun, strangely. Or perhaps not strangely at all).

I d have some plans to put my eloquence to use, for now I feel entitled to allow myself the conceit that I am in fact eloquent, without so much of the guilt I previously felt at the seeming arrogance of such a claim.

I feel that I can put it to use.

People seem to enjoy reading what I write, or so they tell me. My examination of the mechanisms that inhabit the only being I have any intimate knowledge of, and how they may manifest in others as behaviours, seem to be quite popular.

But having spent fifteen years explaining complicated technical things to people, I feel I may be able to add some value to the world by helping share some of te joy that curiosity about the world gives us: science is a subject I have always found fascinating. Even before I knew it was called science, it added a piquancy to the World to know there were tings I didn't understand, but which gave me a feeling when I looked into them. The feeling was a mild, or I some cases, a powerful feeling of excitement at unpicking the happenings of the world using tools of observation. I later understood this to be the "scientific method" though to me it was still just "finding out".

I shall leave this particular thread for another time, but be assured, it will be often touched upon.

For now, I am happy to have somehow cleared a blockage. The flow is restored and the musings, ramblings and products of Pets mind will be forthcoming more regularly.

And if nobody wants to read them, never mind. I will still be the better for having written them down.