Singing Lessons

A recent post on the Transit Notes blog got me thinking about birds and birdsong. And, in a case of life imitating the blogosphere, it just so happens that something this morning woke me up unnaturally early. Half asleep, I staggered out of bed to see what was going on. On the landing, I was greeted by an excited cat and, somewhere in the air around my head, a flutter of wings. Sinbad had brought in a chaffinch. I seized the said Sinbad and shut him in the conservatory. I opened the landing window. Then I set about chasing the chaffinch. The sooner the poor thing could be set free into the sky the better. I finally caught it in the bathroom, cradling it gently in my hands. (If other members of the animal kingdom shared our intelligence I think they’d not know what to make of us: some of them we treat with extraordinary generosity and love, others we hunt down for no good reason and yet others we ship off in crowded lorries to abattoirs).

I was struck by just how small a creature a chaffinch is. It’s not often one actually holds one and one would prefer not to have to. The poor thing was so terrified that when I first held it out of the window, sat on my outstretched hand, it wouldn’t move. I withdrew my hand, cradling it as gently as I could, thinking, as I did, that if a 300-foot high giant held me in its hand however gently, I too would be terrified. I decided the best thing was simply to stretch out my hand a second time. This time it flew off.

The excitement of it all left me wide awake. I released Sinbad from his confinement. I turned on the laptop and made myself a cup of tea while it booted up. It felt like a good time to do the Guardian Quick Crossword.  (It’s become something of an obsession with me. Not only is it a good crossword but also one where one can leave comments. The comments section has become something of an online community in its own right – the Quick Crossword Club, or QCC. But I digress).

Once I’d knocked off (OK, struggled a bit with) the crossword it occurred to me that if I took my sound recorder out into the garden I could capture the dawn chorus. I returned to the laptop and got bogged down in something or other online and returned some twenty minutes later. Here’s an excerpt…

Birds are intriguing. I find it intriguing that the descendants of the dinosaurs should sing. Intriguing, too, that their songs should be both complex and yet -as far as we know- lacking in any complex meaning, as we understand the word. The songs of birds should give us pause. We have a Hollywood-created idea of dinosaurs growling in a crude, carnivorous fashion, but did they sing, too?


A Desert Island Disc…

I’d quite forgotten about this orchestra until I came across a link to it on Youtube. Then I remembered. I’m sure I saw them perform this very piece live on TV many years ago. It’s certainly my favourite recorded interpretation of a piece by Richard Strauss. Enjoy.


Taking the Back Road

Just been out for a run. I took my camera as it’s a run I do as much for the views as the exercise. Although you can’t tell from the photographs – it was unusually busy. I passed a steady stream of cyclists, birdwatchers, horse-riders and dog-walkers. The fact it’s a Bank Holiday probably had something to do with it. Everybody needs a break…

Anyway, back to the run. Part of it is on an A road…



…but it soon turns off down a road that’s been closed for years due to the risk of subsidence – further on, the edge of an old old quarry comes almost right up to the verge.



At the top of the hill there’s the ruin of a look-out post from WWII – used to spot bombers heading for the cities in the East. Now all you can see from it are airliners heading out from Leeds Bradford airport and sheep…


There’s still May blossom to be seen in the hedges – a good excuse to quote link to my favourite poem, by Basil Bunting.


And so to the quarry. It’s a great haven for wildlife – especially for birds. The road, which runs along the cliff edge, is hidden in the trees and bushes on the right.





To begin at the beginning…

Who reads the first post of a new blog? Not many people, I’m afraid. Perhaps ‘new’ is the wrong word. I’ve blogged elsewhere but, for one reason and another, felt like a new start. I intend to write about the music I listen to and the books I read. I’ll be posting poetry, too, from time to time. I also tend to write about hills I’ve climbed and the places I’ve been. In short, I’ll be writing about anything I feel like writing about.

I started blogging about six years ago. My reasons for doing it are much the same as they were then. I think that one clarifies thoughts by writing them down. Assembling one’s thoughts into sentences can be a humbling experience: what seemed like a daring, original thought in one’s own head can look pretty trite when it’s written down.

I can’t help but feel there should be music in a first post. No major event is considered complete without an all-singing-and-dancing opening ceremony these days. Well, singing, at least. The late Robert Wyatt seems like a good choice.