Trials of the Coot
In August, sickly stench of the lime trees diminishing,
a coot built her nest on the side of an overturned shopping trolley lying mid-river.
She sat with her three young.
Unfortunately, heavy rains came overnight,
the river flooded, the nest was washed away.
A day later I saw her swimming with her young among the bankside reeds.
A week passed, another coot made her nest, just near the trolley on an exposed strip of mud
(not three feet away, a duck sat on HER nest with young).
The river flooded again, the nests and they disappeared.
Another week: Undaunted, coot 2 (for I think it was she!) …again gathering material.
She appeared to be in a hurry, energetically pulling at greenery from the bank and roots in the water.
I spent a while watching her, in solemn appreciation of what seemed a noble effort.
The next day the crudely assembled nest had gone, I saw no young.
Apparently they can be rotten mothers but -pathetic fallacy allowing-
these activities seemed courageous.
Sturdy arching canes of Bramble, thorny, an inch thick,
thrusting through abundant quivering white trumpets of Hedge Bindweed.
Six-foot tall Cow Parsley, umbels like candelabra.
Seed-tray sized blackened rectangles in the grass, from one-use barbecues.
Pallid scrawny youths strumming guitars;
others, in packs, having their moment, peacocking with press-up and ball.
A young woman, haltingly reading aloud from the biography of a grimy 60’s ten-percenter.
She ran her finger along the sentences as she spoke, a Slav accent.
There seemed a contrariety, the slim text being accorded much consideration, wonderment.
In recent years I’ve noticed many referring to what they intend doing and being ‘over the summer’,
these months, warm or no, apparently now considered a wholly other arena:
looser, loucher, louder; dreary dull bands in fields, harrowing what badgers remain.
There was the ever-more repugnant and pugnacious facial contortions of the players at Wimbledon.
Poor Radio 3 continued its degeneration into ‘accessible’ asininity.
As ever, the silliest gesticulated / wept / brayed and barked, were paraded, lauded, forgotten.
For most it was the train, office, performance review,
betrayed promise and unfocussed blankness; perhaps a lark or two in the pub or club.
There were antagonisms (the gibbering of Horatio Bottomley’s heirs; a farrago of conceits).
Most pleasant memories?
A stroll through St James’ Park; a cup of chocolate in Piccadilly (clean table linen); Lulu at ENO;
a day in Margate; a late afternoon picnic at Beachy Head; revisiting the score of ‘Bluebeard’s Castle‘.
The Great Fleet
Perhaps, territorial waters sometime regained, an enlarged flotilla of factory trawlers or
‘fish processing vessels’ shall again put out to peturb shoal and shelf, lay waste reef, scour the
abyssal plain. More ‘bycatch’, discards, disturbed lives, confusion, tumbling of habitat.
The naming of ships:
The Ravager, The Molester, The Plunderer, The Marauder, The Despoiler…
With rear-gunners?…for seeing off the French as the death nets are drawn up the ramp.
What flag shall they fly? That of Jack? George? Andrew? St Piran?
-no more matter to the tossed and ripped coral or flounder as to to the fowl and swine of the
death camps- whether it’s EU or UK-funded tormentors that bedevil and violate.
After the Fischfest: long tables with cakes, tarts, flans, ein viertel Rudesheimer Rosengarten.
Then meandering back along Bundestrasse 275, through the wooded slopes of the Hoch Taunus,
visiting Weilburg, Limburg, Schloss Brownfels.
I more clearly remember strolling through Bad Nauheim than Bath,
feeling just as ‘at home’ in the Vogelsberg as the North Downs,
(and as gratified in Eisenach -with trip to the Wartburg- as ever in Winchester or Tintagel).
My inmost lights shine from ‘The Continent’ (is this description to return?):
The south west approach to Brasov along the Carpathians; the Leutasch Valley; the Tatras; Konigsee.
And feeling love in Bratislava, Munich, Copenhagen, Bucharest.
The Dreadful Feasts
In September, the gory insanity of Eid ul-Adha, the ‘Greater Eid’: approximately ten million animals
slaughtered, streets running ankle-deep in entrails. Throughout the year, frenzied butchery to
appease or mark this or that. The Christmas blood-letting yet to come.
The transportation, incarceration, torture, humiliation, murder of our fellow creatures continues.
Still the exploitation and ‘entertainment’, the ‘sacrifice’ and bloodlust, the experiments, the ‘sports’,
the hunting, gassing, electrocuting, throat-cutting, clubbing, ripping by dog, the appalling violence.
We seem to blunder on, often unknowingly colluding, complicit, our taxes propping up obscenities
on farm, on moor, in bull ring, perpetuating barbaric rituals, preserving a nation’s ‘traditions’,
numbing the young to cruelty and a disregard towards other manifestations of life.
To derive satisfaction from the bewilderment, terror, hopeless rage of other creatures…
to gain pleasure from inflicting pain, devising devilish methods of punishment, ridicule, unnatural
display. It’s time we grew up, for we have proved ourselves poor guardians, bad shepherds.
Of course, there is ignorance, lack of empathy, thrill for some in exercising power, in killing.
There is the idiocies of much religious observance, a perverse delight in chastising self and others.
There is the fur-draped ‘celebrity’, grisly ‘trophy hunters’, corporate weekends of massacre.
But, also, attempts to assuage our anxieties, compensate for feelings of powerlessness;
a dismal, ineffectual ‘protest’ before our perplexities, our inability to face that we have little
control over much in the world: uncertainties, mortality, our limited comprehension.
getting through the summer, remaining innocent of red neck and nose.
This year, many were disconsolate, aggrieved, unreconciled, some
with rancour equally for Pole, Czech, Dane, Slovene, Baltic and Balkans; they railed against
the loss of all manner of things dear to them and of which they apparently once were sure.
I appreciated the earnestness, tolerated the frivolity, ‘rumbustiousness’, chicanery and backstab, less
so the bad manners, philistinism, parochialism, celebration of things matey, mediocre, mischievous.
-Are we still able to be agreeably modest, usefully circumspect, properly liberal?
All sorts may emerge from the fissure, with unctuous whine, forceful cry, banner and symbol:
the moral myopia of zealots, facile formulae of miscreants in tirade, with bludgeon or blandishment.
In schism there’s fragmentation, realignment, adaptation, strange bed-fellows and stranger claims to veracity.
By all means let’s have a clear-out: let’s have done with the dealers and spitters, the market ghouls,
sharks, spivs, swindlers, the incendiary tub-thumpers, odious meddlesome clerics (of whatever
persuasion), ruinous league tables et al. Let’s do so with deliberation, dispassion, discipline.
Peter Jennings : London : December 2016