A Pied Wagtail

pied wagtail

It’s Friday morning. I don’t mind admitting that I’m feeling a bit fed up at the moment: struggling with work, I can feel the year slipping away from me with no concrete writing jobs pencilled in for 2008, I’ve had hassles with my office, the clamour of another materialistic Christmas is already making me feel that the human race is doomed and heading for oblivion, the BBC’s falling apart, my underbelly has been way too sensitive of late (complete assassination of my R4 documentary, including personal slur, on the R4 message board), I’ve slipped back into eating wheat, which is dragging me down, and there’s other stuff, but this is not the point of this blog entry. Working lates this week on 6 Music has been enjoyable while it was happening, and I thank you for your contributions, but I’m dog tired as a result, eye off the ball, easily irritated, and with no time to slack off during the daylight hours. (Nobody but myself to blame: I took the job on.) Upshot: I’ve been spending a lot of time gazing glassy-eyed out of the windows of trains to and from Central London rather than reading my excellent book Fiasco – I just can’t concentrate on it – and getting unecessarily annoyed by people on the train with loud voices, jabbering away into phones, and, hey, fuck it, it happens to us all, not least at this time of year. This is not a sympathy safari. The point is this:

I saw a beautiful pied wagtail alight upon the station platform at Clapham Common, and it lifted my heart. In that instance, all my relatively minor troubles evaporated. Filled with love for the natural world and its mysterious ways, I was able to watch him hop about and peck the ground for a minute or two before the train pulled off. I had found a focus. It reminded me of the wagtails I used to stand and watch, every day, on Redhill station when I lived out in the suburbs – again, a blessing on a sometimes tiresome commute, and a ray of hope. This morning, I walked under a tree down my street and saw two plump blue tits. Again, my heart soared, especially with the news that the tit population suffered terribly this year with the floods – just seeing a blue tit strikes me as good news now.

So, on the one hand there’s the simple sight of a common British bird, going about its bird-like business, and its ability to cast a beatific spell over me like no other. And on the other, there are things that have the power to annoy me. I know where my heart lies.

(I borrowed the above photo from the RSPB, of which I am a proud member, and it was taken by a photographer called Mike Read – I hope they don’t go all Prince on me and take it down.)

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