Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Grumpy Old Men, Feeding Wild Birds & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

On Sat 27th December I was sitting on the train into London Victoria from out in the shires where I live. That direct train is usually quite empty on a Saturday at 11.00am but of course this was the holidays so families heading for a day out or those journeying back up north after visiting their southerly relations, had packed the carriages to the gills. I sat next to a young, very blond and blue eyed man- everyone is getting younger than me as I get older- who kindly removed his backpack from the seat in order for me to sit down. In front of us were two elderly gentlemen in their 70s, one was English with a smart jacket, brown hair, distinguished. The other was Scottish with thinning hair and thick glasses (from what I could make out seeing them from behind). They were talking animatedly to each other- clearly very old friends who had reunited over Christmas. Their baritone voices could be heard distinctly above the din of chattering and crying babies. Their conversation was continuous and intense; one could not help overhearing. From where I joined them on the train, here is how the conversation went:

Subject A-The children- had lovely homes, excellent jobs and were making loads of money. All the children were supposed real estate czars who had made a killing in investing in the right property etc. (I smiled to myself: The criterion to measure all of human existence is always money.)
Subject B-Politics-
The Englishman railed that our current government is no different to the days of the Raj or colonisation in Africa: power is still in the hands of a chosen few who continue to oppress the majority. Economic oppression is exactly the same as colonisation whereby the unrestrained greed of the City of London has literally damaged swathes of lives by impoverishing people even further (resulting in banks not lending and interest rates going up etc.).
Subject C-Crime/Eugenics-
The Englishman stated that more crime is going unpunished and the only solution is to rely on science- "Hopefully", he said, "scientists will be able to identify the gene that gives people the propensity to do bad things," (at this stage, there was an almost joyous trill in his voice), "doctors will act to abort those fetuses and eliminate the risk of a bad person being born."
"Yes, yes," concurred the Scotsman,"that sounds like a logical next step. And a good thing."

The train called at Clapham Junction and both gentlemen got off, still in full flow. I breathed a long sigh of relief and the blond, blue-eyed man seated next to me and I looked at each other. "Did you hear that?" I asked. He nodded, saying: "I was about to interrupt so I could throttle the both of them."

Tweet, Tweet!
I have been feeding wild birds forever- I love to see their cheeky little faces poking at the kitchen window, some dare to even knock on the window pane when their feeding baskets are empty. Blue tits are demanding feeders, robins are fearless and suspicious, magpies travel solo to feed and swat away the smaller birds, house sparrows are gregarious and like to share a bath with both the tits and the sparrows, blackbirds seem to prefer their own company etc. I do wonder though, if feeding wild birds is a good thing: every day the usual suspects reappear and feast on suet balls that I put out and which I seem to replenish with military precision weekly. Surely in the summertime all of the berries were more appetising? What about a few nuts or seeds in the Autumn? Windfall fruit just lying there for the taking? Fancy a few flies? Grubs and small insects no good? How about a slug or two? Or a juicy snail? All the birds seem to shake their heads and tweet loudly at me when I ask these questions. "Negative! We want suet balls only!"

The issue of feeding wild birds presents a philosophical dilemma- would they survive, as they and their ancestors have clearly done for thousands of years, without me?

New Years Resolutions
"Bah humbug!", I hear you screech, at the thought of making the dreaded New Year's Resolutions. The diet, the smoking, the conviction that something has to change in order to bring in the new year, leaves many breaking out in a cold sweat. As a former smoker, here's my advice (for what it's worth): you'll stop smoking when you need to (that could mean when you're carried out head first or when you have just had enough). If you want to lose weight- walk more (it's free) and cook every day. If you want to be happy, steel yourself with courage because changing what's wrong in your life is the hardest thing you will ever do. A good place to start is to inspect under those armchairs and sofas- you know the ones that you always vacuum around but never move? I'll bet you anything that if you tip them over and peer underneath, you'll be horrified to discover the hundreds of chew marks where moths have been breeding merrily away unbeknownst to you. That's the only truth you'll need to find this coming year: change the stuff no one else can see.

Happy New Year! I wish you all health, happiness (your truth) and continued sanity.

PS Do remember that love makes the world go 'round so do find someone to kiss too!!

The Kiss, oil on canvas, copyright SvD.

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