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4 Feb 04 3:00pm Blogger? Who needs 'em? Links? Stay here a second. Rest yer fingers.We're away...

Time? Chronology? I **** on chronology. I've been turned over by chronology. In the past. I'm going Martian: 48 hours a day and no mistake. Bring me my pills. My reading glasses. My snow boots. What happens if nothing happens? Ever? Have you seen Hawaian Bay Watch? 24/10 society. And then there's the shopping. Nurse!

No. I shall measure out the remainder of my days (oh God why doesn't he shut up?) by the heartbeat of a wren (he's in a flap) and move just as fast as the arrival of the Spring: three miles an hour, northwards.

Wednesday 4 February

Went for a very quick turn on Parliament Hill this time last week as the sun was sinking behind the Royal Free. I was disappointed not to have any snow. Got home at 5:00 PM and sat down with a cup of tea. About half an hour or so later there was a huge thunderclap: I looked outside and the garden was covered in several centimetres of snow.

Link to Black & White.jpg

So Thursday I trecked up to the Hampstead Snow Fields as the sun was still low over Barking, and under a cloudless sky. The snow was brilliant: utterly impossible not to feel rejuvenated. So sunny as well, and such long shadows. The trees like Halloween skeletons where they had caught the drifting snow. The road across the ridge was slippery in places. The road down to Golders Green more so: several dented vehicles, including a black cab and a bus, parked up with not negligible dents.

Link to Winter Trees.jpg

Walk punctuated with sirens. Two legs rather better than four wheels. I'm surprised by the number of people I see either running or cycling. Bravery? Necessity? Lack of imagination?

Snowboards, cross-country skis and sledges rather more sensible. One kid was sledging in a Camden Council recycling bin.

At one point a couple of very tame Robbins hung around me -- presumably hoping for crumbs. I hadn't realised they were so tame but apparently so: they've been known to eat out of people's hands. They seemed a bit vulnerable to me -- so much so I thought they were fledglings. Not so. The young don't have the fine red coat. Still, I'll take some crumbs next time, if I remember.

Link to Robin.jpg

Brewer's cites the tradition of the Robin (Erithacus rubecula) picking a thorn out of Christ's Crown -- the blood dying its breast red. And also the fable of the Robin covering the dead with leaves cf John Webster's White Devil (V, i, (1612)):

"Call for the robin-red-breast and the wren,
Since o'er shady groves they hover,
And with leaves and flowers do cover
The friendless bodies of unburied men."

Which, unnaturally enough, makes me think of Uwe Johnson -- the German author who spent the last years of his life in Sheerness -- whose body was not found until three weeks after he died in 1984.

I wonder if the locals ignored the large number of red-breasted avians that descended on Sheerness at that time. Or whether they simply disbelieved the fanciful fable. If indeed they ever knew it.

I once buried a chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs). It had flown into the window of an empty and abandoned house. There was a clear sight line (good selling point) through to the (overgrown) garden the other side. No obstacles in between. Except glass.

I couldn't bear the frost coating such a colourful and recently warm body so I kicked up a bit of turf and the chaffinch became landfill. The garden was -- or had been -- a consecrated graveyard. The land belonged to a Priory and -- much later - was occupied by a prisoner of war camp. My first skellies, too, if I remember aright. So I won't have been the first in this spot to contemplate mortality.

Or the unpredictability of the physical world.

Link to Who Killed the Snowman?jpg

The snowman, clutching his heart and stuck with sharp sticks, cuts too a melancholy figure. Perhaps he of all people, astride the top of the world, who owns the view as far as the eye can see -- over the Millennium Wheel to Crystal Palace and beyond, is understandably aware that his time here is necessarily finite. His wooden eyes stare into a different world and his ears, like a dogs, are tuned to frequencies that his fleshy analogues no longer hear. He's silent, of course. But he knows that the Robin and the Wren will come unbidden. And sooner rather than later.

© Richard Shepherd, 2004

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