After a very long period of dormancy there’s been a tentative “rustle in your hedgerow” as Led Zeppelin might have had it, a shifting of leaf litter and a bit of bleary eyed peering about going on here at The Birds in The Meadow. Questions like “how come I’m still here after a two year hiatus” and “why didn’t she just let me die when the domain name went up for grabs” not to mention “what am I bloody well FOR, anyway” refuse to go away and almost became irrelevant during the near death experience this blog (and yes, the shop) just went through. It’s surprising how riled a previously indifferent site owner can become when said website is suddenly held hostage by its webhost. Is that even the right term? Who knows, and there dear readers is the problem for me. I love writing, and I love making and I especially love photography. What I do NOT love is all the shenanigans that make it possible for you to see what I do via the magic of ‘t interwebs. Sigh. However, I think I may have finally given the kiss of life to this sleeping beauty, let’s just hope that she doesn’t come back a bit wrong. Over the next week or so the site might vanish, or look funny, or the links might stop working. Why this should matter quite so much to me when I am certain no-one is actually looking is a mystery, but I feel compelled to mention it anyhow. Just in case someone is.
There’s been a lot said lately about the neighbourhood I live in – and neighbourhoods like it. There’s been a lot written about the people who live here, and what’s compelled them to burn down their own streets. I’ve spent days reading the commentary, listening to windbag politicians churning out the same old platitudes. I’ve dropped off donations for those burned out of their flats, harangued our useless mayor and burned with a peculiar indignation that a lot of the people’s opinions that I’m reading are those of people with powerful voices who did not grow up or even set foot into the communities they speak of. It’s unheard of for me to write anything political here, but I’m not happy having this particular elephant in my room.
I live in a neighbourhood were the police are regularly posted near the local tube station at school closing time, not I might add because of any law and order hotspot but simply to “reassure the general public”. The kids are noisy, boisterous and take up a whole lot of pavement, but I’ve never seen them do anything really shocking, let alone criminal. The crack den that operated unmolested 500 yards down the road was genuinely scary and far rowdier than the kids. What does this tell the kids?
I live in a neighbourhood where a gang of hooded youth will step back politely with an apology when I want to pass, but roaming gangs of adult men will sexually harass and follow women with impunity. It’s never them I see getting stopped, searched and told to move on. In this neighbourhood the local bus route is regularly disrupted as groups of up to twenty police officers board and search the bus for “fare dodgers”. Sinister barely describes how it feels. Does this happen in Kensington and Chelsea? I think not. What do the authorities think of the people of my community to order such a thing? Are we all already criminals by default?
I live in a neighbourhood which recently suffered cuts in youth services of seventy five percent, where popular youth groups and adventure playgrounds vanished overnight. Where young people have positive experiences and role models from outside of their homes stripped away in the name of cuts. What is better for these youths, to know that there is somewhere safe for them to go, where your postcode does not matter, where an alternative to gang culture is available and where adults genuinely give a shit about what happens to you – or where these cuts have now sent them – the street corner, to boredom, the dealers and the gangs. People need to get off their moralizing high horses about how these kids are “undeserving” or how “I never had that in my day and I turned out ok” or how it’s their parents responsibility – youth groups are a practical antidote to alienation THAT WORKS. It’s pragmatic. Kids are a lot less likely to burn down the high street if they are busy doing something else. Also, taking away the only alternative to the street corner sends a strong message. You are pointless, you are insignificant, you are powerless. Well a lot of kids found a way to feel powerful recently, and I am totally freaked out about what message they gained from that.
In a society where mobile phones and trainers pretty much define who you are even “respectable” people get caught looting. The shock and howls of amazement when people like school assistants and graphic designers get caught with looted sportswear are hilarious. YES! Even people with careers can loot! Temptation and greed is universal folks, but isn’t it interesting that sticky fingered professionals are seen as an aberration, despite the fact that we’ve all seen politicians who are not too proud to nick a few quid from the taxpayer. But their looting is sooo much classier than what happened in Tottenham, I mean, it almost slipped by unnoticed.
I live in what many would call a deprived neighbourhood, and before I lived here, I grew up in another one. There was one thing in common with both. People would look at us as if we were some kind of exotic virus, tut tut about what was to be done, call us names, give big jobs to their developer buddies to build us a swimming pool if we got rowdy then piss off again. No one ever wondered, seriously, what it’s like to know that the rest of society simply saw you as scum. No one ever wonders what we actually want or need or listens when we actually tell them but we are often spoon fed architecture that we didn’t want and is not fit for purpose. Poor areas are often “improved” by “gentrification” – a process by which much loved local pubs, cafés and shops get bought out and replaced by high end eateries, bars that do not welcome locals and expensive luxury flats. Rents skyrocket so that locals get forced into only the very very worst accommodation while hip young things move into their old homes and sneer at the former occupants. If you live in London and are really lucky you may find your home, park or favourite shops bulldozed for an Olympic stadium. What an honour! These are the improvements that are forced upon us, while public services that we badly need are snatched away.
And as Tottenham, Croydon and other towns and neighbourhoods burned, already there were those who were mocking the looters for their poor taste. Oooh, look, they’re looting JD sports! Hahahaha!!! They’re cooking their own food in Macdonalds, what a hoot!!!! Twitter dissolved in an indignant howl that can be translated simply as CHAV SCUM and the powers that be told us not to worry, they wouldn’t let a little thing like human rights get in the way of dealing with these feral rats. “Security” measures better suited to regimes like Egypt or Syria are bandied around by our Prime Minister. And quicker than you can say lets demonize the urban poor suddenly there is funding. Funding for the return of public services? For senior citizen or youth groups? Anything positive at all? Errr.. no. For more rods to beat us with.
Yes, I’m still alive, and with an ever growing backlog of pictures to share, a new camera and only one free day a week in which to either be out exploring or indoors post editing photographs… well, I think you can see where I am going with this. I have always loved writing this blog but it seems for now that being out in the world is more alluring than describing the adventures I have out there. Perhaps I just need to develop a punchier style; I don’t want to keep all the amazing things I’ve seen all to myself, that’s for sure. Today I went to Tottenham Marshes in search of dragonflies and butterflies but all you get (for now) is this lousy skyscape… ha! I’d better get busy, there’s things to show and tell…
For more beautiful and fascinating images of the sky around the world, visit Skywatch Friday!
I’ve not been around… not around here anyway. I’ve been busy on other projects, neglecting the part of me that wants to get down in the mud to look at earthworms, or wants to sit beside a mosquito infested pond waiting for bats. I’ve been inclining toward my more urban self. But that’s not the only reason I haven’t been around. Last autumn, when we realised that the time was right, the finances were (kinda, sorta) ok, that everyone involved could spare the time and that the weather would be perfect, we began planning a spring journey to Nepal. One of R’s oldest friends lives there – she married a Nepali guy and now they live in a beautiful house with their three lovely children just outside Kathmandu. We would go to visit them.
I can’t say I wasn’t nervous. On a previous trip to India eleven years ago I had been constantly ill, never quite shook off my culture shock and found the inquisitive crowds that would constantly gather around us incredibly tiring. I had a great time there, but was ill and exhausted for months on our return. Would Nepal be as gruelling?
I’ve written myself into a corner here; I can’t very well tell you how Nepal was for me in a short blog post, and that’s been one of the major problems I’ve experienced since getting back – how could anyone find the words? “So, how was Nepal?” a friend asks. “Ummmm… BRILLIANT” I reply, my eyes glazed and somewhat absent. The friend loses interest; it’s all they are going to get out of me. Because the truth is no matter how much I wanted to tell everyone what Nepal was like, no matter how much I wanted to start blogging the moment I got home, IT’S JUST WAY TOO BIG.
Anyway, I’ve finally bitten the bullet. I have thousands of pictures, and choosing which ones to post here is going to be torture – this project is going to take me months to complete. But I have to get a move on – I need to write while it’s still all fresh. I really don’t want to forget a thing.
About a fortnight ago my best beloved and I went to Whitby, where we camped on a rise above the town with our lovely friend A. It was a wonderful few days, and the changeable weather ensured spectacular skies – I have so many sky images from our visit that they will keep me in Skywatch Friday posts for months to come. Here, we had been walking from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby along the Cleveland Way National Trail, when the sky blackened. A rainbow glimmered faintly among the clouds as rain began to spit, while the sun shone on the crops that line the final mile or so into town. I’ll be posting more about this walk hopefully, there’s a lot more I’d love to show you.
I’ve had a lot of adventures this summer – many have not made it into this blog because they kept me a little too busy, but also, I’ve been deliberately keeping my time online to a minimum. Now, with autumn just around the corner I need to hunker down and concentrate on making new stock, and while that means spending a lot more time indoors near the computer, I’m just not sure that once autumn starts I’ll have the time to blog consistently. I’m not going to give up this blog, ominous though the title of the current post must seem (I chose it just because it fitted the picture, I didn’t intend the melancholy vibe I now see it lends). But perhaps the form will change, less writing and more images, or maybe just a monthly bulletin. I’ll always try to keep up with the wonderful bloggers I’ve met along the way, but please forgive me if my visits to your blogs are fewer.
For more beautiful and fascinating images of the sky around the world, visit Skywatch Friday!