nature

On magpies

December 9, 2022 1 Comment
On magpies

We’d both noticed that there seemed to be more of them, now that the cold weather has arrived and the last of the leaves have fallen.  Always in pairs, they perch like snipers on the higher branches of the large, ailing cherry tree at the bottom of the garden.  Often they land on the kitchen […]

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John Clare and the snipe

October 15, 2021 0 Comments
John Clare and the snipe

Slow radio at its best achieves what no amount of ‘fast radio’, with its assumption of the attention span of a hoverfly, can achieve: thought connections that stay in the mind long after the programme has ended.  Paul Farley’s recent day (half an hour on the radio: The Poet and the Snipe) looking, in vain, […]

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Murdering trees

March 12, 2021 2 Comments
Murdering trees

A powerful symbol of the continuing human assault on the natural world is the wanton destruction of trees.  The outstanding example must be the wholesale clearing of Amazonian rainforests by the Brazilian government (over 11,000 square kilometres were destroyed in the year to July 2020).  Britain carries its own arboricidal guilt: the uprooting of whole […]

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On sparrows

May 15, 2020 1 Comment
On sparrows

Obituaries lift the heart.  They’re the part of any newspaper or magazine to turn to first if you want to cheer yourself up by reading about the positive side of human nature.  At the moment, when the news pages resemble an unending nightmare by Hieronymus Bosch, that’s especially true.  Last week I read on Twitter […]

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Greening Swansea: a forgotten pioneer

November 1, 2019 0 Comments
Greening Swansea: a forgotten pioneer

Greening cities and towns, we might imagine, is a contemporary concern – a response to the realisation that we’re rapidly destroying the earth’s environment and depleting its non-human lifeforms.  Swansea has its share of green activists and agitators working to raise awareness and press for action. It would be fair to say, though, that those […]

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Orwell’s toads

January 20, 2018 3 Comments
Orwell’s toads

On 12 April 1946 the magazine Tribune published a short piece by George Orwell entitled Some thoughts on the common toad.  It’s not perhaps his most original essay – its central theme is the coming of spring, and how ubiquitous it is, even in the centre of a large city like London – but it […]

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A biodiversity lesson from India

November 28, 2017 1 Comment
A biodiversity lesson from India

We tread softly behind our guide, taking care not to make the dry leaves crackle and alarm the birds around the Chambal Lodge estate.  He points upwards, to a branch where owls are asleep (it’s mid-afternoon, and we’re surprised to see owls at all).  A large Scops owl sits stock still, and stares at us […]

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Emily Dickinson’s reticent volcano

November 1, 2013 1 Comment
Emily Dickinson’s reticent volcano

It’s taken a long time for Emily Dickinson to come out. During her lifetime (1830-86) only ten of her roughly 1,800 extant poems were published, some of them without her knowledge.  After her death her manuscripts lay disregarded by all but a few.  It was not till 1955 that anything close to a complete edition […]

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