Posts Tagged ‘Leamington Spa’

Birdwatching on the Rec

January 26, 2014

Never underestimate the common sparrow – she is a beautiful bird, and very clever –

Isn't she cute?

Isn’t she cute?

We walk around the Rec with our dogs nearly every day (holidays and times when it is too full of people excepted), and have done now since we had our first rescue dog.  (Morgan, a greyhound from the Dogs’ Trust, who came to us in 1997.)

Dog walking is an all-weather sport, but luckily so is bird watching.  I’m good at seeing birds – but my other half is really excellent at identifying them.  Birdwatching seems to be something that crosses all the traditional barriers of class, race, age and gender – so it’s ideal for our eclectic Eagle Rec.  Sadly I seem to be handicapped by my nationality: I grew up in a different country.  I really struggle to ID those SBBs (small brown birds) so the attached list is very much thanks to my husband and to other people who love to watch the birds on the Rec: Linda, Fergus, Tim are just a few. No doubt there are many others who watch the crows raise their broods, and startle when an unusual sea bird is blown in on a gale.

Here’s Andrew’s list:

Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Blue tit
Great tit
Long-tailed tit
Green Finch
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
London Pigeon
Collared Dove
Sparrow Hawk
Carrion Crow
Common Gull

(That’s 26 species of bird resident or regular in season on the Rec).
You would expect to see (and hear) in summer, the Green Woodpecker; the Willow Warbler and the Garden Warbler.  Has anyone seen them here?
also spotted (rarely):

We are just waiting for the Red Kites to arrive in a year or so, as they move gradually northwards.

Last autumn we were mesmerised by the huge flocks of starlings – the murmurations – that rose up every evening for a week or more, spectacularly turning and wheeling to avoid the sparrow hawk.


Sydenham Brook

June 20, 2013

The quick stream was bustling clean and clear.
Blue sky, frozen lumpy ground
rigid underfoot
but the steep track was deep mud
slurped heavily along the brook’s bank

In the hurrying stillness
a woodpecker rattled – and again.


13th January, 2013


commuting on the M1

November 24, 2010

Before I left my full-time job in 2006, I used to drive to work the seventy miles from Leamington Spa to Luton, usually two or three times a week, but sometimes more often.  Over twelve years I gradually developed a kind of love-hate intimacy with the motorway, as this short piece written at the time shows.


I always thought that the motorway was a location where drivers competed – a masculine, gladiatorial space.  Instead, it turns out that the Motorway is organic.  It has a collective being, and moods.  It has frames of mind.  It also has parasites – little darting creatures that bite and snip – that slash at the fabric by which the organism functions, and within which we (occupants? inhabitants? participants? organs?) are sustained.

When I first realised that it was more than a location, I thought it was a community.  We motorists met there and, regardless of our individuality, played out fixed roles, just as any group will.  I expect that other people are like me, and vary their roles depending on which are already occupied.  I can supply ‘censorious law-abider’, but also ‘lairy speed-freak’; I can display ‘courteous patience’; ‘highly skilled accuracy’ and ‘terrified indecision’.  Equally, I can adopt an angry position on the moral high-ground, (subset: vindictive tailgating to give the loony driver a fright).  All this acting-out of course uses the Motorway as a stage set, ignoring the being of the creature we inhabit and constitute.  It takes much more time to discover that. 

I have had a lot of opportunities to observe the M1 – several hours a week for over ten years now – so I suppose I know my particular stretch of it historically (As with any extended family, there are parts of it I have come to know better than others – not always the nicest parts, but that isn’t the point.)  Recently I realised that it is just one creature.  Not exactly a monster but just a being that couldn’t reveal itself to me until I had already come to feel some regard for it.  With most roads, one is there purely in the moment.  But the M1 and I have a past together as well as a present.  And now it has a mythic presence in my mind, because in writing about it, trying to capture the nature of our relationship, and why it has a capacity to help me feel joyful, or calm, or analytic – it has come to have imaginative being as well as the facile immediacy of most roads.  That’s in addition to knowing it seasonally.  I know it at many times of day, and – that English peculiarity – at the same time by the clock, which is itself many different times of day.  I know it from the North and from the South, and around quite a number of its exits.  Slip roads onto and off the motorway are familiar – and all different – even discounting the regular rashes of cones or contra-flow systems that scar and heal, scar and heal.  All gaits can be found in that flow: free-form dance, do-si-do, waltz with an unknown partner.

It contains fine examples of wordless communication – performed by speeds, variations, distance in front or behind.  Courtesies are plentiful; rudenesses are fewer but feel more intense.  Surprisingly few solipsists, though.  One truck driver today – illegitimately in the outside lane – ignored all the frustration building behind him.  Noticeably unusual behaviour.  Pushing the definitions desperately (doggedly) hard he tried to be the fast vehicle that lane required.  A flash of anger – sound the horn at the slug – delicious escape, running down the wind in front of him with all sails set, at ninety miles per hour.

How comfortable and kind, the M1.


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