Nige' Ollis

Photographer and Writer

Who Are We Now? 

One of the most dispiriting phrases you can hear is, Oh, I’ve always voted this way. It’s like bearing witness to some socio-political lobotomy scar; a myopic tribal ritual. And I live in a land where you can actually have more than two choices!

 

Mother?

 

Well, it’s still ultimately two choices really [if you exclude the Liberal Democrats – seemingly marginalised for potentially trying to change things for the better and blamed for everything that wasn’t; and UKIP feeding off the increasingly rotting carcass of migratory fear], albeit Old, uh, New, erm, Socialist, umm, The Labour are attempting to devolve government to one … think, level playing field with an impenetrable wall built across the entire width at one end paid for by all the other parties and voters who get to do little more than prod at it with a toothpick. [Yeah, just the one. They were rationed by the Conservative government at fear of an uprising, in 2046, following their 7th successive term in government and the cancellation of the Great British Bake Off.]

Noa… uh, Nige’s Ark

I pull onto my driveway and the girl visiting next door greets me with ‘Are you the bird man?’ An unusual beginning to a conversation. And the beginning to an unusual day…

It seems I have a reputation as someone who charms the birds from the trees – especially since rearing my first successful brood of robins. [Okay, so robin mum and dad probably helped quite a bit, but with a constant supply of mealworms, I’d like to think I had a significant hand!] One of the regular visitors to the garden are a pair of collared doves, and while I was out one of them had apparently been attacked by magpies. The new neighbour, Margaret, pulled me into her garden “I don’t think it can fly. There were feathers everywhere,” as she led on. “I managed to shut it in the cupboard at the end of our garden.” [Uh, don’t ask!] She slowly opened the mirrored door to the wardrobe lying on its side to a sudden blast of frantic grey wings spiraling around my feet. I calmly, but swiftly, reached down and gathered up the flapping wings. I held it quietly to my chest, the bird’s heartbeat almost as swift as my own. “I knew you’d know what to do,” said Margaret. I have no idea why she thought that. And I now stood there mostly not really knowing of what to do next!

The bird calmed and I gently fanned one wing at a time; the left wing had lost a number of significant flight feathers, as well as a number from its tail; a couple of puncture wounds, from what I assume to have been the beak of the magpie, oozed a small amount of blood. 352

But its eyes were bright and otherwise seemed surprisingly well. Margaret went and found a cardboard box when I noticed the other one of the pair looking down from the fir tree in my own garden. Can birds show concern?

What now?

I tracked down a wildlife rescue centre, Secret World, and gave them a call. They would take the dove but didn’t have anyone in the immediate area today – could I get it to them by any chance? An hour’s drive away, we reached the compromise: they would try and arrange for someone to meet me somewhere en route for an exchange. An hour passed … no call. I called again, and somehow, a few minutes later I found myself agreeing to pick up two more injured animals from a vets on the opposite side of the city!

Another hour later and my cramped car held a small menagerie.

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The Ark [and the fated gap in the box!]

 In the footwell, my collared dove had been joined by a hedgehog and, tucked snugly behind the passenger seat, a very excitable jay! I’d somewhat inexplicably become a wildlife rescue driver for the day!

 

The drive wasn’t uneventful. I’m sure we’ve all suffered those moments when a large fly or even an insect of the striped stinging variety becomes an irritating distraction as it zigzags across the windscreen. So, imagine, then, should a collared dove decide to leave the confines of its cardboard hospital and aim at the sky! Fortunately, I was actually stopped at a junction when it happened and managed a heart-palpitating recapture … albeit to the bemusement of the car driver waiting behind and the lady with the pushchair waiting to cross the road, as my arms flapped as wildly as the car-entombed bird.

I finally pulled into the rescue centre’s car park and walked into the reception to be greeted by a wildly enthusiastic hug from the cheekily persuasive Ann, one of the women manning the phones. I glanced up at the whiteboard behind their heads and laughed …

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Secret World Rescue Driver: “Nice man! : )” 

I’d hopefully earned that enthusiasm and the accompanying tea and biscuits – although I declined the gentle persuasions that I might like to volunteer on a more regular basis. [The persuasion had already got me this far!]

 

Marlies and I slowly checked in the new patients, including the sickly little hedgehog

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A relative of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle

 and the excitable but finally exhausted young jay, which may’ve simply left the nest too early.

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The exhausted jay

Secret World was a new world to me. But after this experience I was really moved by the dedication of all the staff involved – many of them volunteers – seemingly open to taking in any distressed critter. There was certainly a moment this morning when I really felt the options for the collared dove were limited.


So, that was yesterday, and having just spoken to Diane at the centre there appears to be some hope the collared dove will recover and could therefore be returned to the wild – something I’d particularly like to do, given that its mate has cast a slightly forlorn figure outside my window on and off for much of the day.


A testament to the work done at Secret World can be seen on this sign …

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… and last month alone they took in 1,011 sick and injured animals. You can donate and support the work to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife at Secret World Wildlife Rescue here.

 

The Camera Eye

Images possess the undeniable power to potentially focus minds. Few will be able to forget the sight of the lifeless body of 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015, or that of the Vietnamese ‘Napalm Girl’ [Kim Phuc – now 52-years-old and still undergoing treatment for the horrific injuries she sustained in 1972], or that of the solitary figure that stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during the 1989 student demonstrations. 

This weekend another extraordinary image emerged from a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the epitome of grace under pressure.

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Image: Jonathon Bachman/Reuters

And amidst the chaotic turmoil – following further black deaths at the hands of the police and the police themselves in Dallas – the value of such imagery can never be underestimated. And with them, the hope that in the focusing of minds, things can change.

At the weekend I took my own image during the Bristol Pride march and wrote my own thoughts on my Instagram feed under the heading All Lives Matter:

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“… the event itself felt … timely … healing. Whether you’re part of the LGBT community, black [especially in America right now], an immigrant [especially in the post-Brexit UK right now], or a refugee, or you suffer with mental health, or even if you’re a traumatised England football supporter [or maybe that should be ‘sufferer’, too, like me] we’ve all felt doubt, fear and persecution served in a soup of misrepresentation and lack of understanding, uh, drizzled with ignorance. There will always be extremes of views, and it’s a sad fact that most of these extremes are invariably attached to the loudest, foghorn voices. But if there’s a crumb of comfort amidst any form of social chaos, maybe it’s that sometimes the quieter voices begin to be heard and the quietly complacent are less likely to keep sitting on their hands. We all have our individual lives but we will all ultimately stand or fall together.”

We live in a time where both still and video imagery are within relatively easy reach and can be immediately shared via social media; and despite the irritation often associated with their overwhelming saturation it can no longer be denied we now have the potential to inform, educate and shape debate and focus collective minds like never before.

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Here are a few additional thoughts generated from Followers as a result of my Instagram post:

Ena:  “I believe that respect is something that we should teach children as well as ourselves – on daily basis, critical thinking and accepting our differences, zero tolerance to all kinds of violence… It sounds Utopian but peace, freedom and equal rights to all is something I would love to see during my lifetime.”

Jeff: “One day kids will say what was a pride march? They will be amused by racist stupidity (as their electronic DNA id will show 12 to 25 different nationalities). People are never more equal and accepting than when they are very young. Bigotry and hatred are learned behaviors and sadly undoing the teachings is almost impossible!”

Patrick: “Respect for all should be our battle. Battle of words and act of kindness towards the others . We are all different. This is our strength.”

Respect.

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Finally, in a sense that all our future hopes will be carried on the shoulders of the young and generations to come, I was incredibly moved to see another moment captured in the aftermath of the Euro 2016 final when this apparently inconsolable French fan was lifted from his own private torment: BBC clip

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Talking About A Revolution

So, another Glastonbury Festival has slid into the muddy abyss; and all week regional hospitals have been reporting their usual increase of admissions with trench foot, dysentery, cholera and a pathological fear of public toilets. Climate change, meanwhile, rampages on unabated like an overwrought Coldplay set.

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A musician without boots and revelers enjoying underground heating yesterday

Glastonbury needs to move with the times; this is the modern world. The time has come to install artificial grass and drainage. And for the remaining 51 weeks of the year the landscape could be dotted with herds of plastic cows; people could be employed to move them around under cover of darkness to give the illusion of a working farm. Or, if the budget allows, they could even make them animatronic; preprogrammed to sit down at the first sign of rain.

And with no more real cows, not only is the threat of disease virtually wiped out at a stroke, excessive methane farts and slurry are also eradicated*, thus repairing the hole in the ozone layer.

Either that, or simply move the festival into the local village hall. Sorted.

* This might also require some tighter constraints on some of the food stalls at the festival itself. 

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It’s A Sign

This is quite possibly the creepiest thing you’ll ever see …

Uh, no, not me! Although it’s admittedly a close run thing. But does this not sound like the plot opening to a Stephen King novel? I mean, this has never happened to me in my entire life before. And aside from making me a little nervous and worrying about monsters under the bed [which haven’t really bothered me since my early 30’s], I’m just hugely relieved I didn’t use any metaphors or analogies involving car crashes or pianos falling out of high rise buildings when I was hatless!

 

 

On the plus side, since posting this to my Instagram feed this morning, I’ve already been approached for film rights and understand Hugh Jackman has committed himself to playing me.

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