Space is pretty amazing, I think many would agree. Huh? No, not green space, or a parking space, or even personal space – all of which have their place – but space space, that really big black, shimmery thing up in the air where the stars and things live …
It fascinates me. And I’ve been hugely fascinated by Rosetta, which ended its two-year space mission by crash landing onto the Comet 67P earlier today. You might recall it launched its own lander, Philae, which after a bumpy start has since returned extraordinary data. The comet is not only highly porous – like a vast pumice stone; it would actually float in water. But is thought to be made up from material billions of years old dating back to the creation of the solar system.
On the dark side of the comet they also discovered early outlets for both McDonald’s and Starbucks. It’s understood they were probably built there simply as a tax offshoot.
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!
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.]
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.
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?
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.
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 …
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
and the excitable but finally exhausted young jay, which may’ve simply left the nest too early.
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 …
… 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.
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.
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.
A couple of days into the brave new world and the Friday evening appearance of a plate spinner having an epileptic fit has swiftly evolved into a dramatic dust-storm pick up by a rescue helicopter; and even the bull who owns the china shop isn’t looking best pleased.
On Thursday, with the promises from the Leavecampaignof cuts in immigration, £350 million pouring into the NHS and an unbridled economy ringing in their ears, and witnessed The Sun and Daily Mail readers tearing the ring out of Remain‘s bloodied nose …
On Sunday morning the promises have begun to morph into: immigration might not fall/freedom of movement of labour will still be needed to continue to maintain EU trade deals; money promised to NHS is now considered a mistake/only a possibility – funny how they never clarified that before, eh? – and the pound slid to a 30-year low.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party, who initially appeared content with shaking Jeremy Corbyn’s rickety high-chair are now busily arranging themselves into a circular firing squad. And after Cameron’s “Fuck it, I’m off!” [condensed] speech, his mealy mouthed sidekick, George Osborne, has simply disappeared. Completely. [Maybe this is one of those times when a rotting corpse lies in a flat undiscovered for a few months because no one cared enough? Can someone please check to see if the milk bottles have been collected off his porch.] And, only this morning, Nicola Sturgeon floats the possibility of the Scottish €uro.
It must be starting to feel oddly disconcerting for all those Brexitvoters who’ve now seemingly only guaranteed the right to eat bendy cucumbers and bananas – and plug in a turbocharged vacuum to clear up the broken china.