By Sandra Gibson
Photograph: Magpie Waits by Geoff Edwards
Looking at the fields as we approached Liverpool I was struck by two things: the grass was too green for early January, and the countryside was punctuated by pools of still water reflecting rows of trees. My point is that despite bad weather leading to water saturation, we have not had a winter yet. There are geraniums and roses in my garden: flowers of summer blooming alongside winter favourites like mahonias, hellebores and winter-flowering honeysuckle. Something is not right. Something is not right when you can be in your kitchen and a swan floats up and taps its beak on the window, or your daffodils are about to burst out in spring yellow and it’s still January.
We have heard that the ice caps are melting and perhaps disregarded this as being too big, too remote, but when Biblical flooding afflicts our towns and villages we at least have the feeling that something is not right. And perhaps this feeling will be the beginning of some widespread acceptance not just of climate change, but what this actually means in terms of sandbags, distress, expense and government culpability. We will perhaps begin to tackle our insularity.
It might be too late.
Feeling this sense of impending Apocalypse I have found myself looking upwards a lot. Perhaps I am looking for the Four Horsemen. And there above in the bare branches (at least that bit’s right) are the wondrous crows, sitting and watching and swooping across the pale sky. I noticed one land on the waterlogged grass; he beaked a large slice of bread which collapsed under its own sodden weight, ate the morsel still in his beak then walked towards a fallen piece, picked it up, walked a few paces and dropped it on the ground. Then he picked up a brown horse chestnut leaf and placed it over the bread. I have never seen this before. Was this a sign of the times: an instinct to conserve provisions, albeit not very efficient – the magpies were watching from a distant tree – but the best he could do? Does the crow know that something is not right or am I being paranoid?
*Also known as Rose Bay Willow Herb, the prolific wild flower called Fireweed, five feet tall with spikes of magenta flowers, cheers the hearts of those whose cityscape has become a bomb site or whose buildings have been cleared by machine. The dormant seeds spring to life after destructive events such as forest or man-made fires, hence the name, Fireweed. This occasional column will celebrate the persistence of wildlife in urban conditions.