Woken at 5 a.m. by a blackbird just outside our bedroom, singing its head off. Our most beautiful songster, I think. Rather that than the show-off nightingale. After 20 minutes or so, pigeons started a throaty ostinato, then distant crows cawing, then at about 5.45 the electric twittering of our sparrow hedge. And I felt such deep longing to be in harmony with the natural world, that I felt like crying.
We shall miss these days, when COVID is over. That sounds strange, but it’s true. Yes, suffering surrounds us like a sea, stretching limitlessly in every direction, stretching to every country and far, far into the future, as the tide of damage, economic, mental, spiritual, political, diplomatic, rolls on and on. And yes, it is terrible.
But sometimes, it feels like we are also being shown something, something we always longed for, but thought could never be, shown it actually can exist. That for a moment, it does exist. That if we just restrain ourselves, the natural world we have been so relentlessly despoiling will come roaring back, and it will be immensely healing. That the air can be fit to breath, the sky truly blue instead of a film of muck, the quiet overwhelming, bringing us back to our true selves. And that we can just peel off all the labels that help divide us, Chinese, Italian, English – or Brexiter or Tory or white or male or middle class or all the others – and realise with a sudden rush of recognition that, faced with this awful challenge, we are all one. Not that we should be, but that we already are. And that as one, we could be unstoppable, there would be nothing we could not do.
But it cannot last. Already the traffic here is about half way back to normal. Already I can taste the diesel fumes in my throat, my senses heightened by breathing clean air for the first time since …when? Already work has restarted on the development near us. Already the stupidity, division, of politics, the pointless, insulting tribalism and point scoring, is starting up again. Soon we will all go back to exactly the same ideas and standpoints and feuds we had before. Soon the second home owners will rush off to their places in the country or in France, we will start booking fights and hotels, buy another machine, and another…. We will miss the opportunity to change the way we think, act, organise, produce, consume, live.
And when we go back to traffic jams all day long, and breathing air acrid with fumes, and peering at skies crowded with vapour trails and Heathrow Hell and busyness and rush everywhere and everywhere Nature and peace being trashed and trampled on, we will miss these days like a dream of something better, something we truly do not deserve. For it is a dream that belongs to some other species than Man. We are too busy, too greedy, too lacking in wisdom, restraint, kindness.
We shall miss these days. And we shall never see them again.
I was formerly Finance Director of the Prison Service and then Director of the National Offender Management Service responsible for competition. I also worked in the NHS and an IT company. I later worked for two outsourcing companies.
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