online: 11 june 2003

10 june 2003 what one knows well

20:15 Only three of the six cygnets are here today. How did the other three die?... The parent swans seem unpeturbed.

Walking my previous walk in reverse - clockwise. This has led me to begin by crossing the swampy meadow by East Heath Road - but today the ground is dry. Patches of trodden earth and short grass remind me of the seaside at Borth, my now imaginary home, the place I know and like best - the Dyfi estuary and coastline and the informality of seaside village of holiday makers and of master mariners, long ago. Now spoiled (in some minds) by caravan parks, slot machines, and commercialism. But I like it still, both in memory and fact, though I almost never go there.

I suppose if I were to live as long again I'd look back as fondly at the heath, and at London also. It's the places one knows well that one likes, is it not?

Someone said to me recently that he feels like that about the Macintosh formats and desk top - the same familiar designs wherever you go. That is what we love - because we are part of it and it is part of us - our extended bodies and our knowhow.

I look now to the city - the new City towers and those of the second City in the old docklands. I never thought I'd live to see either. When I first came to London in 1950/51 there were no tall office buildings, no skyscrapers.

But here I am beneath the sky this windy evening watching a woman and a man, both in brown, standing about fifty metres apart and throwing tennis balls for their black dog. They look middle-aged. And now they walk off.

Every sight would be a strange sight if this were another planet.

Continuing my walk in reverse I see the moon high in the sky above a twisty fallen oak and I stand still to write of it. I'm reminded of Paul Nash's wartime pictures of crashed aircraft and abandoned metal junk with moon above. An object among objects, several circular.

And now I perch on a twisted branch to continue writing and to look around in the diminishing pink light of the sunset beyond the trees. The fallen tree is completely dead and its bark is torn off in places. It must weigh many tons - it's hard to believe that tree roots, so much thinner than the branches, can hold such a monster tree as this upright - until one day comes a storm, or comes decay, or both together - and down falls the whole thing, ready to be eaten by mushrooms and insects and smaller scavengers that I don't see or know the names of. But this tree is still strong - when I shake my small weight the vibration is transmitted several metres through the resonating stiffness of the as yet unrotted branches - each 20 to 30 centimetres thick. And it was once an acorn!

Walking away I could feel gossamer across my nose and face... As I stop to note it I look up and see a bat against the pale grey-pink sky. It changes direction suddenly - two or three times second. How does it do it, and why?... I half know the answers but I would like to know the complete aerodynamic and the anatomical explanations of it, this quick-changing flying creature. And it's a vertebrate, differing from us only in size and in proportion, not in structure. Those quickly adjustable wings are just expansions of our fingers and of the skin around them... and what we do with our hands (for instance in handwriting or piano playing) is just as quick and just as marvellous. And a bat could not do it.

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