Life on the Edge; Autumn 2016



“We are surrounded by goodness, kindness, wonder and beauty. But, it’s human nature to take for granted the billions of beneficial bacteria, curse the bug that gives us influenza; gloss over the myriad songbirds, remember and, damn the seagull that snatches our chips…” The Damnathon ©Coudrille 2016

I was intrigued to see that the new hand-wash in the kitchen is called: Organic Surge.

Heard out loud it sounds as though pampered sheep have given their wool for a Jaeger trench-coat. But printed and read, the legend is unsettling. The suggestion of something both healthy and, unstoppable makes me think of the way I felt about girls when I was sixteen: if I once risk scrubbing my nails with the stuff, will it be content to loiter by the sink in case I pass by and fancy another wash? No. It will whistle and, if I ignore it, throw gravel at my window at two o’clock in the morning.

Splatter the label how you may with tiny print saying how delicate the fragrance, how mild the action, the damage is done. (It’s not mild anyway; ten minutes afterwards it feels though the skin has been tightened by an algorithm for faces in wedding photographs.)

I think then that I’ll avoid Antimicrobial Alkalis, and stick with good old-fashioned Soap. You know where you are with Sunlight and Pears.*

But Organic Surge could well describe the Summer of 2016 here on the Edge of Southernmost Cornwall, which culminated in a hyper-abundance of Sunlight and Apples.

Back in the Spring, the Tabloid Newspapers had shouted:

“BRITAIN is on a 10-day countdown to the start of what is shaping up to be the hottest summer in more than A CENTURY.”

This would have brought small comfort to the people staring from their bacon-smelling boarding-houses (or worse, tents) at rain like scaffold poles during a June that was, quote: the “WETTEST on RECORD.”

But, the unusual sequence of soak and scorch was amazing for the plants. Some that usually only flower in Autumn sprang to vivid extravagance in May and now, the Buddleias that startle us early with their brief bobbles are still thrusting out honey-scented lumps of colour to the delight of the butterflies and, the stragglers remaining from the thousands of bees that flocked in while pundits were saying there were no bees.

The Echiums, sucked dry, rattle their skeletons in the stiffening wind while droves of their grandchildren are already in infant leaf menacing the lawn.  Animate life has burgeoned too. Foxes have begat with success; the cubs are now gawky teenagers, glimmering through the bracken like orange ghosts.

Two yards from my feet a weary Blue-Tit is feeding a petulant babe; this has to be a second or even, a third brood. Jackdaws and, Jackdaw babes that look like small Rooks save for their startling blue eyes, are super-abundant. As are the Magpies.

The Sparrow Hawk thunders through like an express-train snatching mail-bags, yet the small songbirds remain more numerous than I can remember. I cannot tell one from another but I have noticed a finch that gains advantage by hovering, unlike the other finches, which do not.

There are but two carrion crows. One is content to fly, to give of its raucous song and to roost peaceably; and the other (and, try as I might to distinguish it, to me it looks just like the well-behaved one) cartwheels through the sky cackling in an eldritch falsetto like a Disney witch. It divebombs the seagulls, terrorises the Dunnocks and even feints at the mighty Ravens. It raps on the French windows at dawn like a Woodpecker on amphetamine. It mutters at its reflection in what sounds like abusive terms. Worse, it has plucked, eye-like, the sparkling badge from the venerable nose of my car and, put mushrooms on the roof. It has perched on the wing-mirrors and pecked dog’s tooth dags in the rubber seals around the windows. It has made free with the windscreen wipers. It has covered the glass in spit and the doors in shit. Does this Crow in its own world have a name? I wonder.  If so, I don’t know it. We have failed to bond. I have cawed back. I have offered it biscuits. It ignores me. If it continues in its misdemeanours, I may have to Take Steps.

From a cosmic perspective, we human beings are as numerous as the birds and it must be tough for even an Omniscient God to identify us all, to tell one from another. By our names? Having reached the age where names are elusive in a mere seven decades, I doubt if the Ancient of Days pays much attention to names. From our looks? We change our clothes, our spectacles, our expressions, as often as a classical composer changes key. We may however be recognised by our daily wave and smile, if in gratitude for our blessings we take the trouble to say hullo. Otherwise I suspect that it is by our bad behaviour that we are remembered.                                   JXC Cadgwith

*Sunlight and Pears are British brands of soap hallowed by time and famed for their unscented purity.