While I was sitting with friends in the garden of their north London home at the weekend a wren began to sing. I could not see it but the song is so loud and so distinctive there was no doubt what it was. For me, that is. When I stopped the conversation to say: " Listen!" there was a kind of blank silence. " Do you know what that is?" I asked. Nobody did. Why is it that so many people in a nation that prides itself on loving wildlife simply do not hear birdsong. Where i live in north London blackbirds sing beautifully all summer blackbird  in the winter the robins robin can be heard all day and sometimes all night. The little wren has the most piercing call and is more often heard than seen. wren The song of the wren is so penetrating that you would think it would make people stop and listen. But somehow most people seem to be deaf to it. Is it because they do not expect to encounter wild birds in London? Would they take more notice if they heard the song in the countryside? 

It ...

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I doubt if anyone in the 1930s who protested about the pylons going up across the countryside to form the first National Grid imagined that the same battles would be fought more than 80 years later. Opposition to the first pylons was, in fact, quite muted. Electricity was then still a novelty for a large part of the population and it was the grid which would make it both cheaper and more widely dispersed. If you wanted electricity in your neck of the woods than you had to put up with pylons. They were a novelty then, too, symbolising what the poet Stephen Spender called " the quick perspective of the future. " Some saw in them a kind of grandeur.

When, in 1929,  there was huge controversy about the prospect of electricity pylons scarring the Sussex landscape the artist Eric Gill sent a letter to the Times: " I write not only as an artist but as a Sussex man–born and bred­–to whom love of the South Downs is as natural as it is enthusiastic. Anyone who has see the ...

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Congratulations to Jim Harris, my nephew who is an artist living and working in Amsterdam on the commendation he has received from a major Dutch newspaper. In a review of an Art Fair the influential newspaper de Telegraaf had this to say about one of his paintings of the interior of an old church which he has visited and painted many times: " ..if one had to choose which work would then remain the most memorable, that would have to be 'de oude kerk', a painting of the interior of Amsterdam's oldest church by Jim Harris ( exhibited at Roger Katwijk). Harris has surpassed himself. A beautifully harmonious use of lines and sense of light, in nine panels....hopefully this painting will be preserved for the city".

You can click through to Jim's website on the painting in the top left hand corner of the Blog page.

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As a farewell to the astonishingly successful Oprah Winfrey show I offer a piece by my friend Brian Stewart of the Canadian Broadcasting Company written for CBC's website. It can be found here

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Just a year ago our male cat Perkins crawled down into one of his favourite hiding places in the cellar and purred his last. He was eighteen, a good age, and just a little younger than our son Tom who grew up with him. We knew Perkins was in trouble when he stopped eating. He was taken to the vet who ordered a few hundred pounds worth of blood tests which confirmed what we already knew. We wondered if it would be best to have him put down or just to allow him to die at home. Tom argued that Perkins did not seem to be in pain so why put him through the trauma of another trip to the vet.



We watched him over several days. One night he stayed by the television and did not move. I said: " If he is there in the morning I am taking him to the vet to be put down." But Perkins had disappeared. It took a while to find him. He was still alive and we were all out that morning. Tom's mother had gone to France to stay with friends, I had a meeting and Tom was at college. ...

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