Grist to the Mill

30 March, 2005


Two of my more entrenched preoccupations are coming together. We're getting to the time of year when birdsong really gets underway - at dusk and obviously at dawn. My brother recently referred to the dawn chorus a lot less poetically when he mentioned 'Lots of birds, whistling'.

But where I am now I can't hear anything except an endless procession of heavy lorries causing the windows to vibrate in their frames. If I'm awake at, say, 4.30, then I can just about hear, but there aren't many species living alongside a main road. This is a double whammy for me. At risk of sounding extremely melodramatic, a person's appreciation of birdsong on a wet spring evening is spoilt by traffic noise and that person was formerly bereaved by a road death.

Cars destroy the environment in many ways, just as their influence can erode people's quality of life so variously. Don't forget it. Roads are the undoing of the earth. Really and truly.

I got up at 4.00am over the Easter weekend and went for a stroll through the woods (no-one thinks it's too strange - I suppose they are used to me). A bit early in the year as most migrants haven't arrived yet, though I heard a cuckoo. I don't even recognise most of the calls/songs, but classification doesn't matter too much to me. The most important thing was to be in a place where I could hear a stream, 'lots of whistling birds', but NO CARS.

Back to roads, I have noticed that the Trafffic Police no longer use 'ACCIDENT' to bring a fatality to people's attention. Good. They are now putting out boards that say 'SERIOUS TRAFFIC COLLISION'. Which is a bit more like it. If someone is at the wheel while holding a mobile phone/drinking/speeding/jumping red lights/driving badly, and they happen to kill someone else while doing so, then that person's death is not truly an accident. It's the direct, preventable result of a high-risk activity. Interesting that when some kids died on a railway line about four years ago, having wandered away from a picnic, their parents were subsequently charged with manslaughter for failing to supervise them properly. Imagine if the same kids had wandered away from a picnic onto a road and been killed. There is not a chance that this would have been deemed manslaughter.

Please, don't comment about cyclists jumping red lights unless you are happy to get into a long, spirited, debate about it.

| | |