April 2017

Free as a birdFree as a bird

Four days before the print edition of this magazine was sent to print, London suffered a terrorist attack. It would be wrong not to take this opportunity to pay my respects to those who lost their lives and those injured in the atrocity. It would be wrong not to take this opportunity to thank those who work to keep us safe. And it would be wrong to allow this depraved act to change who we are and what we do. So, here follows my usual rambling address. Business as usual.

Birds have a certain poetic and majestic symbolism that is largely unrivalled in the animal kingdom. The freedom of flight is a universal concept, with the apparent ease of aviation something humans have long aspired to. Who hasn't marvelled at the aerial acrobatics of murmurating starlings, migrating swallows or hovering kestrels? What child hasn't imagined soaring through the clouds? Wouldn't we all like to be free as a bird? John Lennon certainly knew it was the next best thing to be.

As a variety of migrating avian species make their way to our shores – heading to and through Wanstead and Aldersbrook – the freedom of movement enjoyed by our feathered friends is only too clear. It's a freedom that, given our current political narrative, highlights the somewhat arbitrary nature by which we define our own borders and boundaries. Yet those boundaries are inherently important to us as a species. They define our identities, locally and internationally. We take pride in our immediate surroundings. The very concept of a local community implies a boundary of some description. We talk of a love for the country in which we were randomly born or selectively chose to settle. In short, we have our own way of life and so do the birds, and we live side by side.

The swallows will continue to migrate. London will continue to thrive. Business as usual.