THE birds wake me unless I am sleeping around; around the house, that is. Our bedroom is in the attic and the birds start early at this time of year, perhaps at 4am.
Sleepless nights put me down a floor and into another room, where you don’t hear every trill and twit.
As it happens, birdsong fills my ears now as I type. This is for two reasons: one, the study window is open; and two, I spotted something on Facebook about Bernie Krause, who created sounds for the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now, and now records the world around us.
Krause calls himself a soundscape ecologist, not something I have heard before. In short he records the natural world and has, over the years, noticed how much you can ‘hear’ the effects of global warming on our planet, as he puts it on his website.
In a clip doing the rounds on Facebook, Krause talks about what he does over one of his natural soundtracks. On his Wild Sanctuary website, you can choose different tracks; different aural slices of nature (the wind is blowing just now, and a creature of some sort is calling; don’t ask me for a name because I am far from being David Attenborough).
Listening to this beautiful babble is very therapeutic, certainly compared with the human babble that fills our lives, especially the political clatter. Although I will confess to enjoying the push and shove of politics, the heft and heckle of it. Or most of the time.
But sometimes it is good just to listen to tweets rather than to tweet; to step back from the noise and surrender to these beautiful sounds. Unless it’s four in the morning, perhaps.
We are lucky in this house. There may be a busy road at the front, and the ring-road in the distance, but the back gardens down our side of the street are all long, up to around 300 feet, and filled with trees. So the birds are having a riot much of the time, although you can exclude from that happy scenario the young tit our cat brought into the house the other day.
The bird survived after my wife’s intervention, or at least we assumed so, and the cat survived being shouted at, not that cats care. We love ours dearly but wouldn’t have another, not with so many birds around.
This study where I sit looks out over the garden, and even with my back to the window I can hear the birds, without being able to identify hardly any of them. An excitable twitter of tits and the lower notes of the wood pigeon, whose song, according to a website I just visited, sounds like the eccentric phrase, “my toe bleeds, Betty”. And once that notion is stuck in your head, you won’t shift it.
We could all benefit from stopping and listening to the birds. Many doubts and worries grub their way through my brain, even if I try not to show it, and birdsong is a good escape, evidence of a world that existed before mankind, and will still exist after we are gone, unless we’ve finally screwed it all up by then and silenced the birds.
So listen to tweets instead of Tweeting and the world will seem a kinder place. Having said that, I’ll be putting this on Twitter any minute. And, bloody hell, did you hear what that idiot just said about the EU referendum. Well, really…