Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Picking blackberries from hedgerows, making daisy chains, collecting acorns, playing conkers, wandering the fields looking for rabbits, daydreaming under a tree on a sunny day. These are the precious memories of my childhood when my relationship with animals and the natural world became an integral part of my imagination and personality.  I was lucky enough to grow up in the late sixties before the age of parental paranoia and health and safety fanaticism.  Children were allowed personal freedom to explore the world, test their bodies and minds,  learn about risk, learn about the magic of nature.  But times have changed. We live in an age of fear, much of it unfounded.  Kids spend more time alone with their tablets than playing outdoors.  I was sad to learn that the 2008 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 9 has omitted the following ‘nature’ words believing they are no longer relevant.

The obsolete words are catkin, brook, acorn, buttercup, blackberry, conker, holly, ivy, mistletoe.  No doubt they have been replaced by technology words like database, spreadsheet, voicemail, pixel.

Contact and knowledge of the natural world are essential to a child’s artistic and spiritual development, be it poetry, visual art, music.  How will future generations learn to cherish other living things and respect their environment if they don’t even have the right words?

 

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Photo taken by the author

 

The Magic Mirror

I am the eye in the wall, unblinking
as you twist in your dreams.

I am mistress of deceit calling you,
naming you, mornings and evenings.

I am silver and pure delight
of thin brittle skin slithering

over your shame. Like winter
I bite envy into your bones.

Mermaids swoon in my whirlpools.
Beetles and lizards creep, frogs doze

in my tangled borderlands.
White lilies wither to bronze beneath

your selfie gaze. My heart
is a diamond you will never find.

You so want to break me
but you will only break yourself.

 

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Image created by the author

 

 

Without Warning

I saw a red balloon
low in the western sky
going down, down, down.
The wind whittled a prayer
and seagulls fell to ground.

Flowers floated slick
by the harbor wall.
Birthdays and funerals
gone, gone, gone Cola cans,
rubber bullets and condoms.

The lawyer twisted words
out the side of his mouth.
The preacher whistled
Three Blind Mice as the poet
flew away in a paper plane.

White feathers gathered
on the darkening lawn
so I turned myself inside.
Mesmerized by static,
I waited for the fall.

 

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Painting titled Atomic Bay by the author. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

The Good Housekeeping Guide to the Apocalypse

In the aftermath of  the Hawaii ‘whoops apocalypse’ fiasco, here are a few tips for surviving a nuclear war gleaned from the internet.  (A good sense of humour, a vacuum cleaner and a four leaf clover are also essential):-

The best advice for surviving a nuclear bomb is to be somewhere else when it goes off.  If that doesn’t work out for you then remember ‘duck and cover’.

Think of radiation as dust that can be consistently and carefully cleaned and disposed of. Twice daily vacuuming of house hold surfaces is recommended. Warning! Do not dry dust or sweep because this will cause dust, and potentially isotopes, to become airborne where they can settle onto surfaces or be inhaled.  Feather-type dusters should especially be avoided. Internal Contamination is 20 to 100 times more harmful than external exposures. Run the air conditioner 12 hours a day on the re-circulation setting. Warning! Do not use fans or AC units to blow outside air into the house.  Be sure to try and keep indoor air from becoming too dry.

 

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Artwork by the author

 

Some careful kitchen habits:-

Keep your dinnerware in clean cabinets with doors, or place in containers such as Tupperware bins.  Remove covers carefully so dust doesn’t land on clean surfaces. Rinse your cooking utensils with clean filtered water before use.  The best filters use activated charcoal or reverse osmosis which are very effective against radioisotopes. Rinse the outside of food cans before opening them.

Survival Checklist:- Think of radiation as an invisible layer of dust on all surfaces that needs to be carefully cleaned away and managed.

Create an air tight seal in your home. Seal all external doors and windows.  Duct tape is handy and comes in twenty seven different colours and patterns to match your décor.  I recommend Penguin Invasion and zebra print for a modern funky look. The glow in the dark option will help you find your way around when the lights go out.

Aggressively clean off surfaces in your home without creating dust (wet wipes and water filled vacuums essential).  Keep food in clean, sealed containers.

When you go outside, wear a set of coveralls, goggles and good quality dust masks to cover your mouth and nose.  Shower every time you return from outdoors.  Sleep at least two feet above the floor.

Carry young children while outdoors.

Fight fall-out with duct tape, mop, water filtered vacuum, sponge, paper towels, plastic bags, sturdy trash container, hand-held radiation detector.

Essential reading: Step-by Step Home Butchering, A Beginners Guide to Hunting, Self Defense for Dummies, DIY Burials.

Ignition Switch #6

Hope you enjoy my photographs that show the changes in Petrol pump design from the sixties to the noughties.  Note the switch from gallons to litres and the introduction of unleaded.  I took the pictures at disused filling stations in Northern Scotland.  Can you spot the bird’s nest?  Would a bird be faster than an Esso ‘tiger in your tank’?  Someone should do research!

In the final shot I liked the spectral polythene sheeting shredded and flapping in the wind which often reaches 70 mph in the Flow Country.

In the first shot I was drawn to the signs of corrosion and nature taking over.  Turquoise and orange were fashionable colours in the sixties.  The fourth picture shows purple pumps, a colour that is still popular today…the trains and bus shelters are all purple (or the colour of Scottish Heather perhaps!)

 

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All photos taken by the author

 

 

Ignition Switch #5

I was fascinated by the weird shapes of these oil drill bits I saw discarded at the site of an onshore oil well in Northern Scotland.  They remind me of alien seed pods from a sci-fi film!   The drill bits were originally diamond tipped and cost thousands of pounds each.  They were quickly worn out by the toughness of the granite.

 

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Original photographs by the author