David Harrison | A London View

David Harrison

Every day starts with a si si si. These blue tits are my friends and we depend on each other. They depend on me to feed them, and I depend on them for··.. The joy of glimpsing a life of natural beauty amid the gloom and destruction of mankind. Blue tits are easy to attract. I only have a window box, but in a very busy part of central London, just off the Caledonian Road, the blue tits quickly learned that this is where they can be fed. I’ve made them a miniature copy of St Pancras station to hang out on (it doesn’t actually look like St Pancras but it does have a gothic feel to it) and in winter I give them fat which can be bought in balls from pet  shops.

At breakfast I can see them calling their si si si, which I interpret as ‘feed, feed, feed’. Always active, they eat, dance and sing. When it’s busy, they’re joined by great tits, dressed for dinner in their smart black bibs and yellow waistcoats. On rare days there’s a harsh screech and a sudden panic and in their place there’s a jay, who gobbles all the peanuts in the feeders.

After their breakfast and mine I leave the flat and walk to my studio under the shadow of the station. The main road doesn’t have much to offer: a couple of pigeons pecking at last night’s curry thrown up over the pavement by some drunk, starlings gathering in the trees. But when I turn down to the canal to give my two poodles a run, it’s obvious how much has changed since factories have stopped polluting the water. Melodious and incredibly loud outbursts from deep inside the bushes along the towpath signal a wren, a bird the size of a ping-pong ball with legs. Canada geese hiss at my dogs as they bounce around, barking and wanting to play. An occasional heron stands very still, a posing catwalk model. And sometimes in winter, I see something very special: a small black sphere approaching at great speed about a foot above the water. I stand dead still and watch. As it passes, the sphere turns electric blue with neon orange flashes and then, just as suddenly, it turns black again and disappears along the canal. A kingfisher.

Now I arrive at the car park outside my studio at St Pancras. Once I walked in to see a young girl lying on the ground, looking desperately for the needle she’d dropped among the shit. And there, growing beside her, was a beautiful bright-yellow perennial wall rocket.  I stepped around her and the tin cans which people use to smoke crack and saw, over by the drains, another girl pleasuring a man in a suit for her five-quid bag of smack. Then   I heard snatches of a sweet, watery sound: the song of the robin, like a rare perfume heralding hope. I looked up and caught a splash of red. Whatever we make ugly, nature will correct.


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