Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Clever Children

This is a poem I have loved for a long time. I am a 1950s child - a child of the Nuclear Age and the Cuba Missile Crisis.

The Clever Children
by Philip Gross

"The chicken or the egg?"
                                    Their father
teased them on their way to bed
They lay awake for hours, those clever
children.  Then one little egghead said,

"Inside the shell the embryonic hen
has got all her cells in her, even the cell
of her egg, within which... So on, in, on
in time to the smallest conceivable."  Well,

now they couldn't sleep. They had to see
the ultimate egg, the egg of the future. On the way
how many breakages, unwanted omelettes, casually
discarded chickens?  At last, there it lay,

so tiny, so precious, so shimmeringly slight
it made them feel tremendous, like a pride
of giants. Now to sleep, but... "Wait!"
said one (yes), "What's inside?"

So they split it. What hatched out?
"Quick," they hollered, "put it back again."
But those clever children couldn't, not
with all the king's horses, all the king's men.

And this is from a wonderful Ted Hughes parody by Wendy Cope:

  Budgie Finds His Voice
     From The Life and Songs of the Budgie
               by Jake Strugnell
     ...When the sun was lifted away
      Like an orange lifted from a fruit-bowl
     And darkness, blacker
     Than an oil-slick,
     Covered everything forever
     And the last ear left on earth
     Lay on the beach,
     Deaf as a shell
     And the land froze
     And the seas froze
     ’Who’s a pretty boy then?’ Budgie cried.

We went to the Fortieth Anniversary of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme on Saturday.  It was a rainy drive up there - to Wallingford, near Oxford.  We passed a road called Jethro Tull Gardens. So, by using all my feminine intuition and with both brain cells at full stretch, I deduce that Jethro Tull must be a local lad.  And it was a tiring drive back for Captain B.  But it was worth it.  Very well organised, and encouraging for all the Recorders.  But quite technical.

What I gleaned from it is that Butterflies can be the canary in the mine; observing carefully what is happening on PlanetButterfly can give a timely warning about what is going wrong. And as they are so pretty and iconic, it is easier to raise awareness through them.

There was an interesting observation about the way it seems some new(ish) pesticide is changing the behaviour of a certain type of caterpillar.   So what else might it be doing?

It did underline the power of the Bible's warning that "it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step".  Which brings me back to the Philip Gross poem I started with.

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