Thursday, November 13, 2003


I make no apologies – this feels like one of those good-to-be-alive days. The odd thing is, it was a crow that told me…

My cycle journey to work starts in Hertfordshire, just outside the northern edge of London. It was still misty when I left home; enough to warrant a back light on, enough to need to wipe the water droplets off my glasses at a stop for a red light. Most of the journey requires sufficient concentration that I don’t have a lot of attention left over for observing what’s around, or for my own thoughts. Past experience shows that it’s quite literally at my own peril that I let my attention wander! But just before I get to work comes perhaps the best part of the journey – across the bridge over the Regent’s canal and onto the road that encircles Regent’s Park.

The road is wide, relatively quiet, and flanked variously by London Zoo, the park itself, and some distinctly up-market accommodation. Being a Royal Park, the roads are looked after by the Crown Estates Paving Commission (I’m not sure which particular holder of the crown commissioned them to pave the estate, but they have an air of an organisation that changes little over the generations) and everything about the place is a cut above the normal. Pavements built from heavy stone flags; elegant lamp-posts; impressively black and shiny iron railings; litter bins and traffic bollards bearing a royal crest, solidly built and having an air of permanence – nothing looks modern but all is scrupulously maintained.

Cycling round the park I have a few moments relative relaxation before exiting into the tumult of London rush-hour traffic. I have more opportunity to notice things. It’s funny how something can unexpectedly catch your eye and enter awareness. So much is going on around; it’s seen, but seldom Noticed. This morning, for no particular reason, a crow caught my eye, breakfasting from a discarded Macdonald’s carton. I suppose it was the motion that caught my eye; having finished his meal he tossed the now empty red-and-yellow carton into the air to see what further scraps might be hidden. There’s something delightfully anarchic about crows – the way they strut around, head in air, fearlessly inviting all comers to take them on.

I smiled inwardly at this one as I sped past; he on the other hand ignored me utterly – I provided him no food, posed no threat; I was therefore a totally insignificant other, entirely unworthy of his attention.

Actively noticing that crow was the trigger that set off a whole series of Noticings as I circled the park – the dew sparkling in the early morning sun, glimpsed through the railings and the trees; a dog trotting purposefully amongst the trees, nose to the ground, tail held high – no doubt following some fascinating scent; a multi-hued mosaic of sycamore leaves so firmly attached to the tarmac that they appear as an impromptu piece of art, sculpted by the by the season and the wheels of passing vehicles; sunlight glinting on the crescent frontage of the Nash terraces just south of the park accentuating the precision of their curvature.

Now as I write this it’s later; the sun has gone, the day is grey and the spell is broken. But I’ll remember that crow.

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