Thursday, 31 May 2012


A grey dawn pushed away the darkness and quiet of the night, with the passing hours the sun gained force and transformed the gloomy start to a bright and sunny day. After running errands for the morning I found myself strolling in a nottinghamshire suburban park with my oldest dog. I had an hour or so to pass while I waited for my good lady and had brought along my sketchbook to scribble down aspects that may catch my attention and my thoughts. The sketches from my nocturnal wanders are drawn from impression or memory once I get back to the hovel, my daylight excursion gave me chance to sketch with the subject before me.

The park was pleasant enough with young families taking full advantage of the warm morning to spend some time together. Children on brightly coloured bikes sped by closely followed by adults doing their best to keep pace and a careful eye on the excitable and enthusiastic little souls. The cacophony seemed to exist on another level from my thoughts. My senses took in the quieter corners of the park and I soon found myself finding places to sit and draw as my old dog meandered around. Stone steps stood alone next to an uneven pathway. Their worn and aged look gave the impression they were perhaps steps for past horse riders to mount and dismount with ease. Looking about it was easy to see no horses had been in the area for a great many years, but the steps remained like a curious forgotten token.

I finished my sketch and moved on passed neatly cut grass and planted boarders until I happened upon what appeared to be the remains of a haha. These ditches were often used on county estates to stop the livestock from finding their way onto the lawns and garden areas without the inconvenience of building a wall to spoil the view. Again it was obvious as I sat and sketched that no livestock had been here for considerable time, but as with the steps the haha remained.

With my observations and thoughts awakened to the park I began to find it a strange place. It was clearly enjoyed and appreciated by many, but for me it remained a highly diluted form of nature. The finely cut grass lacked the flora and fauna of the wilder areas I enjoy wandering. The trees were well manicured and placed, but they lacked the blossoms, residents and undergrowth of their rural kin. I was left wondering of the past and of previous civilisations attempts to show their control and dominance over nature by landscape and garden. I walked through the park gate and left the scene feeling fine but a little disjointed. I guess I will always tend towards the rural and the wild. It is there I find connection with the wider world and not the sanitised view preferred by others. I glanced across the road to a coffee shop, sitting patiently outside was a quiet and loyal dog waiting for his master to reappear. I doubt any of mine would be so restrained, they would surely voice their desire to be away and enjoying the migration of a pack. Perhaps this little dog would wish the same and I hope he and his owner would find such desires and instincts fulfilled.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Qualities of Leadership (part 2)

With the chores of a working day done I took to familiar trails to clear my mind of lingering thoughts and set my thinking patterns to the wider world. Within an hour or so I returned back to the hovel ready to relax and contemplate. The small TV was a convenient way of looking upon the comings and goings of the world, albeit through the eyes and perceptions of the journalists who are granted air time.

It seems nothing changes, more news of debt crisis, politicians arguing, votes, ballots, strikes and protests. All of these was diffused by the usual sports round ups and celebrity gossip. The off button was a relief as was the chance to stand outside and feel the cool night air. One of the main issues I see while observing people is the factors surrounding leadership and the attitudes of those who follow. The movement of people to and from politicians and leaders is like a tide. It comes and goes but never really gets anywhere in the grand scheme of things. I have had the opportunity to vote for many years but I have never once cast it. I would hasten to add that this is not through apathy, I have simply never had the opportunity to vote for someone who I feel represents my views. I look upon the usual candidates and see either creatures from privilege backgrounds or those from the working classes looking to provide more for their own kind. For the voters it simply becomes a choice of who will provide them with the most or for the disillusioned it becomes a case of voting for an alternative to the currently elected as a form of protest. Either way it is of little matter, the tide moves and it will eventually return as we go no where.

Within the natural world leadership is a more interesting and balanced affair. Working within the environment and the balance of nature. Strength has meaning and failure has far greater consequence than a vote of no confidence. The natural world has its leaders, those creatures are also masters at working within and being part of their environment. Those who exceed their resource find nature will redress the balance quickly. Perhaps the difference between humans and the natural world is that humans have learned to cheat the system for a while, but for me it is obvious that nature will surely catch up in the long run. Debts run far deeper than a credit rating or a minus figure in the books and they will be collected. Perhaps I should give an example of my thinking.

I once worked within an office of a local authority, it was there I met a grossly overweight manager in charge of ensuring energy efficiency in buildings. He was a man proud of his position, his large Audi, big home and his many holidays. When one of the other managers challenged him over his personal environmental bad attitude (especially given his role within the authority)  he simply replied "I don't care, I will live how I want to and if the environment is a problem in future it will be my kids who have to sort it out,". In many ways I see this man as a tiny example of those who are sometimes given far greater positions of power. One of sadnesses I find in the self centered nature of such people is the lack of questioning and mindless head nodding of those who help grant them such positions.

From my own perspective the main quality of leadership is to accept responsibility for my own actions and to only put my trust into those who I believe have the same principles as I do. I have little time for those who float on the tides of opinion and short term personal gain. It seems to me that we are not encouraged to question too deeply on many issues, but it is the inquisitive mind backed by the knowledge and understanding of both the human environment and the natural world that allows for a discerning and balanced view.

I can only encourage you to think deeply my friends. It is the only way to see through the masks and deceptions to the core of the matter.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Rabbits Leap

The last week had proven itself to be a difficult one. It seemed at every turn good sense and good intentions had been thwarted, resulting in me feeling somewhat punch drunk. As twilight began to set in after a long day, I decided to set myself and my wandering dog (from the post Searching in Circles) on the roads, fields, bridleway & footpaths close to the near by village. With the paths and roads riddled with puddles and heavily waterlogged we were soon weaving around and treading carefully to avoid wet feet and missed footings. I was thankful for the careful nature of the drivers who passed us by on the country lanes, most were gracious enough to dip their headlights and avoid ploughing through the standing water. Over the years I have become fairly adept at predicting the inconsiderate who spare no thought (or perhaps a malicious thought) as they leave you dazzled and drenched. As is often the case with people, when they cocoon themselves from nature, reality and the elements , their perspective and connection with the real world becomes skewed.

Once we were onto the quieter dirt track lanes I had to resist the temptation to unleash the dog as I would my others. It would appear this canine giant has a powerful hunting technique and had proven himself more than adept at catching rabbits. Unfortunately his hunting instinct can make him very single minded and difficult to recall once he has caught a scent and the onset of darkness on a damp night is not the time to test my dog handling abilities with a jet black dog capable of running for miles. As we walked I could see his attention snap onto a little figure huddled by the side of the track. The rabbit sensed eyes and perception upon him, powerful legs propelled the little creature towards the warren. I was dragged forward a few feet as my dog tried to follow until I could dig my heels in and halt the charge. I suspect the rabbit was expecting a chase as he accelerated before realising he was on the wrong side of a flooded ditch to reach the warren. In a gentle turn he kept up the furious pace and ran headlong towards the ditch, as the land turned to the black water he jumped and leapt the better part of seven feet to the undergrowth on the opposite bank. The landing was not elegant but the sight of a rabbit reflected in mid air over the flooded ditch was impressive. Later this year athletes will be long jumping for corporate sponsored medals in London, I can safely say I will not be watching. The leap this little creature took and the risks of failing make a mockery of the attention such athletes seek.

With the rabbit safely back to the burrow, we carried on enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the late evening. There was just enough light left to gaze upon the emerging bluebells in the long grass beneath the trees and the stark contrast of white blossom standing proud against the darkening canopy. What had started off as a wander to take my mind off the failings of a week had become inspiration itself, together with more fond memories and lessons learned.