Tuesday 29 March 2022

Lust for Life: 2022 edition

I nearly made it all month without a post but I appear to fallen at the last hurdle, close to covering myself in social media glory but felled by the sucker punch of actually having something to say. Or thinking I have at any rate. To start with though let me state that 2022 has not been great - a maelstrom of endless work and constant doom-scrolling. If we were all naive enough to think that this year might be better than its two immediate predecessors, well, more fool us. Time to reconsider. What is happening in Ukraine is barbaric, heartless and completely unjustified - the crazed machinations of a deeply bitter megalomaniac, hemmed in by in the past and unable to accept change, and who sees a world without Russia as a major power as a pointless world. Scary. That this is happening on Europe's doorstep is extraordinary - we have been able to somehow ignore similar conflicts further afield, the media willfully steering us away with some new trivial soundbite that we have been collectively stupid enough or lazy enough to fall for, but there is no getting away from this one and hard as it is we all need to sit up and pay attention. I am not going to lecture anyone, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but everyone should have seen this coming. That this country and many others are so inextricably beholden to this man and his cronies is inexcusable, and it is not just the politicians that are to blame this time - it is our lifestyles.

The timing could not be much worse, and Russia knows this. My energy supplier went bust last year, and my newly appointed supplier wasted little time in telling me that my annual bill of £2,780 was going to rise to £4,179. By the time October comes around I fully expect that this will become £6,000, perhaps more. I will do all I can to reduce it, but ultimately I will pay it, what choice do I have? Lots of households have a much harder choice coming up, think about that for a minute and about those people. And then consider what it means for the fabric of society as a whole. Mrs L is a teacher, she is already seeing the impacts in some of the kids that sit in her classroom, but versus where we are headed early 2022 will be looked back at as a golden period. Meanwhile our politicians have abandoned one dictator (a bit) and are busy cozying up to new ones so that we can continue to live in comfort and wander around in T-shirts in December. Tell that to people in Ukraine and other countries who no longer have a house or a town.

In a rare moment of good news Covid is over. Oh wait. No, sorry, that is just wishful thinking on my part. And government policy of course, thus consigning us to another year of unnecessary deaths, illness, strain and all the rest of it. Anyone who thinks this is over is a complete dope. This unfortunately means that very large segments of the population are idiots, as evidenced by my newly restored commute and a rare visit into London last week. We seem to have happily, joyfully even, dispensed with any suggestion that the virus is still present and mutating, and are all skipping along merrily pretending that everything is fine. La la la! Don't look up! On the one hand the 2020/21 approach could not go on indefinitely, on the other how hard is it to take a few trivial precautions to help out your fellow man? In Portugal recently social distancing and all the rest of it was being practiced by 100% of the population, indoors and out. We on the other hand are a nation of twats, ungovernable.

But back to this uninspiring corner of London for a moment, the initial point of posting before I was distracted by the shithousery of planet earth. I have found 2022 hard. This does not apply just to blogging but to many things. Birding. Reading. Photography. Plants. Getting stuff done. Everything I enjoy has been hard to focus on, let alone stuff I don't enjoy, and instead or forcing myself to get on with it I have instead found myself coasting along, floating on the circadian current of work, sleep, work, sleep. Even at the weekends I have had almost no get up and go. I have not been unhappy per se, just content for some reason to do nothing, to let the days pass by without fighting them. Consequently is it nearly April and I can look back at the first quarter of the year and know that I have underachieved massively in most facets of my life and that I couldn't really care less. It is a funny feeling, not caring. In the mornings I have been staying in bed for longer than I should. There are no evenings, I just go to sleep, most of the time before 9pm. Lust for life I think they call it.

However recently there has been a change. Possibly it is the weather, who can say, but I have rediscovered the joy of doing things. There have been a few early morning starts, the camera has come out - only for a few ducks on one of the local ponds, but it is something. There has been a flurry of activity in the garden - the first stages of the transition from winter to spring have occurred in my greenhouse, the terrace has been repopulated with Agave and Yucca, the pointless Yew bush under the Monkey Puzzle has gone and the lawn has been mowed. I even went to the dump to get rid of all the garden waste so that I could continue my work with empty green bags. If the mood takes me I may provide illustrations at a future point. There is a lot more to do and that I am looking forward to despite the accompanying aches and pains that getting this far entailed, but for now it appears that winter is returning so I shall pause.

On the birding front there has been a smidgen of returning interest. I have missed both Wheatears to have graced the patch, and so far my migrant searches have turned up only Blackcaps that may never have left in the first place. Overall I would say fervour is still lacking - the patch has been quiet for sure, but my drive has been more silent still. I suspect I am being hindered by the ghost of 2021, a nagging feeling that last year cannot be topped and this is weirdly preventing me from getting out there. It may of course be the general all-permeating malaise of 2022, but whatever it is, this time last year I had seen 15 more species that I have so far this year, and which ranks as my least impressive start since my records began. This is not restricted to Wanstead - I have not been birding anywhere in the UK in March. A drive to the coast feels like a world away for some reason (and not just diesel being in excess of £1.70 a litre!), a twitch for a rarity even further than that. I do occasionally wonder if the sight of a Belted Kingfisher in Lancashire might do me some good despite the cost, time and effort, but I quickly move on. Part of the reason I went to the dump was to ensure the car battery didn't go flat, I can't think when we last went anywhere or did anything in it. In that respect it is a fine symbol for 2022.

In more potential evidence of a change in the air I am nearly done with the London Bird Report 2020 images - a "to-do" that has been hanging over me for ages. It is a month later than I said I would have it completed by; when I say that I have I had trouble doing anything I really mean that. I've dabbled with it in fits and starts, made the shortlist, sorted the covers, but what I have not been able to do is sit down for three or four hours straight and absolutely nail it. I think about it frequently but then I go and do something else instead. Or do nothing most likely, the overriding theme of 2022. When I finally hit send it will be one of the only things I have achieved of any note this year. I hope to use it as a catalyst, but let's see how we go. Initial indications are reasonably positive, and not before time. Small steps. 

I am 47 years old, I cannot believe I am typing this but these are strange times and they affect people differently depending on who they are and where they are on life's journey. Like many I feel that the events that started in March 2020 have been nigh on impossible to control, and have dominated our personal narratives for two years. The state of the world is quite numbing, or at least I find it to be. And as mentioned above we are kidding ourselves if we think we are on the up. We are not, and not only that we seem to be seamlessly morphing into a new phase of awfulness, a cost of living crisis that will impact almost everyone. 

For now, have another Pochard. I'm fine by the way, just not very productive.