Friday, 21 March 2014


Blackie is singing outside my window.
This is the rough end of a belief that we should be diurnal. Go to bed when it is dark. Rise when it is light.
So comes the listening - a practice I do not find easy. The mind strays away from the present moment into all sorts of versions of past and future. Stories.
This morning, Blackie holds my attention. It is a truly beautiful, heart-filling sound, and with a background rivulet of curlews, I cannot imagine a finer alarm clock. For one raised in sounds of traffic, rowing neighbours, and the odd siren, it is a privilege worth daily thanks.
It sets me thinking too.
Current science holds that the dawn chorus is a territorial claim, made over and over again. In some time, I imagine science will be proved wrong again.
Blackie does not repeat himself. The core melody is similar, but not the same each time. He ends it differently, and adds all sorts of variants throughout his aria. Each call is different. And the answering calls from neighbour blackbird also differ each time they are made. Sometimes I could swear they are interrogative, sometimes jussive, and sometimes downright imperative.
What I believe I am listening to is conversation, perhaps with repetitive themes, but with stimulus and response both present in the song.
Why would they just repeat the inane "here I am; this is mine"?
Why wouldn't they be talking about what would be important to them that day? The weather? The wind direction? Where they will be going for food? Where they have heard or sensed food might be? What threats are about? What opportunities? These seem far more likely to me, even if more sophisticated.
Maybe even, like me, Blackie sends up a prayer of exultation at simply being alive to hear this marvellous round of sound.
Birds and animals are far cleverer, I believe, than we humans, and especially scientists, acknowledge.
After all, we have many singers, but few as fine as a blackbird.
And not a single one who can combine that beautiful voice with the ability to fly.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


Now that Russia is enacting the answer that ought to have been enacted from the start - a Crimean referendum - one might think that the invitation to OSCE observers to monitor the referendum would be accepted.
But it hasn't been.
That is because the Crimean referendum will be free and fair. It doesn't need to be anything else. You don't need to rig an answer you can get without rigging it.
But the OSCE has handed the West what it would want - an excuse to condemn the referendum. Indeed, they are already doing so, in terms of it being illegal. Rigged, will follow as a headline.
The situation tells us something else though.
It tells us that the OSCE is prey to following the West's own on and off definition of democracy, based on European and Western geopolitical and economic advantage.
What the world needs is a democratic monitoring force which actually is interested in democracy for its own sake, disinterested from any national or supra national interests.

Friday, 7 March 2014


Congratulations to the lucky winners of the competition launched in the last blog post. Well done, Mr V Putin, of Moscow, who shares his win with 79 members of Crimea's parliament. Your prizes are on their way to you.
It is disappointing to note that winners from further West have been few indeed. And there has been some quite bad sportsmanship too. Mr B. Obama, of Washington DC has complained loudly about breaches of the rules. Apparently, holding a referendum on separatist feelings is a violation of international law. Even more disappointing is a universally supine western media, not one of whose ranks has had the sense to ask Mr Obama "Mr President, which law?" I am not a lawyer so cannot of course be definitive about what is or is not legal or illegal in these matters. But if Mr Obama is right, then MR D Cameron of London, England, and Mr A Salmond, of Edinburgh, Scotland may both be in legal hot water. Everyone knows though that in law invading another's country is illegal and that is why, as an example, we would never see US or UK troops invading, say, Iraq or Afghanistan.
What is most puzzling is this - that the West would expect Mr Putin to simply lay down and accept the machinations of the West in creating a pro Western Ukraine, with concomitant access to its important gas supplies. That is an arrogance which is pretty unbelievable, and, as the events have shown, misplaced.
What is also puzzling is this - that the West does not simply listen to what Mr Putin has to say and take him seriously, accepting a greyer, less absolute but much more workable version of both truth and national and international best interest.

Sunday, 2 March 2014


Here's a simple spatial problem.

A country is surrounded by two powerful neighbours. Lets called one simply East and one simply West.

Half of the said country overwhelmingly want alliance with East, and half want alliance with West. Those who want alliance with West live overwhelmingly in the west of the country. Those who want alliance with East live overwhelmingly in the east of the country.

Bearing in mind modern principles of democratic self determination, solve the above problem.

You have (shall we be generous) two minutes to provide a suitable answer.

I am expecting that any sensible reader of this now has the solution.

Yet, for leaders of two of the world's superpowers, this seems not to be the case, and, instead of an amiable tension free arrival at the solution, we have bellicose escalation on both sides.


Because to be a modern leader it is more important to be seen to be hard, warlike and powerful (based on military power) than it is to be seen to be emollient, wise, flexible in thought, and able to get on with one's neighbours.

We shall see how a dangerous situation in Ukraine progresses. On pragmatism, or on ego?

My guess is, it'll get worse before it gets better.