One of the delights of Springwatch is the way live webcams allow the office worker to peer from her desk into the alien world of a kestrel nest or a box of fledging blue tits. What an extraordinary thing, and how impoverished we would be without this perspective on such hidden lives. Politicians would still pursue policies; asset managers would consult spreadsheets; lawyers would produce articles about The Cultural Gifts Scheme: a Heritage Tax Break for the Living (see Isabel Paintin’s article), Restrictive Covenants as Clawback Devices (Rose Gurney) and even Badgers! (Alice Groom); but we would all be missing something. Part of the wonder of watching wildlife is a quiet lesson in humility: it reminds us that our own perspectives and opinions are also tightly bounded and partial (and prompts us to be attentive to the differing viewpoints of others).
Watching the stoats at Sherborne Park on Springwatch this year caused my son to ask whether these were the same as the weasels in The Wind in the Willows (“No, they are different beasts: the weasel is weasily identified; the stoat is stoatally different”) and something in this association of thoughts vividly brought to mind a
vision of Kenneth Grahame’s Mole, as he spring cleans his small, subterranean home:
Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.
‘This is fine!’ he said to himself. `This is better than whitewashing!’ The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout.
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