Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

A cloud of unidentified leafish objects

Hearing unforecasted rain hitting the tarmac the other evening, I ventured outside anyway, having been looking forward to a nightwalk. Beyond the sound-proofing of the door the noise was cacophanous and I almost retreated back inside. But, belatedly, I noted the absence of moisture in the air and, slowly, realised that what I had assumed to be the patter of raindrops was in fact the flutter of a thousand leaves being blown up the drive. Venturing further out, I spent a pleasant but futile few minutes trying to catch some, before settling for scooping up a handful from the floor. They were unlike any leaf I had ever seen and it has taken me a week of stolen minutes with the markontour “library” to derive their origin, such is my city-boy lack of basic wildlife knowledge. But it has been fun learning and, in the end, it turned out that buried deep in my brain was my Mum introducing me to the parent-tree as a boy.

The Nanny State Made Me

If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything it is the life-saving difference between good and bad government, and why the foundation of a successful society is strong, well-funded and universal public services. This, of course, shouldn’t have needed reaffirming. As Stuart Maconie points out in ‘The Nanny State Made Me’, a book that is both wonderfully entertaining and annotate-every-page informative, “The people who complain about the ‘nanny state’ are the people who had nannies”. Nevertheless, in most parts of the western world the public sector has been on the receiving end of a forty year battering. Perhaps this pandemic will be the moment when it bounces back off the ropes.

In celebration of cuckoos – Britain’s naughtiest bird

Our neighbourhood cuckoo returned on 16 April and has been rewarding us with his song ever since, which reminded me of a blog post Ms Markontour wrote last year about Britain’s naughtiest bird which I never got around to publishing. One of the upsides of lockdown is having time to be in one place and appreciate the changing of the seasons, so it was lovely to read this again today and I hope you enjoy it too.

Cities unite to tackle COVID-19 as Trump attacks the WHO

The COVID-19 crisis has again laid bare the current inability of nation states to work with each other to solve global problems in the face of President Trump’s continuing assaults on international institutions. In stark contrast, the world’s mayors leading cities worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis have been strengthening collaboration based on good science, robust data and common human interest, building off a decade of co-operation to tackle climate change.

The Housemartins reform

Yesterday at Ty Cerrig we celebrated the return of the House martins. Not the reforming of Hull’s finest indie band, but the arrival of the little blue-backed, white-fronted birds that live in our eaves from spring to late summer.

Isolation playlist #2

As we enter a third week of lock-down in Britain, markontour’s isolation playlist is growing nicely, now topped up by some wonderful on-line live sessions, Jarvis dj-ing from his living room, and the daily pleasure of Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s ‘Nature Livestreams’. The whole playlist is available here.

How environmental destruction increases the risk of pandemics

“We disrupt eco-systems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” So argues David Quammen in We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic, New York Times, 28 January. There have been a number of similar articles pointing out the link between human destruction of biodiversity and the prevalence of viruses that cross the barrier between wild animals and humans. I have found it useful to summarise them and so am sharing here in case it is helpful for others also.

Why is the skylark shouting?

We’re doing a daily bird-watching hour as part of our family coronavirus WhatsApp group. Obviously there’s quite a big risk of repetition of sightings of sparrows, or the Groundhog Day magpie who learns anew each morning that it can’t hang onto the fat ball feeder long enough to get a bite in, so I was dead pleased yesterday to see a lark rising vertically up into the blue sky from the moorlands on the ascent of Tor y Foel (social distancing of at least 200m from the four other people I saw also out for a bit of exercise).

Isolation playlist

One of the upsides of Coronavirus home isolation is an increased chance to listen to music. In more normal times, I mostly discover new bands from chance attendance at concerts, and hear new tunes in record shops. In what might become a temporary/regular markontour feature, I offer up for collective enjoyment the bands and songs I have instead been introduced to in the last week via radio (mostly BBC Radio 6 Music and KEXP), Spotify and YouTube: