Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A famous person and assorted wildlife turn up in strange places.

City Duck - a Mallard 5 floors up!
 I spent some time in London over the weekend, staying with great friends who live in a Westminster apartment, which is situated 5 floors up and so looks out over the roofs of other buildings. They have a small roof terrace with potted shrubs and plants and have also installed a bird “feeding station” with nuts and small seeds on offer.

Now, you might think that you would not get many visitors to a roof terrace 5 stories up in central London, but actually you would be quite wrong, as my friends report of a steady flow of visitors such as Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed tits, Crows and Magpies, Pigeons, Robins, Blackbirds, Seagulls (I presume Black-headed and probably Herring) and Greenfinch. They also tell me that now and again they see the “Hawk thing” – probably a Peregrine or Kestrel I imagine!!

But there are also some lovely surprises in the form of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jays and a Mallard! Also little Jenny Wren is seen frequently, obviously reckoning that it is worthwhile flying to this height to search out the shrubs for hidden insects! As yet no Parakeets, but I expect that these colourful invaders will turn up before too long.

So it seems that wherever you live, there will be wildlife to keep you company, which is really rather comforting don’t you think!

I also visited Westminster Abbey and was fortunate enough to be shown around this incredible building by the Dean. I was shown the colourful, marbled mosaic floor that has recently been restored, which dates back a thousand years and depicts the world in the middle of the surrounding universe. Incidentally, this is the exact place that the coronation chair is placed when a new king or queen is installed, putting them at the head, quite literally, of everything. An interesting take on our somewhat heightened importance in the cosmos I would have thought!

I was also fascinated by the array of famous people buried here, starting perhaps with the enormous central tomb in the middle of the Ladies’ chapel in which Edward the Confessor lies, through Kings and Queens, Politicians, poets and writers and scientists – including somewhat surprisingly Darwin.

Darwin had in fact expected to be buried in St Mary's churchyard at Downe in Kent where he died, but at the request of Darwin's colleagues, after public and parliamentary petitioning, William Spottiswood (President of the Royal society)) arranged for Darwin to be buried in the Abbey, close to Isaac Newton.
This is quite something for a man who rocked the whole establishment, especially the church, by writing “On the origin of species” in which he described evolution.  In 1879 he wrote that "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally, an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

Still, there is one consolation for Darwin being laid to rest in the middle of such a huge city – there certainly seems to be plenty of wildlife just outside the door!

A Jay frequently pops in to the feeding station!

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