Birdsong at a time of carnage

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

PETER RHODES on a feathered symphony, a sudden hot spell and why it's time to forget the afterlife.

Full volume – a blackbird

SUMMERTIME and the living is easy. And cheap. And healthy. We humans are a tropical species, hairless and low-fat and born to be warm. A hot spell like this recreates the savannah and jungles of our ancient roots, and suits us very nicely. The one thing we fear is the cold. All this probably explains why, although we are all aware of global warming, you won't find many people who are scared of it. A few more degrees? Bring it on.

THIS is how it is going to be. The terrorists strike. Within hours the authorities reveal the suspect was “known to police.” The floral tributes pile up. Our screens fill with images of smiling people, now dead or maimed. At a rally, the crowd declares it will not be intimidated. Religious leaders insist we are all united. Lots of candles are lit and some mawkish poetry is read. And then we wait for it all to happen again, as it surely will. For there is no end.

THESE Islamist fanatics, unlike the IRA, are not seeking any sort of settlement. Time is not an issue for them. Sometimes, fiction speaks more eloquently than fact. The aim of jihadists has never been expressed better than by Abu Nazir, the terrorist warlord in the excellent and well-researched US series Homeland. This is Nazir's chilling warning to the West: “Do you have the perseverance, the tenacity, the faith? Because we do. You can bomb us, starve us, occupy our holy places, but we will never lose our faith. We carry God in our hearts, our souls. To die is to join him. It may take a century, two centuries, three centuries, but we will exterminate you.”

MEANWHILE, this from Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, describing the Manchester bombing: “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.” Ah yes, the next life. That'll be the place where murdered children never really die but live as angels with the Baby Jesus. The place where the rich and haughty are brought down a peg, and the meek are exalted. The place where terrorists are martyrs, living in eternal paradise tended by beautiful virgins. Is it not time in this 21st century for a global acceptance that there is no hereafter, that this is the only life and that belief in the afterlife brings as much anguish as comfort? Let us move on. Without the promise of paradise there would be no suicide bombers.

A RARE sight. I followed a Hillman Avenger all the way from Glasgow to Carlisle. Most of these once-cherished saloons have rotted away. I believe it was called the Avenger to fight for sales against Ford's all-conquering Cortina. Time teaches us that the real avenger of cars built before the 1990s was rust.

I'M not sure whether anyone records such things but is this becoming a record year for birdsong? The volume, at all times of day, and the variety of birdsong is astonishing. I write this in the early afternoon as two big-mouthed blackbirds and a gabby goldfinch are giving it some welly in the garden. A sweet symphony to end a savage week.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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