Thursday 5 April 2012: So quickly they are gone
Only a few weeks ago I blipped these four trees a short way from our house. I said at the time they were nothing special, but I just liked their shape. Some of the small bits of nature that make their way into the city and enrich our lives almost without us realising it.
Until they are gone.
It actually happened a few days ago, and I spoke to the guys doing it thinking it might have been related to the gap-site building site behind the new wooden fence. No, it was because someone had complained about the trees, and the other ones on the opposite corner, blocking their light. So the trees were chopped down, even although the guys doing the work themselves said it seemed a shame. Supposedly the trees will be replaced, but that can only mean tiny saplings. Hardly a true replacement of what has been lost. And while these four trees were not as big and well established as the ones that have gone on Coates/Atholl Crescent, also to be 'replaced' by 'more trees' (ie another load of saplings, more in number but immeasurably less in 'tree-ness') it is another of the cuts to our everyday environment that 'development' and 'progress' inflicts on us.
In this week of non-breeding pandas in the full glare of publicity, these missing trees also made me think of a poem we did at school a long time ago, but still relevant today.
To See The Rabbit
by Alan Brownjohn
We are going to see the rabbit.
We are going to see the rabbit.
Which rabbit, people say?
Which rabbit , ask the children?
The only rabbit,
The only rabbit in England,
Sitting behind a barbed-wire fence
Under the floodlights, neon lights,
On the only patch of grass
In England, in England
(except the grass by the hoardings
Which doesn't count.)
We are going to see the rabbit
And we must be there on time.
First we shall go by escalator,
Then we shall go by underground,
And then we shall go by motorway,
And then by helicopterway,
And the last 10 yards we shall have to go
And now we are going
All the way to see the rabbit,
We are nearly there,
We are longing to see it,
And so is the crowd
Which is here in thousands
With mounted policemen
And big loudspeakers
And bands and banners,
And everyone has come a long way.
But soon we shall see it
Sitting and nibbling
The blades of grass
In - but something has gone wrong!
Why is everyone so angry,
Why is everyone jostling
And slanging and complaining?
The rabbit has gone,
Yes, the rabbit has gone.
He has actually burrowed down into the earth
And made himself a warren, under the earth,
Despite all these people,
And what shall we do?
What can we do?
It is all a pity, you must be disappointed,
Go home and do something for today,
Go home again, go home for today.
For you cannot hear the rabbit, under the earth,
Remarking rather sadly to himself, by himself,
As he rests in his warren, under the earth:
'It won't be long, they are bound to come,
They are bound to come and find me, even here.'
It was published in the early 1960s, described as 'after' the French poet Prevert. As far as I can find out Brownjohn is still alive, now in his eighties. A humanist, former councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate (described as 'old Labour'), he taught at Oxford until becoming a full time writer in his late forties. His most recent collection of poems was published just last year, although that was an anthology from his fifty-odd years of poetry rather than new work.