This afternoon I booked half a day’s leave to go into Northampton town centre to pick up some final Christmas gifts. A crowd of shoppers in Abington Street was eager to lay their hands on the freebies being distributed by that traditional Yuletide apparition, The Coca Cola holidaysarecomingholidaysarecoming Big American Truck. As red and shiny as Rudolf’s nose, it was pedalling its cheap brand of Christmas sentimentality to a willing audience.
Shopping completed and daylight fading fast, I headed back to the multi-storey car park, again passing the Coca Cola queues, skirting them, determined not to be sucked in.
The car park was cold and ugly, as they tend to be. But on the second floor, level with the bare crown of a tree that emerges from an adjacent pub garden, a mother and her young son stood. Hands full of shopping bags, they had paused to listen to a male blackbird singing as the dusk drew in. As I passed I heard them chatting about its song: both agreed it was beautiful.
Driving out of the car park I wound down my window: it was still singing as I passed the tree.
I could give a very academic spin to this tale and talk about the cultural and spiritual ecosystem services that are provided by such birds, which nourish us in ways that no amount of corporate marketing ever could. But I shan’t: it was a perfect Christmas vignette and a perfect contrast to the earlier soulless commerciality. And that’s sufficient.