Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hello for wildlife?

While I was on the loo yesterday morning I watched an otter lying on its back in the sea gnawing at a fish. And it wasn't on the tv.

My family and I spent the last few days at our time-share -  a tiny stone bothy on the west coast of Scotland. It sits on a grassy raised beach 100 metres from the shores of Loch Linnhe, facing north to the grizzled, lumpy, starkly beautiful hills of Morvern. It's 40 minutes rough walk in from the nearest road. There's no electricity, no sanitation, and the water is piped from a stream on the hill behind us.

It's not quite as basic as it sounds. We have a wood-burning stove, a gas cooker, matresses to sleep on. And it's not totally remote. A road runs along the opposite shore of the loch, a couple of miles distant. At night we see headlights prowling along the base of the hills. And there are a few houses too - only visible in the darkness, picking out the shoreline like cat's eyes. We feel immensely privileged to stay there - but I suspect few people envy us. They literally don't know what they're missing.

I read the other day that 90% of people in the UK now live in an urban environment. It made me feel like giving up writing about the natural world as I see it - as I value it. Living in a small, rural village, relishing opportunities to get even further from the 'modern world', can what I experience have any relevance for most people? But then again, how relevant to most people are the lives of the celebrities whose stories plaster the newspapers and magazines? Magazines like Hello encourage readers to aspire to be like the celebrities - 'buy the handbag, wear the make-up, you too can get a slice of their lives' - even though most people will never live like them.

You could say celebrities appear almost daily at our bothy: the otter I saw dining at our exclusive restaurant; whopper swans flying south to their winter holiday homes; porpoises partying 'til the small hours. Perhaps we need a Hello magazine for them?

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