We were walking through the park here in St Albans a few days ago at the onset of dusk (which at this time of year always seems ridiculously early in the day, but there you are) chatting away as is our wont, when the Lovely Wife stopped and pointed at the bushes.
‘Kingfisher,’ she whispered.
And indeed, it was a kingfisher, calmly sitting on a branch above the river Ver, not more than a very short stone’s throw. It did not seem particularly concerned that it was now under close supervision. Neither was this tiny, gorgeous little bird that much into fishing to be honest but then that was to our viewing pleasure.
So we stood there for a few minutes taking in one of the prettiest birds we have here in the UK, as people wandered past us, totally oblivious to what they were missing. I despair sometimes how unobservant people can be. I mean, it was pretty obvious we were looking at something and you would have thought that at least some people should just be plain nosey about that. But no, no one seemed remotely interested. Eventually a small group of people walked by and started pointing – at the fish swimming along in the river. At that point I could stand it no longer and quietly pointed out what they should be looking at, and was rewarded with the appropriate amount of ooh noises that indicated that I had made at least one person’s day.
This lack of awareness seems to be a creeping disease. What I do not know is whether it is an individual thing or something of a trend. Certainly the Lovely Wife and I are on the lookout most of the time for things to interest us, whether this is something wild or something in the architecture. We are the kind of people that Blue Plaques were created for I guess. It forms part of the pleasure of walking, in the country and the town, beyond the exercise and the fresh air. It may just be that some people will always notice and others will not. But there seems to be a heavy majority on the people with more focused vision (or if I flip things, people who are not as easily distracted as I!).
Alternatively, what I could be seeing is a side effect of the huge amount of busyness that we all seem to have these days. Life seems to be busier, time seems shorter and the amount of data of all sorts being thrown at us just seems to increase. Our brains are wonderful things but conscious processing takes resources and those do have limitations. So maybe there is a ‘deliberate’ action going on to cut out input that might be seen as extraneous. Putting blinkers on a horse is usually to stop it being distracted on the race. Maybe we put ourselves in blinkers to achieve what we see as the important task. In this context of course our choice to ‘waste’ ten minutes of that precious time we have gawping at a tiny azure and orange bird represents a good sense of where our priorities lie; for me at least there is no point in the day without some time at least being able to appreciate the beauty and/or complexity of our surroundings. And there is so much to enjoy if we just keep our eyes (and indeed ears open). But as I say, I understand the other point of view too, but do bear with me and in this case I feel confident that no one cannot be a metre away from a kingfisher and not smile, just a little bit, at having seen something special which, as they say in the vernacular, never gets ‘old’.