August 2022

August 2022


Looking through my living room window at small birds frolicking about our garden, I wondered at what appears to be the sheer randomness of their actions. I’m not complaining: their very movement brings pleasure to those who see them and sometimes it’s quite spectacular, especially when starlings set up their amazing aerobatic formation flying in vast numbers.

I am reminded of a Snoopy cartoon from the mid-1960s where a thoughtful Snoopy, idly watching birds in the sky as I was, was moved to comment to no-one in particular, “We can learn a lot from the birds; the smart ones, that is.”

The sting, the humour, is of course in the last words, “the smart ones that is”. This month the smart ones will be keeping their feathery heads down because, as viewers of Downton Abbey will be aware, the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ approaches, the grouse (and ptarmigan, I believe) shooting season approaches and people who ought to know better take to the moors to shoot down as many birds as possible.

Jesus of course said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Presumably we might draw a similar conclusion about grouse (and ptarmigan)? Game birds are bred for ‘sport’ and may not be as ‘smart’ as the ones Snoopy admired, for harassed by beaters they fly into the face of gunshot! I imagine that counting falling grouse in August must tax even God’s omnipotence (and computational skills).

Well, as I am often moved to say, “It’s a funny old world.”

We have another meaning for ‘grouse’, to complain, grumble, moan, gripe, object, protest, bellyache, whinge. Now those are all targets worthy of destruction, and not just in August, nor on the moors of Scotland.

I understand there is yet another meaning of grouse, a slang word in parts of Australia meaning great approval, or admiration, the opposite of our critical meanings above. But that is Australia, and everything is upside down there, isn’t it?

Colin Dixon



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