The Swallow Song

My neighbours on the bedroom door side, the Swallows, returned a few days ago to find their nest completely razed to the ground by the heavy snowfall that we had in July. They have perched every morning since, both Mr and Mrs, on the camellia outside my bedroom door chirping to each other and looking quite confused and distressed, as only a swallow can. Not to mention a tad pissed off with me because I think that they think I had a hand in this dastardly deed. I can almost hear them saying to each other, “Where the hell has it gone? I’m sure it was here when we left, my GPS may be getting a bit rusty but I recognise the old bat in the bedroom. I’m sure she is to blame for this. But don’t worry dear, I’ll build us a new nest, I’ve heard that the quality of mud is much improved this year and there’s plenty of it. Yes, but what about all the happy memories we’ve lost, not to mention that beautiful down feather we found near the dam which fitted so perfectly? Our new nest will never be as good as the old one.”

Yup, that’s definitely an accusatory glare!

Yup, that’s definitely an accusatory glare!

The other evening I watched an episode of Grand Designs Australia. I found this blurb about it on the internet: In February 2009, Chris Clarke had just spent two years building his minimalist timber and steel dream home at Callignee in Gippsland when, less than a week after completion, it was burnt to the ground in the devastating Black Saturday bushfires. With nothing remaining but a concrete slab and a burnt out shell Chris was left shattered and numb. After recovering from the initial grief he was determined to re-build and re-use every last salvageable element of the original house. What he creates in the year or so following is simply remarkable. By adding sturdy recycled elements with the latest fire resistant materials, Chris sets out to produce a tough, resilient version of the original home (now dubbed Callignee One). Wearing its embattled past as a badge of honour, will Callignee Two face up to the Aussie bush? It was an amazing achievement. Although I wasn’t mad about the house, I really admired his determination to pursue his dream, against the odds. What is it about houses and homes that some of us will go to such enormous lengths to create them?

I was told a very distressing story the other day about what happened on a nearby farm. The previous owner died leaving a faithful farm worker living in a labourer’s cottage on the land, as his father had before him. The new owner, not quite sure what to do about this person, sought legal advice. The advice he was given, and which he followed, was to destroy the house. It appears that if someone has lived in a dwelling on someone else’s land for a certain amount of years, they are entitled to lodge a land claim. How sad that the law makes the destroying of a home a better option and how sad that the new owner couldn’t have found a more creative solution. After all he has plenty of land, enough to share I would have thought.

That’s the problem though isn’t it? We don’t want to share, not with other people and not with nature. What drives most of us to acquire more than we need? We note with concern and indignation how government officials are feathering their nests at the expense of “previously disadvantaged” people. But are we not doing the same?

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter. (William Pitt)

My home may be my castle, but that doesn’t seem to apply here to the “poorest man in his cottage“.

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