The next blog in the 13 Years Wilde series comes from Keith, or as many people know him @HoldingMoments. Keith has been very, very supportive to me and we try to meet up at a local reserves a few times a year when he is staying in North Wales. He is a great birder and photographer and I know he gets a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from spending time in the natural world.
The year of ........ the assassination of the American president J F Kennedy, the end of one of the worst winters on record, that blanketed the country under snow for nearly 3 months, the beginnings of Beatlemania, and a host of similar groups that dragged music towards the massive industry it has become today, and in the month of April, I became a teenager. I turned 13; the same age as Findlay Wilde.
There were no multi channel TV's, with nature programmes, no home computers, no internet as we know it today, no mobile phones; in fact, the world when I was 13, seemed very Black and White. Even my first bird book, a few years later, had about half the illustrations in black and white.
An interest in nature grew slowly.
When I was younger, I remember my grand dad had 'cage birds', birds in cages hanging from the wall of his living room. Goldfinches and Linnets mostly. Something that was quite common years ago, but I always felt a sadness for these beautiful creatures, trapped behind bars, singing their songs to attract a mate in vain. A practice that has thankfully stopped now, but back then, was quite common.
I remember finding a pigeon one day, that didn't seem as though it could fly. There were no animal rescue centres that I knew of back then, and a trip to the vet, would have resulted in its neck being wrung, to 'put it out of its misery'. Sadly standard practice back then. I kept it in a cardboard box, on a sheet of newspaper from my dads Daily Mirror, in the shed. A saucer of water, and a few slices of bread broke into pieces carefully placed with it. No fancy wild bird seed varieties back then; they got bread, and bacon rind.
For about a week I checked on my bird. Changed his newspaper and water, and then finally launched him to the sky. I watched with a smile on my face as he flew up towards a neighbours house, and perched on the roof. He sat for a while, and then flew away. And every pigeon that landed on that roof after, for a few weeks at least, was 'my pigeon'. Come to say 'thank you', or so I believed.
At 13 I enjoyed the wildlife around me. I had a dog called Cindy, a beautiful long haired mongrel that was bought from a pet shop for ten shillings (50p). I didn't have brothers or sisters, and most of my mates were into football. I wasn't. I lived in north London, Enfield. Lots of green spaces then ........... not now.
For money I had a 'Saturday job', working in a plant nursery. Like a modern day garden centre is now, but back then it was no fancy names, it was a plant nursery. Run by 2 young brothers who lived in a bungalow, a large garden, and glass houses to grow the plant in. My jobs were to keep things tidy, pot some plants, sweep up .......... anything really. I loved it, and learned a lot about plants while I was there. And I saw a few birds, mice, and the odd stray cat.
Sunday I would ride my bike to Epping Forest. Quite a ride, but I loved it. I'd sit under a tree, and just watch whatever passed by. Not birding. I don't think that word existed then; I watched birds. Anything. No spotting scopes or binoculars, no cameras to take pictures; just my eyes and memory, to record what I'd seen. Things I didn't know, new birds or animals, would have to be looked up later, at the local library, in their limited selection of books. How different things would have been today, with the vast selection of books, social media and ease of travel.
Fast forward a year, and dramatic events in my life turned it upside down and saw a big shift into music, (which played a massive part), and into the dawning of the age of Aquarius, and all that went with it ............. the good and the not so good.
But my heart was always and always will be, be with the wild.