Sunday, 28 June 2015

13 Years Wilde - Keith @HoldingMoments

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.



  1. Lovely piece and it really encapsulates the difference to the present time. Things like binoculars were luxuries. Seems like another world. Internet has made so much information available. In those days you had to get to the library to look things up. Books were relatively expensive also.

  2. I have to echo Anne's comment, the contrast between now and then is interesting. It's fascinating to hear how different the attitudes were towards wildlife especially in regards to caged birds such as Finches etc. Also towards sick and injured animals.

  3. A great read,as i am about the same age as Kieth, it takes me back too.


  4. I'm a little bit older than you, Keith, so quite a bit of that resonates with me, allowing for the fact that I was in rural north Essex, and, naturally, was a girl. Except for one thing; you say there were no nature programmes, but I do remember some, naturally enough in black and white and on our tiny television screens. David Attenborough was very interesting even back then: quest for a Dragon is one I still remember, about an exploration searching for the Komodo Dragon in Indonesia. Then there was Peter Scott talking to us about birds, and the Wildfowl Trust, and doing so through his own paintings. Also, I do remember James Fisher. I remember seeing him on TV and I think perhaps listening to him on the radio. I learned a lot from him and asked for his books for birthday presents. Maybe that was in the fifties, a little earlier than you, Keith, but definitely when I was around 13. James Fisher is still worth reading, even now. I have a feeling there was another nature programme to but I can't quite bring it to mind. It may come back to me.

    1. Would it have been Hans and Lotte Hass Mary - I adored their films


  5. Went to Epping Forest once Keith - loved it but it was the first place I encountered ticks...hasn't put me off I'd go again.



  6. Thanks for these comments. I think Findlay has come up with a fantastic idea with these guest blogs.
    Mary, I must confess I don't remember watching those programmes. We had a TV back then, but I seldom watched anything on it. I do remember the Hans and Lotte Hass programmes that DaveyMan mentioned though. I reckon they must have been a Sunday afternoon thing.

  7. A wonderful insight into your childhood Keith...

  8. And the rest, as they say, is history...
    An interesting read Keith.
    Of course, being a lot younger than you, I can't quite remember all those things that were going on in the world in 1963!!...[;o)

  9. HI Keith A lovely read and insight into your ealy days and your start with a love for NATURE. Yes I remember all those things you mention and times have changed greatly, sometimes I think not necessarily for the better. Thanks for sharing. yes I think this was a brilliant is=dea of Finlays adn I am pleased that you are over there to suppost him in person from time to time.

  10. Brilliant insight keith.
    Jrand sue

  11. Thanks you for writing such a great blog post Keith. It's great to see how much nature meant to you back then and now. I think you will be having a lot more great adventures with Whisky (the dog) by your side.