Insects and Grass

Cave paintings, Chauvet, France about 20,000 years old

A musing, a voyage of the imagination. Take it with me if you will. Suspending disbelief, let’s just suppose that without speculating on the reasons, every human being on planet Earth no longer existed. In every city, on every continent, every island, beach resort, town, village, hamlet and farm all that human activity just…stopped. No more brand loyalty, political posturing, buffoonery, warfare, enslavement. Nothing.

Climate is clearly shifting and in so doing is changing our demographics, our thinking, our sense of unease. A carboniferous change, man – made, or not, is the presumed cause and mankind with Promethean hubris seems determined to try to stop it. Today, Parisians have received orange weather warnings; Lyon has a projected temperature of over 40 Celsius. Severe storms are projected in my little corner of Heaven; air conditioner is working overtime, the air outside suffocating. A recent visit to Kuwait, searing and inhospitable, reminded me of how much worse it might get. An even more recent foray, hoping to miss the storm and pay the bills – ten seconds in torrential near-tropical rain plus flash flooding, winds enough to tear any umbrellas foolish enough to have been opened to shreds and branches littering the streets like slain giants, right here at home.

One hour later, all is sweetness and light – there’s a metaphor here for those who follow British politics – no need necessarily to call the police if you happen to hear what my late wife called a “wee domestic”.

Let’s just pretend that as a result, the species Homo Sapiens was unable to protect its existence and simply faded away into obscurity by some indeterminate mechanism. All our culture only exists as artefact, slowly decaying like ancient cave paintings.

We share this fragile little blue-green space with perhaps just under nine million different life-forms, according to an exhaustive study undertaken some eight years ago; apparently the most accurate estimate yet of life on Earth. Three-quarters of them, mostly insects, inhabit the 30%, which is dry land. Species have become extinct before we’ve even heard of them. Over nine-tenths of marine species have yet to be classified. Most things stay out of our way and the ones that either can’t or don’t are confronted with speciocide, butchery or enslavement. If we leave, what will happen to them? When we’re gone, will Nature heave a sigh of relief and set about creating a new republic of insects and grass? And, how long will it take for every trace of our existence to be obliterated from the Earth, to go back to Eden when the sun was high in the heavens on the fifth day?

Up High

When I lived in Paris, I sat in little pavement cafés – un flâneur – a strolling watcher. Here, up high – the traffic is lighter, the people politer but, they come and they go…

From my balcony, the world passes.

Early morning. Dark skinned ladies dressed in bright green sweep the streets with old-fashioned straw brooms, grimly picking up the detritus of the night, spent cigarettes, wrappers, leaves and whatever has been abandoned from clandestine assignations in the little park opposite.

Later,  large women fed on a diet rich in fat, carrying heavy bags of shopping, ignore the pedestrian crossings and march on sturdy shoes across the roads – the cars mostly stop to let them pass. Young girls from the art school twitter like starlings, emulating their avian sisters who wheel and scream overhead like fighter pilots, curving so close to the building I can hear the rush of air.

Gym-buff boys in Nike T shirts swagger arrogantly, eyeing up the Russian girls with their baby blue eyes.

The old man with the shopping trolley – his lameness clearly visible, peers myopically, trying to get himself and his meagre possessions to wherever he takes his afternoon nap. The fat gipsy woman, eyes vacant but wearing a clean white skirt, sits in the shade, clutching coffee, accepting a few coins.

A wedding party, men stiff in suits and bow ties, the women in gloriously flowered dresses, bedecked with gold, spill out on to the sidewalk from the pretty church across the street.

As night falls, the fat black Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches growl menacingly in reluctant obedience to the traffic lights.

Finally, late, very late, the streets are as quiet as a mausoleum – the odd trickling taxi – yet the incongruous sight of a young couple, backpacked, yet pushing a pram with a spaniel puppy  who sniffs the trees curiously, tethered on an extensible leash, seem in no hurry to find their way home.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria.