In a change to the advertised programme, this blogpost comes to you from an industrial estate in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Following my departure, earlier this month, from the waste reduction charity Orkney Zerowaste, I have ventured sooth for a spot of technical training.
This morning the weather was fairly benign, if a little chilly, so I walked the mile or so from my hotel to the training venue, through the industrial estate and alongside the channelised River Team. That description doesn't make it sound too hopeful for the chances of some wildlife, and indeed, the view was often like this...
However, as the saying goes, faint heart never won a fair maiden (at least, that is an approximate and publishable rendition of what was said), so off I jolly well went.
At various points of my stroll through the industrial sprawl, thoughtful planting of trees and shrubs had softened the harsher effects of acre after acre of factories, workshops, offices and car parks. The most obvious tenants of this landscape were Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and a few Black-headed Gulls.
As I was about to cross over a road, a high-pitched, but grating, call gave me pause for thought. It was familiar, but also somehow mysterious. I concentrated upon crossing the road safely, pondering whether I had simply heard one of the many vocalisations of a Magpie. Once back on the pavement, a further call solved the conundrum. A single "chip" being the clue to the identity of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. No wonder I was confused - very familiar from our Milton Keynes days, but now not heard so much in Orkney.
The return journey, later in the afternoon, was uneventful save for the rising Moon, a waxing gibbous globe creeping slowly above the horizon from behind the houses on a low hill to the east. So, despite the street lights, the traffic, the noise and the impersonal and intrusive industry, it was still possible to feel an elemental connection with the sky and the natural cycles that have shaped our lives for generations.
My hotel room is on the third floor, quite a change from our single storey abode in Orkney. I've been here a whole twenty four hours and haven't used the lift so far. Which pretty much assuages any guilt I might feel about having a fried breakfast.