Blacktop Rain

…and other secret joys


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London’s Natural History by R.S.R. Fitter

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Feeding the pigeons in front of St Paul’s Cathedral – colour plate from London’s Natural History

This post is part of a series called Small Rain, exploring the history of urban nature writing.

London’s Natural History charts the natural history of London from its pre-historic, geological formation, through the Romans, the medieval period (when kites were a common London bird), the expansion of the city from the fifteenth century onwards, and on to its final bursting point in the mid-nineteenth century. It then looks at the various human impacts on the city’s flora and fauna in the present day (the present day being 1945), including the influence of traffic, refuse disposal, agriculture and the recent war. Whilst the history of London is interesting, it is the snapshot of London in 1945 that I find the most fascinating. For example, Fitter mentions the abundance of sparrows in London, according to Fitter they are the only London bird considered to be a Cockney. Since then the number of sparrows in London has drastically declined – by 60% between 1994 and 2004 according to the RSPB. On the other hand, he mentions the recent increase in the number of gulls in London, a bird that is still increasing in urban areas. Continue reading

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A history of urban nature writing

Image from Wildlife in the City by Alan C. Jenkins

Image from Wildlife in the City by Alan C. Jenkins

Some time ago (I don’t remember when or how – though I can guess that I was probably on a train, which is where I have all my best ideas) the idea popped into my head to read and review every work of urban nature writing ever published, from Richard Jefferies’s Nature Near London, right up to the present day when the genre seems to have exploded. Once lodged in my mind, the idea refused to budge and it has been there ever since. Continue reading


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Saying goodbye to my childhood home

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My mum is finally moving out of the house she’s lived in for 15 years and the one that I lived in – between stints at university – for nearly 12 years. Last weekend, I spent a few days in the UK, sorting through boxes of my stuff. It was a strange few days, a weird mix of happy and nostalgic. Continue reading


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The social mediation of nature

 

Me, taking a picture on my phone

Me, taking a picture on my phone

Mobile devices do not just extend the number of places that you can use social media; they bring social media to those places and, through the LBS [location based service], contribute to the construction of new cartographies of space. In other words, they provide us with new ways of mapping meaning to space and creating new places.
– Understanding Social Media, Sam Hinton and Larissa Hjorth.

I spent the last year working in social media and in my spare time I write about nature. These two aspects of my life always seemed very disparate – I even have separate blogs for my writing about nature and social media. But perhaps I’ve been wrong to think of them in this way, perhaps the two interact and mediate one another in ways I hadn’t considered before. Continue reading


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On starting a new literary magazine

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Image by Wendi Dunlap

As part of my MA in Writing, Nature and Place, I had to do a publishing module. My fellow course mates and I edited, designed, typeset and distributed a literary magazine called Peninsula (you can read the magazine online). I absolutely loved the experience – contacting possible contributors, editing the submissions, the frenzied editorial meetings, and holding the final product in my hands. Continue reading


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The Real Story – In Search of the Perseids

Perseids

I’m excited to have an essay published by The Real Story – an excellent initiative that celebrates all things creative nonfiction. The essay is about the attempts of my partner and I to see the Perseids meteor shower from the city. Not an easy task with all that light pollution! But the story does have a happy ending.

Read the full essay.