13 April 2009

Dead Close to Nature 2: Rabbit Capital of Scotland


I invited you to bucolic Scotland, and so bring you to the ancient royal burgh of Stirling, the “'brooch' which held Scotland together”. We have been enjoying some pretty special Springs days of late, and the flying things have been up and soaring.

Blue haze. Bees hanging in air at hive-mouth.
Crawling in prone stupor of sun
On the hive-lip. Snowdrops. Two buzzards,
Still wings, each
Magnetised to the other,
Float orbits.

From March morning unlike others – Ted Hughes

Stirling is historically crucial to Scotland as a nation for obvious reasons, but whereas five hundred years ago Stirling and Edinburgh were equal in stature, Stirling has since developed very differently from the capital. “I prefer Stirling now, I preferred Edinburgh then” is hardly world-class critical comparison, and also presumes on having a Highlander-type of immortality, but it is mine; you all ought to make your own and tell me about it. Stirling’s mistreatment in the twentieth century in terms of architecture is quite severe. The city lying on the volcanic ridge, the old town, has character – a key player is the Darnley Coffee House, devoted to syphilitic buccaneer Henry Darnley, everyone’s favourite bisexual Catholic and Mary, Queen of Scots, second husband; the castle is breathtaking, more so than Edinburgh, as when it appears amongst the mist when I’m getting the number 12 up the Carse (snigger) the whole vista is gloriously dark and its soundtrack would be Tina Turner’s ‘Better be Good to Me’ accompanied with warmongering whoops and the clashing of swords.

However, Stirling seems to suffer from being rather disjointed – the Thistle Centre may be a glittering mall palace inside, but it is an incomprehensible concrete mass out. The bridge over the railway is sweeping and new-looking enough to be quirky. It also has character and Stirling has surprising niches just like any town you begin to love with the passing of time, despite its defects and because of them. Two places I recommend in Stirling are Eurasia, a good if small Asian halal supermarket on Barnton Street, and Europa Music with its quirky staff and old-fashioned front. Note there are no nightclubs in this list – the only time I visited ‘Dusk’ I ended up in a break-dancing dance-off and slid the length of the floor roaring like a bear.

If you spelt it with an ‘a’
It would improve immeasurably
You know -
Like the bird sans pareil
That flickers rainbow
Bright from its nest,
But is seen as a commonplace
Pest understandably.

My experience of Stirling is centred around its University. Stirling University campus was built in the sixties and lies at the foot of the Ochil Hills. The layout is only inspiring in its natural beauty, a great deal of effort not having been put into the architecture nor indeed the parkland’s basic landscaping. The central loch is a stunning and effecting prospect with the hills rearing behind it, the gardens are kept in perfect order and there are an abundance of loch-side walks and views to Ben Nevis along the Carse from the nearby Wallace Monument. It’s real genius lies in its sheltered silence, its misty mornings, and its micro-climate in the Spring (and, one imagines, the summer – unless some terrible reverse effect takes place) which I, the swans, the ducks, the crows, and the monumental rabbit population (who sunbathe and nibble grass in profusion), enjoy immensely.

The vixen springs
The sparrow sings
The mole grins in his trap
The eagle swings
Her brazen wings
The bunny has a crap
Another Attempt at a Nature Poem, But Don’t Worry, Ted – Adrian Mitchell

In fact, the more I think of it, the more Stirling University resembles a lost world cradled in the crater of a volcano, except instead of lava the irritating and ultimately lethal rumble you hear from time to time is the carousing youths vomiting in the lake and barbecuing in a frenzied, bestial kind of way that leaves chunks of raw meat and glass shards like teeth for the ground staff in the morning. Here lies, dear readers, one reactionary’s prime example of the problem with the jeunes of today. They should perform a litter-pick, it’s the civil thing to do. I am the last person to naysay madcap booze-induced flytipping, but part of the hangover’s curse is the tidying-up and it may not be rock & roll, but a black plastic sack sets off head-to-toe leather from the night before admirably. Gobsmackingly, it is illegal for students to litter-pick for Health and Safety reasons! I insert here a pained grunt of disbelief coupled with a sickening sense of foreboding. However, look on the bright side, rock-stars! Throwing rubbish is an accepted side effect of rebellion! Fuck the rabbits and their wide-eyed brethren! Eat glass and die bunny!

The horrors of modern life. Hopefully they will all develop into recycling adults who in turn feel strangely guilty and panic-stricken when the recycling mountains are seen on the news – we can but wonder why we didn’t just throw it on the pavement in the first place. But NO! Think of the rabbits. And their wide-eyed brethren.
Photographs by Katie Evamy

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