Caught by the River

Behind, Beyond & Beneath The Concrete City by Ben Myers

Ben Myers | 14th April 2008

“I find myself increasingly drawn to nature.

Maybe it is something to do with the aging process, maybe it’s something to do with living in the city for over a decade but I find myself seeking out the natural world in the most unlikely places.

I’ve taken to getting on my bike to seek out bodies of water in the city. City ponds. Paddling pools. The odd stream or canal. When I get there I just sit there for a while, staring at water.

And here where I sit at my desk upstairs in a two-bedroom house that I have to move out of in two weeks I get to observe nature at close quarters too as it slowly steals a piece of the city back for itself.

In the summer and autumn a fox often walks across the roof of the kitchen. Sometimes it passes right by my window – so close I could touch it. But it can’t see me, and in this state it is perfectly relaxed, perfectly at ease. Sometimes there are two foxes out there, just mooching about. I love city foxes. I love their tenacity and the fact they adapt their lives around humans. I like the fact they share the same scavenger mentality as I do, where one man’s refuse is another’s treasure trove.

On Friday I saw two pigeons fucking out there. Pigeons stay partners for life, so it was actually quite touching to see. In fact, I felt like something of an intruder, even though it is me who pays the rent. Also, they were nice clean, well-maintained pigeons, not like the dirty little skanks with one rotten foot you see uptown. Did you know that pigeon shit and piss is so acidic that it rots their feet away? Well, you do now. That’s why you see so many one-footed piegons: because they’ve haven’t learnt to increase the trajectory of the urination arc.

The overall bird-life is pretty impressive in SE15. I saw one bird one day that made me jump out my seat: “Christ! What is that?” On closer inspection it turned to be a jay, a common sight in English gardens. Shows how little I know about birds. Now I see the much-malligned jay all the time.

There are a lot of neighbourhood cats out there too. One of them visits me regularly. I let her in the window and she sits on my keyboard, typing with her paws. When she starts drooling I have to eject her. I call her Suzy. She comes and goes and asks for nothing but a bit of attention, far less demanding than most humans.

The most exciting wild-life are the wilds parakeets that live in Peckham. I’ll write more about them another time, but there are dozens of them that live in the trees in the cemetery and in the park. They’re a brilliant yellow-green colour and they’re noisy as all hell. You hear them screeching playfully as they swoop overheard. Legend has it they are descendants of parakeets that once belonged to Jimi Hendrix when he live din London in the late 60s. I really hope that story is true. I intend to investigate it further.

I still one day hope to see a grizzly bear in the bushes or maybe a manatee in the pond in the park. Don’t rule it out. There are things happening out there, behind, beyond and beneath the concrete city, things that most of us don’t even notice. Nature is very slowly reclaiming the land.

I intend to help it out in any way I can.”

Check out Ben’s site here