Pre-dawn racket I can live with

I WOKE at 3.33am to a sound of frenzied twittering outside the window.

The baby great-tits in the box on the wall, as yet unseen and uncounted by human eye, had begun their constant jabber. Before there was even a vague hint of light in the sky.

From dawn until dusk for a fortnight the parent birds have been on the go, fetching a constant supply of insects, grubs and other titbits to their ever-demanding offspring.

I have never seen any creatures work harder. Surely they don’t have to keep it up during the hours of darkness too?

At 4.13 the nightingale began. I was glad, because I’d been wondering whether there was one around this year.

There it was, loud, clear and utterly distinctive in its endless variety of musical phrase. And probably further away than it sounded.

No, certainly further away. It sounded as if it was in the bedroom with us.

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But even if it costs you a little sleep, you cannot begrudge the nightingale his song. It’s one of the most wonderful, life-affirming sounds there is.

And now the great-tits are gone.

They, or others of their kind, are still visiting the feeders and the apple tree. But they don’t live here any more.

Was that great pre-dawn racket the sound of the young family emerging and flying the nest?

I guess it was. And I wish them well in the world.

SO now we have a government pledged to govern “in the national interest”. Oh, good.

But can someone please remind me – when did we have a government that promised to act AGAINST the national interest?

There’s no doubt many have done so, but none, surely, admitted it.

The question then is: Who defines what’s in the national interest?

I, for example, think privatising – or even part-privatising – the Royal Mail is very much NOT in the national interest.

Presumably, members of the government think it’s in their own interests, or maybe the interests of certain of their friends. That’s what privatisation is generally about, after all.

I think renewing Trident is in anything but the national interest – and before the election the LibDems agreed with me.

Conversely, I think the government’s got it roughly right on nuclear power, cancelling the third runway at Heathrow and abolishing house-building targets. But others will disagree.

There may even be someone who’s sorry to see the great ID cards scheme bite the dust. Though that particular piece of NuLabour insanity was surely on its way out anyway, whoever had “won” the election.

The stated intention, carried over from Blair, to “end child poverty” by 2020 is great. Surely no one could argue with that. Except for the blindingly obvious fact that it won’t happen.

Tory education policy (the LibDems appear to have abdicated responsibility here) is to pick up the worst of Blair’s “reforms” and run with them. Not just run, but run amok.

The throwing open of the schools system to private enterprise and private interests is a potential disaster that could damage the country for generations.

Mind you, I’m looking forward to the opening of the first Pagan comprehensive. The first gay and lesbian academy. The first Socialist high school.

I also like the idea of limiting the power of supermarkets, though I’m not holding my breath on how it will work in practice.

All together we face a curious ragbag of pick-n-mix policies. Which is perhaps not surprising when you consider how hastily the Queen’s Speech and all that lies behind it was cobbled together.

One page from your manifesto, one page from mine.

Neither of those manifestoes had any clear, consistent vision anyway.

Maybe that’s the reality of the “new politics”. Neither of us knows where we’re going, so let’s hold hands on the way.

Tony Blair’s “Third Way” was code for “lost our way”. Cameron and Clegg are but babes wandering in the same wood.

There is a common ideology of a sort, though – one all the parties seem to share. And that’s giving primacy in all decision-making to “the markets”.

In other words, making us ordinary folk pay for the mistakes and greed of that parasitic growth known as The City.

So when exactly did “in the national interest” come to mean “in the bankers’ interests”?

WHATEVER the ads may say, Exile On Main Street is not the greatest rock ’n roll record ever made.

I’m not sure it’s even the best album The Rolling Stones ever made, though it’s close.

The newly remastered and chart-topping CD doesn’t really add much to the original vinyl. Unless you get the version that comes with a ten-track “bonus disc”.

And that raises a sad conclusion.

That the best new Stones album since 1978 consists of out-takes from 1972.