Nature notes from our neck of the Hackney woods. On Friday morning I was settling down on a bench by our communal ornamental pond to read the irresistible article on rats in the LRB. The sun was gentle and the birds were singing. I'd barely read a paragraph before I heard them. Rutting amphibians. There they were, gangbanging away mid rolling hillocks of spawn. Neighbour Rachel came out to get me to sign a petition, and being herself an outdoorsy sort (I'm a card-carrying townie) confirmed they were toads.
See how vile they are.
It's not the sex I object to, in point of fact some hours later I witnessed another riotous reproductive assembly, this time in the park pond, that was stirring and life-affirming. On a log, six or seven terrapins or whatever they are were basking, and the couple nearer to the fence, drunk on the sunshine, were doing what comes naturally. Four teenage boys came riding by and stopped to look, and their leader said, "Oh, man...They's humpin' man..."
A perfect pause, while we all gawped.
Then the boy said, "Yeah man, they is gettin busy."
And yes, on Friday night I went to Soho to see Midwinter by Zinnie Harris. I'm a glutton for punishment, clearly. Postapocalypse, dystopian, horrific. And there's a scene where a child is beaten up. Oy vey. Comparisons with the other two shockers I've seen recently would obviously be odious, as ZH is barking up a different tree. Or is she? I suppose Mercury Fur was as much about what happens to loyalty and social bonds in extremis, the picking apart of the ties that bind, as anything else. And Midwinter seems to be about all those things too, as well as the flux of relationships and the ravages of time. The play, though, as lived on Friday night, was for me a puzzlingly distant thing, like there was a forcefield up. It may be the actors had lost something as they came to the home straight of the run. It may be I'm prickly about the violence and children thing. It may be I'm trying to write my own war play. I just don't know.