Grasshoppers defy Armageddon

Martin Rowson on the final crisis of capitalism

I don’t know what it was about Mark Cocker’s Country Diary in The Guardian today that seemed so compelling.  With London burning, stock exchanges crashing and a whiff of Armageddon in the air, maybe it was the sense that when everything finally grinds to a halt, nature will forge on, whatever.  Here’s his piece:

We were logjammed for several miles on the eastbound lane. Yet it was striking how soon after we’d halted that a spontaneous air of holiday broke out along the carriageway. People were on their mobiles getting updates. They climbed out of their cars to stretch or smoke. From one vehicle came a snatch of Test Match Special. A Mr Whippy driver climbed out but realised he was missing a trick and soon we were all queueing for ice-creams.

You could actually feel the air clear of fumes, but I suspect it would only have been from some spot about 150m above the motorway that you could have appreciated fully how this great vale of brutal noise was so quickly turned into silence. Out of the unaccustomed quiet drifted a buzzard, its note high, long-drawn, and faintly melancholic. There were some grasses and common orache in the central reservation and most striking were the spikes of fat-hen standing proud of the barrier. They had all the usual architecture and leaf shape of fat-hen but the whole was shrink-wrapped in a black skin of exhaust residue.

Then I noticed, on a plastic fragment from a lost wheel flap, field grasshoppers exactly like those in my garden. One hopped down and led my eye to the others. There was a whole colony trapped here in this no man’s land of violent car roar and speed. These particular insects may never have been heard or seen by anyone for decades.

And there it was unmistakably – the quintessence of an English summer – the terse melody of their love song, a low-pitched stridulation of less than a second repeated in sequences of two. Occasionally if rival males embark on a kind of musical duel they will chirp alternately, and sound like some busy gnome working a tiny pair of bellows. Just for a few minutes these lost insects were reunited with their wider world and enjoyed a little passage of ordinariness in their extraordinary lives.

Martin Rowson on the Tottenham riot

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