Saturday, 26 May 2012

Dead men's eyes

There's a hint of mischievousness in the breeze today.  The warm wind has changed direction and the Peregrine is flying as slowly as it's Formula One set-up will allow, riding it and winding up the gulls by flitting around and amongst the ungainly brutes.  A large crow saw it's antics and thought it looked like fun, so copied the hawk for a few minutes.  I am absolutely sure that all Corvids possess a sense of humour.  Everyone knows that they are intelligent, so maybe humour is an integral part of it - or vice versa.  I'm not sure you can have one without the other.

Why is it that crows are so universally hated by most country people?  When I ask my shooting friends why they do their best to wipe them off the face of the earth whenever they see them, they usually mention some nonsense about them pecking out the eyes of healthy lambs, or the damage they do to crops.  Well, wood pigeons do a heck of a lot more damage than your average flock of omnivorous crows, but they do not inspire the same hatred in anyone other than farmers.

I think that it is all to do with an old folk memory of flocks of crows taking whatever they wanted from the corpses of battlefields, at the same time as their human counterparts stripped the dead of whatever they found valuable.

The crows would also take the eyes out of recently hanged relatives on the gallows, and that didn't endear them to the families of sheep-rustlers either.  Oh, and they were (and still are) black in colour, at a time when there was near national hysteria about the imagined threat of a Moorish invasion into the English heartland.

I watched a TV documentary last night called 'Hitler's Children' (at last, another excuse to mention Hitler), which starred - if that is the right word - a selection of sons, nieces and grandchildren of infamous Nazi war-criminals, speaking of what it is like to carry the burden of guilt on behalf of relatives who are no longer around to take the blame.

The German grandson of a despicable extermination camp officer was brave enough to visit Auschwitz and wander around the charming little villa which his father was brought up in - right next to the crematorium where so many millions of Jews were reduced to ashes and spread around the locale.  He remembered his father saying that his mother told him to always wash the strawberries picked in the garden, because they would be covered in human ash from the nearby chimney.

The 45 year old man met a party of Israeli schoolchildren in a building on the camp, and answered unanswerable questions from the great-grandchildren whose families had been annihilated on that very spot.  He embraced a camp survivor - one of the few - himself now an old man, and both were in tears. When asked by a pretty young girl what he would do if confronted with his grandfather now, he said  "I would kill him myself".  It is a good thing he never had that opportunity, otherwise he would not be around now to help carry the burden.

The son of another appalling murderer has written two books about his father and his father's crimes, and tours Germany to give talks and readings to German schoolchildren about the Third Reich and all it's attendant horrors.  Like the Jews, he believes that the circumstances in which such atrocities are committed lie just below the surface of any civilised society, and can rear up in many different guises, springing from mores which come to be viewed as 'acceptable' by a mob which does not keep it's eye on the ball.

He ends his talks to young people by warning that if the German economy once again falls into potential ruin, not to use immigrants as scapegoats for the financial hardships which must surely befall all members of society, as that way leads to the rise of despots and a possible 4th Reich.  Let's hope the advice is taken on board before the euro collapses, sending thousands of economic migrants over the Channel and into Britain to try and earn a few pounds.

Don't blame the crows for pecking out the eyes of dead men.


  1. It's the size of the beaks
    that gives one the creeps.
    That, and the pecking of eyes!

  2. Nice post Tom, thought provoking.

  3. Good post, Tom. Depressing, but then some things are meant to be...

  4. Seventh son of the seventh son...
    Rudy has cousins in Germany (he is Austrian - Yikes) and his cousins children all bear the weight of WWII still. Makes them all quite sad, sober kids.

    1. Most of my German friend's parents were committed Nazis.

  5. Wonderful set up, a little rhapsody to take us along into the analogy. The crows I see are very interested in carrion. I assume they do eat the eyes before proceeding to the rest. Or save them for last. I won't be checking.

    1. Soft bits first. They - like me - lack teeth.

  6. We had fact a huge the grounds of the house in France.
    On May Day about fifty men used to assemble to shoot up the nests.
    Not once we moved in.

    We had all sorts of protests...the rooks would pick holes in the plastic covering the silage...they were noisy (!)...and we were interfering with local customs.

    Tough. I prefer rooks to a bunch of boozed up bullies.

    And what is all this about people bearing guilt for the actions of their would be like asking me to feel guilty for the slave trade.

    If I've done it, I'm responsible. If not, not.
    Quite right and proper to point out the lessons of history, but

    1. No, I don't feel any guilt for sugar, spice and all things nice, either.

  7. I was thinking the same as fly in the web's comment, re the slave trade. On several occasions i've had angry black people scream at me because of what white people did to their ancestors. When i tell them the majority of my ancestors didn't arrive to these shores until 20 years after the Civil War, they look befuddled. I then go on to mention that i did not get to choose my skin colour or sex before i arrived on the planet--at least not so far as i know.

    I see crows nearly every day, and i am glad to see them. They are marvellous for carcase control. When Phoebe kills something down cellar for me to find later, i take it outside, drop it over the fence, and they arrive to clean up. They don't usually take anything inside the fence. I think it's a deal they've cut with the cats; anything inside the fence is the feline staging area, but outside the fence is fair game for all.

    1. A black friend of mine was strip-searched in Bristol and in public by STUPID FUCKING POLICE using the terrorism laws yesterday. He does not take or sell drugs - he just happens to be a young black, British man.

      Bristol was built on sugar and spice and all things nice - like slaves. Guilty? Me? No. Embarrassed? Yes.