Train to London from Norwich; I had to record the last two programmes for my radio series (it starts on Monday) Everything You Think About Sport Is Wrong. Got a seat on the Eastern side as always; left side of the train in this direction. Read the paper. Ate sandwiches. Read the scripts, mouthing the words and stressing the stresses with mad wags of the head – the high seat-backs give you enough privacy to do this without embarrassment.
Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich. Slow down as we approach Manningtree and… up with the head and down with the script. A more or less automatic process. The Stour Estuary was spread out before me and there were distant dark shapes that might be brent geese. A chunky ill-seen wader was probably a curlew. Black-headed gulls. Mallards. And yes! – an egret. And another. And yet another.
That yes, did I say it aloud? I think I did, though probably not very noisily. I took a lighting glance around the carriage — no one seemed too agitated — before turning back to the estuary. Little flotilla of mute swans and yes again – one last egret. And yet I was appalled.
As I replayed that lighting glance back to myself, I realised that no one else was looking out of the window. All eyes were on newspapers or phones or even books, or the passengers sat with closed eyelids or staring at nothing. I wanted to harangue the lot of them: all you have to do to bring a moment of beauty into your hard-working morning is to turn your head by 30 degrees.
And I bet they all watched Planet Earth II. David Attenborough didn’t need to slap them to make them watch the snow leopards. Yet here was real beauty, available, living and breathing just a few yards away and it had viewing figures of one. Have we forgotten that nature is real? That the wild world is available to us all for the price of a tiny shift of vision?