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Issue 49 - A world of sound

Scotland Magazine Issue 49
February 2010


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A world of sound

Rob Allanson and the joys of nature in winter.

Well I am quite happy to say that it looks like the year is on the turn here. We have got past the shortest day of the year so now, hopefully, this wonderful isle of ours will start to warm up.

That said there are a few things about this ice-bound earth time of the year. I find I start to notice things about the natural world a little more. One thing I particularly love is the way the stark black branches of trees outline the sky if you are walking in the woods. If you get one of those days with a hard bleak cloudscape they really stand out offering a sense of drama and especially if you are walking, a feeling of vulnerability but at the same time a twinge of excitement of the things to come.

I was out walking with my daughter recently at a place called Holkham on the north Norfolk coast, and was reminded about this sense of excitement at something unusual.

Just as the light was dimming, flights of geese came swooping and calling in low across the treelines. My daughter could hardly breathe she was so taken aback, and the broad smile was a delight.

One other thing I find I notice alot more are the crows and rooks.

Living in rural Norfolk we have massive populations of these corvids, to give them their proper name, and it’s the noise they make that makes me think.

There are some sounds that just transport you back to another place and time and the ‘crawk’ from these birds is one. No matter where I encounter these plucky feathered creatures, the sound of that rasping call takes me to the moors, the high places I used to wander when I was young.

Another bird that has this effect on me popped into my life again from the most unusual source. I was watching the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoon with my little one, and there in the soundtrack was a loon call. It is so distinctive, so emotive, like a bittern booming in the wetlands, you cannot miss it.

That noise takes me back to summers spent in Minnesota with some family friends up in the north of the state, hanging about in boats, reading and swimming in the crystal clear lake water.

But I think, like the bittern calls, these sounds stir something deep in us, a feeling that has been lost to the modern pressures of life, a sense of the primeval, that link with our ancestors. The same feelings you get walking the ancient places of Scotland.

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