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Nature doing its thing

I've noticed it for a while, now, but this evening was something else. So, I thought I'd tell you about my first hand experience of this phenomenon.

Picture the scene. It's around 7pm, the evening is bright as the summer sun is slow to set. I am toiling away in my garden in a leafy suburb. I have the radio on, Radio 2 is playing its classical music hour. The sound of the music in my earphones blends beautifully with the ambient sounds of a spring evening. I am doing my favourite sort of gardening, which involves the use of a hammer, drill and a paintbrush loaded with creosote.

The announcer declares that composers capture nature in their music with flair, and "Morning" from the Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg is a classic example of art imitating nature. As the (often overused) music of Mr Grieg mixes with the birdsong and the cool breeze through the leaves, everything seems right with the world.

Then, a mobile phone rings - three notes rising in steps - with an interval of 3 or 4 notes between each.

Except... it's not a mobile phone. It's one of the birds. You see birds are funny things. Their songs are not constant - they learn new tunes and spread them around. To us, birdsong is a mystery, but to them it's their hit parade. So, if they hear a tune that sticks in their little birdy heads, they keep whistling it. Thankfully, they didn't get caught whistling Agadoo or the riff from "You can feel it all over" by Stevie Wonder, or even "Whoah black Betty, bam a lam", which gets caught buzzing around in my head, but these little fellows have been rather taken with the mobile phone tones they hear from the local technophiles.

A wee internet search reveals that I'm not the only one to notice a mobile phone tune coming at me. Starlings appear to have learnt the whole Nokia repertoire. This is both comical and sad. Where art once imitated nature, technology is polluting it. Whatever will we have next, dogs barking out website addresses?

I'm sure that nature will prevail. I know that traditional birdsongs will return - there are still birds whistling the sound of the old BT Trimphone and I'm sure that there are birds somewhere holding secret underground bird folk-concerts where they play the real hardcore traditional bird tunes. 

So, next time you see a flock of birds gathering ominously in the treetops overhead, don't worry too much. They're either having a classics concert, or waiting to start a rave when the next car alarm goes off. Plus it's reassuring to know that your mobile phone will impress the chicks after all.

16 April 2002
Ashley Frieze