The Tawny Pipit Tweets About a Simpler Life

These are just two members of the large Pipit Family

Meadow Pipit.  Dark markings like a thrush
Meadow Pipit. Dark markings like a thrush
Tawny Pipit, more delicate and not so firmly marked
Tawny Pipit, more delicate and not so firmly marked

One of Britain's rarest avian visitors

I was half asleep in front of the TV today when a program came on called “Birds Britannia.” Part of a four-part documentary about our birds of the air, sea, rivers and hedges.

The episode I was watching featured some long cuts from a movie I half remembered seeing as a child, the “Tawny Pipit.”

These are very rare birds indeed today, and I wonder if they are still here at all. They were rare in 1944 when the movie was made, so much so that the birds in the film were not Tawny Pipits at all, but Meadow Pipits, and had to filmed from the rear all through the film so informed viewers would not shout, “Hey, them’s not Tawny’s, they don’t ‘ave those dark markings - thrush-like - on their chests., them's Meadow Pipits”

What so stood out for me was not the wonderful photography of bird life, or all the facts on the feathered protagonists themselves, saddening as it was to be told that many of our wild birds had dwindled critically by 2012.

What stood out for me was the simplicity of this little film itself and how unsophisticated and uninformed people were back then - none of the sophistication, technical ability and cynicism of 60 or so years later - and how much better life seemed back then.

The film’s plot - in brief - features a pair of Tawny Pipits discovered by some local bird watchers, one of whom is an injured fighter pilot convalescing, and his girlfriend who realized how rare they were. They nested in the middle of a field and were in danger from all manner of threats - happily overcome (only in movies): the British army and their tanks, an order from the government stating the meadow had to be ploughed, natural predators in the form of hawks, and an egg collector hell-bent on adding the rare eggs to his collection.

The local squire got into the act, taking on both the army and the Houses of Parliament. Amusingly, the well bred, double-barreled squire had a contact of his from university, I think it was, who helped him get the plowing order rescinded -this forced a wry smile from me…that’s just how the buddy system works here in the UK, the old boy net from Oxbridge!

As the touching plot unfolded I realized that the players were people like me back then who had never seen a person of color, who had probably never left Britain, who thought the war was the “war to end all wars,” who had never eaten curry or drunk wine with any regularity, if at all. The country had no problems with immigration, knife violence or drug use. Folks may have just heard about the atom and thought is was the smallest particle, but were only in the dawn of its use in maiming Japan and its people.

The war was all but over in Europe and they had not counted the cost yet, that 60 million had died, the years of rationing ahead and the thousands of women who would have to compete for a husband…and that more conflicts would occur regularly in the future.

Television was as yet hardly known; computers were 40 years in the future as regards general use. The jet plane had been invented but no contrails laced the skies and would not do so with any frequency for another 30 years.

We still had our marvelous train network all over the country; it awaited the idiotic Lord Beecham to destroy it well into the future.

People were not obese as they are today, not so drunken, better educated in the basics. The diet revolution was not for those days. Neither was any sort of condemnation of smokers or the realization by most that it was even dangerous for your health.

People smoked in food shops, hospitals and even the cinemas were shrouded by a fug of tobacco smoke. In fact, that is the only thing I can think of, off-hand, that has vastly improved in our day as far as the non addict is concerned.

And so much more. It was like another world in rural Britain (The movie was made in “Lower Slaughter,” an apt name as far as the pipit was concerned). I am sure life in the US parallels ours in many ways and people there, too, often yearn for those far-off and much simpler times.

Ah, well, “Chiree-chiree,” (call of pipit)

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Comments 12 comments

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I enjoyed your enjoyment of the film! Great fun.

Ah-h, yesteryear. Personally, I'd love to have lived in the 1850's to 1900 or thereabouts....except for the unpaved roads, and all the dust going up and onto one's clothes when riding in the carriage or on horseback.

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Great hub diogenes, I remember watching 'Birds Britannia' on BBC 4 and they spoke of the Nightingale, and how they recorded a female singer from the 1920s singing alongside a Nightingale, apparently it was very popular. Voted up etc.

diogenes 4 years ago

Hi Pam: Life doesn't seem to get better as we get "wiser" does it; I guess we're not meant to clutter our lives with so much data.

Thanks for visit.


diogenes 4 years ago

Hi JK...I missed the earlier broadcast, i now hope they come on BBC 3 or 4 again.


profile image

Sunnie Day 4 years ago

No more clutter Bob..less is best for wish sometimes I could go back to simpler times..I found when I get off the big boat, getting into my little dinghy, the big boat just keeps going on without me..guess I will just keep waving Bye Bye..I have about all I can handle in this life..:)

diogenes 4 years ago

Yes Sunnie: the liner has proceeded without me for too long. so much so, I don't think I can climb the gangplank again.

But your dinghy sounds more like a Hatterras!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

I'm pretty sure I would rather die of obesity than being shot in a war. Of course, I would rather not do either and I too wish the world was perfect.

Basically, the Pipits and all else have to play with the cards we are dealt. Sometimes trading for better cards is an option, sometimes it isn't.

diogenes 4 years ago

Hiya 'Star. I expect you are feeling a bit irate after that mental commentator on you hub.


grinnin1 profile image

grinnin1 4 years ago from st louis,mo

I visited England and loved it- to me it did seem less corrupted,( commercially, politically, morally, etc) than the U.S. in a lot of ways. I never realized how much the two countries have in common in the way of problems. I look back at our country and think the same. I guess it is not really contained within borders, it's more the way of the world. We have a lot of people here on earth, and with more people comes more greed and more corruption. Maybe the best we can hope for is that we raise a new generation that is hopeful, intelligent, and willing to work together on problems we face. I think there is hope for this complicated world yet if we can become more reflective- which,in fact, I think the current economic situation is forcing people to do. Anyway, great hub- made me think and ramble on too long. Very much enjoy your ideas and your writing.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi grinnin' Of course, part of it is that it is all just so different than the world i grew up in. Maybe it was better. it was certainly less complex. although I didn't have much of a chidhood, really. Would the kids today want to change from their cell phones, computer games, facebook and twitter for the fields and an old bike of my day and two bob a week pocket money? I doubt it.

As for the future, there's just far too many of us, it can't get better.


grinnin1 profile image

grinnin1 4 years ago from st louis,mo

I think the same about there being too many of us. But then people think you're Hitler- I just think we have to face some facts about overpopulation and go about problem solving differently than we have in the past or we're going to have the same problems to deal with, only worse, 20 years from now.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

The world has become a difficult place to live. So much fear. I was watching the British audience singing the National Anthem at Twickenham rugby match today. their faces so were so miserable and resigned.


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