The Tawny Pipit Tweets About a Simpler Life
These are just two members of the large Pipit Family
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bred, double-barreled squire had a contact of his from university, I think it was, who helped him get the plowing order rescinded -this forced a wry smile from me…that’s just how the buddy system works here in the UK, the old boy net from Oxbridge!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)