Like many people with windows to stare out of, I’m noticing birds more than I used to. Nature is getting on with its business as usual and many more of us are standing by and watching. I’ve always favoured the ordinary birds: sparrows, blackbirds, wrens, mainly because there are plenty of them around, members of the birds’ proletariat.
I’ve recently realised that goldfinches are pretty common too, in spite of their fancy outfits. Come to think of it, since LS Lowry’s time, our human proletariat has been shifting towards the gaudy in its appearance- only the Metropolitan Elite dress in sober greys and blacks.
There’s a painting by Carel Fabritius made famouser by Donna Tartt in her novel, The Goldfinch, an enjoyable book that I could read again while I’m stuck at home. I thought I’d try to make a representation of a goldfinch myself; Fabritius made it look easy and fun. As a bonus I could leave off the little chain that keeps his bird shackled to its perch. I thought I could make something that imitated the usual view of goldfinches; a dash of unlikely colours twittering round a bush and moving off before anyone could get a good look. All I needed to do, I thought, was to get some splinters of wood, the rougher the better, glue them into a spiky hash and splatter it with red, yellow, black, white and fawny greeny brown paint. Then I had to make it move so erratically that no one could quite focus on it. I wasted quite a lot of time on this and gave up several times. The birds got smaller and less rough, just over 12mm wingspan; I abandoned the impressionistic approach. To get something like the fluttering action, I dangled four fairly neatly painted birds from wires attached to balance springs made for alarm clocks; very bouncy. They were arranged on a tube round an upright wire and made to rotate in a jerky fashion. I still didn’t like it much but thought that if I made a really good bush, it wouldn’t be so bad. Our lawnmower has large rusty holes in its carapace out of which clods of cut grass sometimes fly. I moulded some dried clods into a ball and sprayed acrylic paint on until it developed a crust. Glued to a wooden core, the bush is fixed in the centre of the ‘swarm’ of goldfinches and if you squint you get a faint impression of the effect I thought it would be so simple to achieve. I’m not going to try again.
While this emergency still runs I can’t shake off the thought that most of the people I hear on the radio: broadcasters, politicians and other persons of note, aren’t having a bad time. Some of them, myself included, even remark that nothing much has changed for them. Only the least sensitive complain that they can’t get to the opera or the hairdresser. As part of the drive to get food to the people who aren’t comfortably-off creative types who live in houses they bought cheap decades ago, this thing is offered for sale with 100% the proceeds going to the Trussell Trust, a UK food bank charity.
Dimensions: H 25 cm x W 12 cm x D 12 cm