Biophillia and other things

Waterloo Plantation, Hainford.

An attraction to woodlands.

I've not posted much recently, because I've spent my online time doing other things, including reviving a blog dedicated to bikejoring and other dog activities.  I'd abandoned it eight years ago, and forgotten all about it.  The Bikejoring Blog.

I don't really have any news on population genetics or genetic genealogy, except to say, that I'm growing bored with some aspects of it, and have lost a lot of faith in general DNA testing for ancestry.

On documentary genealogy, yes I still pursue from time to time, and I'm sure that I'll be posting more family history and discoveries soon.  I'm still that time traveller.  In archaeology - I need to plan and book a place on a dig next year.

I've spent a lot of time training and playing with my pup, Byker:

Indeed exercising the dogs appear to take up an awful lot of my time these days.

When I was age, around 10 - 11 years, I would often visit a private commercial woodland near to where I then lived in Thorpe St Andrews.  It was rich in bird-life.  I'd see nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers, long tailed titmice, and blackcaps.  The forester would catch me and politely turf me out.  He'd explain to me, that he knew that my pursuits were innocent enough - but it would be opening the gates to other kids, including those with lighters and matches.

The photo at the top of this photo was taken in Waterloo Plantation, Hainford.  When I was age 13 - 15 years, during the 1970s, I lived nearby.  And again for a while age 18 - 24 years.  Only a small patch of woodland, but I'd always be attracted to it.  Dog walking, bird watching, hunting rabbits with ferrets, hunting insects to feed avairy birds, collecting moss and lichen to decorate my bird's show cages. 

Later, for several years, I lived in the Thetford area.  I'd use the surrounding forest so much.  Dog walking, deer spotting, bikejoring, canicross, archaeological surveying, mushroom foraging, and offroad cycling.

I recognised back then, that I was a biophilliac.  I don't state that as a matter of fact, or as some sort of special gift, or hocus pocus.  Just a fact.  I seem to get something a little bit more than other people do, from being out in what might be described as Nature.  In contact with dogs.  Alert to wild-life.  Surrounded by greenery and perhaps a bit of wilderness. On my own, sure, sometimes.  It's something that I acknowledge about myself.  It is one of the drives behind my hikes.  It's no accident that I've been attracted to woodlands all of my life.  It brings me calm.  I seem to need it.  My meditation. Time in the woods, forests, fields, marshes, or walking ancient green lanes.  It's as though I sometimes need a top up to keep me sane.  I think that reflects in my photography, that has become far more about how I feel, than about the art, or popularity that I once sought through the medium of black and white film.  Now I see more in colour.

Horsford Woods.

Total Genealogy

I'm certainly not descended from the bonobos in the above photograph (Credit: W. H. Calvin Ape Bonobo San Diego Zoo.  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0).  However, at some point, perhaps around seven million years ago, we do share common ancestry.  That is a link in the inter-connectivity of Life on Earth.  Also an excuse to post a photo of those wonderful beings.

I recently attended a lecture on Total Genealogy, but I was disappointed that the subject was surname study.  I had hoped that it would relate more to my own concept of the term.  A genealogy that doesn't just embrace documentary research of recorded ancestors over the past 500 years or so, but a more general interest in heritage, that overlaps with DNA, genetics, population genetics, anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, local history, national and regional history, cultural and social history, prehistory, linguistics, human evolution, and yes, even our shared ancestry with those bonobo cousins.  Everything ancestral, how we came to be how we are, and above all, time travel in our imaginations.  That is what I mean by Total Genealogy.

Researching the written record, following names is great fun.  Why should the fun stop there though?  Where were my ancestors 12,000 years ago?  Actually, DNA and population studies gives my imagination some good answers to that question.  What did my ancestors 500,000 years look like?  How did they live?  If I could time travel, what would I see?

Total genealogy leads you to bridges, the concept of genetic folding, and of bottlenecks.  You start to relate closer to all humans, and see everyone as a distant cousin.  It embraces a love of heritage, of people, and of the Natural World.  It leaves me in awe.

A long time ago...

Yup, this is myself and the ex, in 1995.  I was in my early thirties, and somehow I became involved in local mainstream politics.  The red tie not so subtly betrays my party affiliation.

I don't really talk much about those days, or how I ended up as a mayor of a small English town for a term.  How and why does someone become political?  What is it in their nature or upbringing that drives them into that direction?  There was no hint of it at school age.  I wasn't really the most politically aware  kid on the block.  Neither did I grow up in poverty, desperate to climb out and to make my mark.  If I think deep, there was a sort of a sympathy with the underdog, and perhaps I was taught a sense of fair play.

If I'm to be honest with you, I pretty much discovered socialism and Marxism very suddenly and energetically in my early twenties, and became a born again revolutionary.  I spent a year or two playing at revolutionary politics, then did what society programmed me to: work more hours, pay tax, get married, raise children get a mortgage, die.  I skipped out on the dying bit when I hit a damaging mid-life crisis.  For the time being any way.

But somewhere in that process, I still craved a bit of political action.  I lived in a little town in Norfolk, there was no revolutionary presence.  So I instead joined the local branch of the Labour Party.  This was still in the days of Clause 4.  Full of zest, I took part in stupid games between cliques, knocked on doors, attended meeting after meeting, every working party of every sub committee.  I took office within the branch and constituency, levered support from my trade union.  Part of that progression involved standing for public office.  I indeed stood for a seat on the local town council.  Against all expectations, I lost to a Tory candidate.  The next day at the branch post mortem, someone looked at the mathematics, and it didn't add up.  There was a miscount.  An excuse for a political campaign, the branch took it to the High Court, then to the Old Bailey.  Ballet boxes were opened, and a gross but basic mistake spotted on the top, on a totting up note.  I was declared rightful councillor, and the poor Tory candidate booted out.

The above photograph was taken early into my second term as a councillor.  I had also won a seat on the District Council.  I was made the mayor of Thetford.  Maybe more on that experience, and my subsequent views on the state of local democracy in England in a later post.