I loved this on Hampstead Heath; a random, inspired outburst of creativity with a few bits of plastic and an old light bulb. Yesterday I noticed that someone, in what seemed an equally random act of destruction, had broken off the teeth and gouged out the eye.
The blackthorn and cherry trees are all in bloom on Hampstead Heath. One of the cherry trees was raining blossom yesterday. A flock of green parakeets was strolling up and down the branches, pecking off flowers and dropping them down. The birds looked lovely, grass green and rose pink amid fluffy clouds of blossom against a blue sky, like a Japanese print. The flowers came whirling and twirling down like tiny umbrellas, and people were standing underneath catching them in their palms and exclaiming and wondering.
When I was a child there was a piano in our house, with a pretty fretted wooden pattern on the front, and blue-green silk stretched behind to show through. I was watching the parakeets and I remembered spending one afternoon poking my fingers though every single hole in that pattern to rip the silk. I knew it was a completely wantonly destructive thing to do, and I was wrecking something carefully created to look pretty (and that my parents were NOT going to be pleased) but it was simply too irresistible to stop. I remember the feeling as my finger went through the silk, the way it split apart with a tiny shirr and squeak. Delicious.
The birds pecked and pecked in busy silence. They certainly weren’t eating the blossom; maybe there is a bit of stem right under the flower head that is irresistibly delicious. But they made me think of myself that afternoon as a kid, they made me think of the wrecked tree-stump dragon elsewhere on the heath. Natural selection says we all have an urge to create, to survive by creating – but don’t we all, even parakeets, have an equally great urge to destroy? Not just in order to survive ourselves, but for the pure random pleasure of it.