A heavy morning shower has rinsed the dust from the grass and leaves. The air is full of the smells of spring, the rotten earthy smell of last year’s decomposing vegetation and the perfumes released by the new generation of flowers and leaves.
Suddenly a new odour dulls my senses – are there some cows nearby? Further up the hill I meet a herd of Highland Cattle and Herefords lying in the lush green grass, silently chewing their cud, winter diet of sour silage already forgotten. All are facing in the same direction, as though toward Mecca. But they only see a grey motorway bridge, nearing completion. Giant earth-moving machines are putting the final pimping touches to the brutal concrete landscape. Perchance the cows are following the progress made since last autumn.
The silent whisking of tails and monotonous chewing appear lethargic compared with the drone-like swooping of the black swallows overhead, their target the flies which are the camp-followers of the herd.
Wailing police sirens disturb the peace, revealing that all is not calm in the nearby suburb after five nights of rioting. The usual stuff – setting fire to cars, smashing windows. The usual culprits – disaffected youths and harassed drug merchants.
Today the suburb has been invaded by a herd of media hacks, sent on their annual visit to a problem area. Like the cows, all face in the same direction and chew the common cud. The actions of the street-wise hooligans attract most media space. Moderate activists call for understanding and an end to structural segregation and discrimination. Give us jobs, more education, stop police brutality, we want a public enquiry, an apology by the police, or else… Their demands are presented against a backdrop of a masked hooligan, Molotov cocktail already alight. The tired politicians trot out their patent solutions from afar, safe in their electronic havens, while the hacks speed off to catch the six o’clock deadlines.