Go on: pamper yourself

Spring: season of creation and life-giving and fecundity. The time when everything is hatching, metamorphosing or tearing away from the placenta and gulping in their first lungfuls of atmosphere. And then, in the case of the vast majority of them, being killed and eaten by something faster, larger and more powerful.


It feels like I can’t take ten steps down the creek at the moment without happening up on a scattering of feathers in the grass, a carcass, or just the discarded pickings of a raptor kill.


The gasworks is full of life after one of the quietest winters I can remember. The rabbits are back, after disease swept through the place last year, and now Jambo gets to bolt off on his endlessly futile attempts to catch one before it disappears into the lantana. Black-shouldered kites hover in pairs above the bamboo grass and brown falcons occasionally skulk atop the naphtha tower.


We humans are adapted to living with scarcity. Fecundity, plenty and abundance are not natural states for us, and we struggle with them on the rare occasions that we meet them. We go stupid. Our myths and religions have developed in response to scarcity and most religions have an inherent asceticism: periods of self-sacrifice, abstinence and denial. We’ve been doing it for so long that it’s embedded in us.

But our contemporary world has developed  a  focus on overcoming scarcity. Plenty is the new normal. We no longer need to delay our gratification and so we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. And why wouldn’t we? We’re almost programmed to gorge ourselves, not just with food but with everything. Go on: pamper yourself.


Every year I give up the grog during Lent for … what? I don’t know. In the UK at the moment there’s a movement around “Stop-tober” and “Go-vember”. I think we yearn for limits on our otherwise insatiable appetites.


Nature doesn’t make choices like this. So this month I’d better get used to seeing more dead birds, dead rabbits, dead reptiles.

It’s weird. I don’t what or why, but it is.

4 Responses to Go on: pamper yourself

  1. Isaac says:

    Love the blog Mark ! I’m a local and always find myself wondering round the gasworks. I think you may know my mother Rosemarie from the newcastle writers festival. Would love to meet up and explore around the creek one day. I need to get my hands on a copy of the book aswell. I only stumbled across the blog a few weeks ago I’m surprised I’ve never ran into you in the creek before.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hello Isaac, thanks for the comps. Yes, I was chatting to Rosemarie a while back about our shared exploring bug! I’m up for a walk, though you’ll unfortunately have to suffer my daft dog Jambo charging around making a nuisance of himself. Let me know a time that’s good for you and we’ll a stroll. Cheers, Mark

  2. Ruth Cotton says:

    Mark, I enjoyed this reflective post …. I wonder if what you say about plenty not being a natural state for us, and this yearning after periods of self denial etc relates at all to the phenomenal success of the 5:2 Fast Diet? Bit of a stretch, I know, but it made me wonder!

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Ruth, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all.

      Something deep inside us knows that the endless stream of have-it-all-now isn’t good for us and can’t last. We want to de-clutter, we want simplicity, we want less.

      I remember on the TV show Grand Designs, Kevin said that the episode they had the greatest response to was the one about the woodsman living in the New Forest who made his entire home from coppiced and locally cut timber.

      All the “Go on, have another” culture we live in feels plain wrong, and if we have to discipline ourselves with 5:2 diets then that’s the way we do it!


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