Giant Walk to School

Posted: 9th November 2021

Valuing who and what we have.

Ealing’s school wide Giant Walk to School initiative on Friday 12th November is taking place  in support of COP26, the UN’s annual climate change conference, currently taking place in Glasgow.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us all to show our commitment to help alleviate the climate crisis and increase active and sustainable travel to and from school.

Mr Elder, poet and member of the English Department,  here talks about one of his poems, which encapsulates many of the issues of concern to us all.

‘I wrote this poem a few years ago, after a period where lots of well known people seemed to die in quick succession and we heard how wonderful so-and-so had been. Of course saying how wonderful someone is after they have died is rather limited, isn’t it better to let people know how valued they are when they are with us? Sir David Attenborough is a figure who is universally admired, he transcends politics in ways that politicians can only dream of and he has been with all of us throughout our lives.  I cannot think of anyone more admired across the globe and across generations; when he dies we really will feel bereft.

This poem brings together an early memory of Attenborough sitting among a troop of gorillas with his Blue Planet series that younger people know him (and his voice) for. Attenborough symbolises everything that is amazing about the planet and yet he is also a reminder that we need to help the planet. It is hard to think of someone who appeals to each generation in the way Sir David does, and I’m pretty sure that the scenes described in the poem are close to what will happen. The poem was selected as the Festival Favourite at Wells Literature Festival, and I was not surprised, not because of any literary merit the poem may have, but because Sir David is so greatly loved. The poem is a central part of my new book Like This.      https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/

When David Attenborough Died

The news appeared online mid-morning,

catalyst for change, and like fire or flood

it spread across the office. We sat

dazed at our desks, and searched

for words or ways of understanding.

After an hour or more of silence

we left our workstations,

making sure to turn off all the lights.

Days later I heard that in almost every school

across the land classrooms emptied

when teachers broke the news,

and the kids held hands in circles rippling with tears.

Factories halted production; mushrooms

and strawberries were left to go round

and round on belts, plastic punnets remained empty.

And pilots quit their cockpits, refused to fly again;

that was the start of the Heathrow Nature Reserve.

By noon all cars had been abandoned,

most have been left to rust

where they stood; strange totems from the past.

And as I walked the six miles home

I passed people who needed to talk

or share their thoughts; some just needed a hug.

And on that night, it’s said,

fireflies across the globe turned out their lights,

while howler monkeys howled for hours

and in the Congo gorillas sat and reminisced.

That day has turned into a decade.

We still dream of his voice

echoing across the blue planet.

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