There are two things that I can truly say I loved most of all during my childhood; the Banana Splits (a 70s Saturday morning kids TV show) and the song of the cuckoo. I grew up on the edge of the fens (a large, flatland in the South East of England that was drained by Dutch engineers for farming) in the town of Yaxley – which means ‘cuckoo’s-clearing’ – and the haunting song of the cuckoo, which Wordsworth described as “the wandering voice”, was the surest sign that summer was finally on it’s way- which, in turn, would bring the wonderful school holidays that, in the sweet glow of childhood, always seemed to last forever.
But the cuckoo is now disappearing from Britain at an alarming rate. In southern England the song is almost extinct and in the north, where I now live, you have to travel to wilder areas to have your heart warmed by the wanderer’s song.
The modern environmental movement was launched, in part, thanks to Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, ‘The Silent Spring’. It now seems like that dreaded moment could be upon us much sooner than we expected. And soon the song of the cuckoo will be little more than a childhood memory.
‘Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo’ by Michael McCarthy (£16.99) is published by John Murray on 2 April