This morning a robin died outside my window. I’d been feeding it since the cold weather came. But last night was around -11C and was sudden. 

The dead robin had a pal, another male robin. Quite unusual since the birds are usually territorial, but both fed from my bird table in shifts without any aggression. They were either gay or had learnt tolerance. Since the demise of Robin 1, Robin 2 has become aggressive to anything with wings.

Holding the robin this morning, depressed me for a while. I twittered – appropriately – the report of its death and then wrote 1500 words of a rollicking yarn, without a single reference to birds of any kind.

The incident of the robin reminded me (yet again) of how short life is, and how suddenly death can arrive. The thought almost stimulated me into a writing frenzy, but I paused for a while and realised that if I had twenty minutes to live I would not spend them writing. I would spend those minutes saying goodbye to those I love.

And making sure the bills had been paid.

But, if I had five years, I would spend them writing and travelling. I would trek up Mount Vaea to the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson on Samoa and thank him for ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Treasure Island’: books that impressed me so much as a child. I might even revisit Stratford and look up Will Shakespeare or re-read Dickens in entirety.

And I would try to write something useful.

As an ex-commercial writer my life has been spent with clients, producers, advertising agencies and in the boardrooms of large companies. The aim of most of the writing has been to flog a product. Occasionally, I did something creative and satisfying that made a positive difference to someone’s life. Occasionally.

My new novel is not trying to flog anything. Whether it is useful or not is yet to be decided. If people find elements of it not to their taste, well, that cannot be helped. If people find bits of it useful, I will be ecstatic. If anybody reads it of course.

And that made me think about legacy: what we leave behind. I wonder if the robin left anything behind, or was his life and death intended to remind me – specifically – about the ticking clock and in some way remind a reader of this blog – yes, you – about things left undone?

Or maybe it is simply a dead robin finishing a purposeless existence because it froze to death.

Metaphysics: doncha just love it. I hope the other robin stays alive, but will it matter if it does not?

To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, who will remember anyone living now, in ten thousand years? Who will remember you in 100 years when all your friends have made the last hurrah and joined the golden hordes?

And on that depressing, but also oddly empowering note, I will leave this subject alone.

About J.D.Hughes

Writer of supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN & AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and three short stories: BOMBER, ISSUE 49 and THE 500 on Amazon and Smashwords. New novel to be published mid 2018, but on current performance might be posthumously...
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14 Responses to ON A DEAD ROBIN

  1. So why do so many old men become parish councillors? They say it’s because they want “to put something back”. But having become vice chairman of our local ‘Halwill Parish Council’, I know the truth: it’s because they want to make a mark so they won’t be forgotten.

    What was it that say Evil Knievel said, “I want to make my mark — on the north face of the Grand Canyon”?


  2. J.D.Hughes says:

    So true, John, with regard to Parish Councils. But in their defence, it’s very human to seek immortality, even though it’s not logically feasible. There is also the possibility that we are all subconsciously aware of karma, and need to top up the good bits!

    I like the quote. Evel Knievel almost made his mark, but managed to die age 69, in bed. As most of us will. Does anyone remember how and when Genghis Khan died, without the aid of Wikipedia?

    Maybe the robin was to remind you that Halwill Parish Council could be an instrument for good and under your vice-chairmanship will trigger a second renaissance in Devon, before its all too late….

    Or perhaps the dead robin means nothing at all.


  3. Lisa says:

    The robin meant 1500 words to me today! I read your post and felt inspired. The robin is now a part of my novel, I hope you don’t mind. I will give you a credit, but if you say I can’t use it then I won’t.


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      1500? There’s no stopping you now. Of course I don’t mind; it’s good to think that the robin is immortalised in your no doubt brilliant prose. Perhaps that was the purpose of its death? As Hedblom says in another post, unintended consequences…


  4. Hedblom says:

    Last winter I left some Christmas cake with icing out on the bird table to help the birds through the harsh weather. Three days later I noticed the icing had liquified in the daytime damp. On closer inspection I saw two blue tits, frozen to death, feet glued to the table by the icing, feathers matted and solid. They must have come to feed, and been unable to escape the sugary morass, slowly dying from the night-time cold. Ah, the laws of unintended consequence…


  5. J.D.Hughes says:

    That is horrific, Hedblom, and probably the basis for a good short story.

    A few winters ago I remember finding what I thought was the root of a plant in the final, and unlit, bonfire of the year. It was a baby hedgehog, curled up to hibernate, but solid and dead.

    Then I hear about amazing tales of survival in unbelievable conditions and wonder just who is making the choices? Is the consequence intended, or not? It’s an old discussion about fate and predestination, but fascinating nevertheless.


  6. Paul says:

    I’ve often thought that too. Then I come back to earth and think properly. I’m not a writer, but I read a lot and believe everything is chance, including your robin. I don’t believe this 100% so I’m ready to be convinced, but believing in stuff you cant see seems a bit daft to me, so I’ll stick with what I now. No offence. I like two of your short stories, so Im not such a badass;)


  7. J.D.Hughes says:

    Paul, I would go to the barricades to defend your right to your beliefs. And if you like two of my stories you are definitely not a badass. But, only two? Which one didn’t you like?

    I was simply posing the question, rather than making a pronouncement of fact. There are many things I don’t know and I would like an explanation for them. If anyone has an explanation that will withstand logical scrutiny then I will add it to my belief system until it is either disproved or superseded.

    Ultimately, all beliefs are just that: beliefs. Founded on our own experiences but probably flawed in that our experiences are subjective.

    Anyway, if the Higgs-Boson particle travels faster than the speed of light who knows what reality is?
    And, particle theory may discover that everything is random, chaotic chance. But I bet even chance has a few rules. It’s a funny old multiverse.


    • Paul says:

      I didnt much like Issue 49. Its a good enough story but the local references annoyed me and Tobias was just the sort of guy I truly hate, a real tightass. Bomber worked for me and was a pretty good thriller and the 500 was off the wall and i liked that! I will be buying your novel when it comes out, but it better be good. And what the f***s a Higgs-Boson?


      • J.D.Hughes says:

        Sorry you didn’t like Issue 49 – we all have our preferences – but pleased you enjoyed Bomber and The 500. Also pleased you will be buying the novel, that makes two of us!

        There’s an explanation of the Higgs-Boson at http://www.exploratorium.edu/origins/cern/ideas/higgs.html

        I think of it like the 25 stone bloke who insists on a ride in your car when it’s already full and you have bad springs, but that’s probably a wrong analogy. It’s a particle that some people think exists and others don’t. Scientists at CERN in Switzerland thought they had found one, but the debate is still open. Does it matter? Only if you are a scientist trying to get a grant to work on finding it.

        Nowadays, scientists spend a lot of time looking for objects that are not visible, but might be if one looks in the right place at the right time with the right set of eyes. Unfortunately, the following day with the same parameters the object may have disappeared or be in another place entirely.

        I’m not a scientist, so as a writer, the Higgs-Boson will only be of interest if there are little green men with a message from God riding it – there might be a novel in that.


  8. Hedblom says:

    Those rules would just be the opinion of God though.


  9. jmfwriter says:

    Isn’t it funny what triggers a writing jag? I see an odd this-or-that, and bam, I can’t get off the page. Thanks for commenting on my bog. I enjoyed this post. jennysound/jmfwriter


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks, Jenny for your comments. It’s odd where this stuff comes from, but that’s the delight of writing, isn’t it? There are now two robins again, so I really do not know what’s going on there. My garden may have become a gay robin rendezvous. They could be brothers, of course, or transgender, or blind, or part of a gang.

      As for your obsession with domestic items…. 🙂


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