A walk on the wet side

I have just come back from a wonderful walk in the countryside round my home. It is a beautiful spring morning but with gusty wind and heavy showers falling in between patches of wonderful clear sunlight - the kind you only get after heavy rain showers.

As I was walking down one of my favourite broad ridges with wonderful views expanding 180 degrees before me I noticed the sound of a skylark. It took me a moment to get a fix on it soaring high against the staggeringly blue sky above me. As soon as I saw it though my heart sank. It always does when I see or hear skylarks.

I once killed one inadvertently when I was a teenager. Well, I say inadvertently, but I was pointing an air pistol at it and did pull the trigger. Trouble was I hadn't really thought about what I was doing and hadn't really intended to kill this beautiful bird harmlessly singing away up above me.

I watched a programme on the TV during the week about killing and how modern soldiers are specifically trained not to think about what they are really doing when they get involved in combat. The presenter took part in a particular programme used by the US military and went from being horrified at the thought of killing someone to taking part in a very real fight simulation with as much blood lust as the marines around him. He then interviewed soldiers who had killed for real in Iraq and in The Falkands. They were all deeply scarred by the horror of what they had done and were still haunted by the memories.

As I was looking up into the sky at the skylark a passenger jet get taking off from Heathrow flew behind the bird, revving its engines as it banked and circled above me.

My mind went back, as it often does, to the images of the jets of 9.11 shining in the brilliant blue skies above New York as they banked and turned on their course of destruction. I thought of the pilots and how pumped up they must have been to carry out such an amazing feat. How they must have been conditioned not to think of the real human consequences of what they were about to do.

It is such a small step from me as a teenage boy being encouraged by images of war to get hold of an air pistol an start using it to the soldiers who fight our wars and the terrorists who kill our innocent.