Tuesday, 7 June 2022

the house of birds



It has been a month of birds inside and out. Outside I have put a feeding station by the kitchen window and find myself washing up -brush in hand - gazing out at all the birds who have discovered our running buffet. Prize bird at the moment is a spotted woodpecker who swings like a pendulum on the peanut feeder. I think he's secretly hypnotizing me. I've no idea where I've suddenly got so much time that I can watch them like a mother hen - proud of their achievements.


I used to spend a lot of time watching the runner ducks in the garden because they make me laugh. I didn't notice however one of them disappearing for twenty one days until one morning I went out and found her proudly leading a string of five ducklings behind her. It's a cruel world the world of ducks - one of our male ducks drowned his female consort mating with her and according to runner duck experts these ducklings would not survive with the other ducks who would more than likely trample on them. So we had to do what we've done before, we had to catch them and bring them inside under a heat lamp. She doesn't seem to have missed them but I worry.
Here are the first two we managed to catch inside someone's hat. Now they are running around in a big box on the table alongside the baby magpie. Oh yes - a teeny magpie which I've been hand feeding now for a week or so. To start with she lived in a bowl lined with fake furry packing stuff - now she's too big for the bowl and anyway needs to learn to use her legs. At the moment she has learnt to use her mouth and squawks whenever she sees me - usually for food.


Now you may be thinking one for sorrow. But fortunately I was given a slightly older magpie as well so we are two for joy. (This is in the shade tunnel and has just learnt to fly so I've let it out and it now sits on the gate watching the pigs. )I haven't told anyone in case they go oh we are back to one for sorrow now are we?

This is the baby also in someone's hat.

Pocket as you can imagine likes to hang out by the bird feeder incase he can sell any of them a Ponzi scheme.

Here is the very dangerous Rocket - as you can see from his snarling face all teeth and foam. Unfortunately he had a fight with a neighbour's dog and we have been reported to the dog warden. I thought it took two to fight but obviously I'm wrong. No one was hurt or injured in any way so telling on us to the Dog Warden seemed a bit extreme Did I hear someone say one for sorrow??



No sorrow here though - the sweet peas are beginning to flourish.
 

Magpies 
by W.H.Davies

 I have an orchard near my house,
Where poppies spread and corn has grown;
It is a holy place for weeds,
Where seeds stay on and flower, till blown.
Into this orchard, wild and quiet,
The Magpie comes, the Owl and Rook:
To see one Magpie is not well,
But seeing two brings all good luck.
If Magpies think the same, and say,
'Two humans bring good luck, not one' –
How they must cheer us, Love, together,
And tremble when I come alone!

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

last horse not standing

 

The beautiful Trude has died. She made it to 24 yrs which is not that old in horse years but Friesians of which she is one tend to live a shorter life. She died because of a spinal cord compression which meant she lost control of her legs and her balance and finally could not stand.






What a wonderful life we had with her. What a horse! She could have gone into the funeral business with a plume on her head pulling a coffin chariot with three others but instead she came to us.


She came from the Netherlands where most Friesians are bred and always greeted us with a whinny and a trot towards us if she was the other side of the field.


Here she is with her friend Harry who also died at the beginning of the year.
In many ways it's the end of an era. I spent a great deal of my childhood as a horse, trotting, cantering and jumping in the garden. My mother was very obliging and used to knock two coconut shells together to simulate the sound of hooves as I pranced around the sitting room. Later I had ponies of my own, rode the horses in Hyde Park for the army and took people trekking in the West Indies.  Harry and Trude came into our family life and stayed with us for many wonderful years.


Rocket used to like chasing them in the field so he says now he has to just busy himself rounding up the cushions.

 
   





Here's a lovely visitor we had at the wildlife hospital. What gorgeous creatures badgers are. One used to come up to my friend's back door every evening for snacks. She loved this badger so much her partner asked her if he wore black and white striped pyjamas would she take more notice of him?


Pocket is exhausted from writing all his novels, screen plays and film scripts.
When told of Trude's death he half opened one eye.
"Happiness is beneficial but it is grief that develops the power of the mind."
I stare at him, wondering about the power of his mind as being a cat he doesn't really suffer grief. Oh so sorry mouse for killing you - I am disconsolate ....
You've been googling grief sayings on the internet I tell him. He shuts the one eye and I can just hear him saying The pain passes but the beauty remains.
Renoir said that I said but he was already dreaming of catching another mouse.

The parrots are blooming



 
                                             RIP TRUDE 1998 - 2022


I know Great Horses Live again

Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go.
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again



Stanley Harrison




 


 


 


 


 


 



 



 




 


 


 


 

 


 

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

of times

 




It was the best of times, it was the worst of times mused Pocket from the comfort of his arm chair.
Oh you've been reading Charles Dickens I said. He rolled his eyes.
  "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, examining a feather on the chair and wondering if it came from the cushion or was one of his conquests.



"I'm writing a new book called A Tale of two Cats."
Sounds a bit like Dickens's A Tale of two Cities I said. 
He scowled. 
"It'll be a best seller like my last book Bleak Mouse."
Anyway, I said what are the worst of times?
"You, sitting in front of the News at 6 on the television and weeping.
And the best of times? I ask.
"When you leave me to sleep instead of asking me stupid questions. You're just like that person from Porlock visiting and interrupting my flow of rhetoric and hyperbole."


"This is one of the worst of times," Rocket told me in confidence. "Pocket taking over the bed and threatening to scratch my other eye out if I complained." 
I told Pocket that he showed no sign of experiencing guilt or remorse or struggle to better himself. He replied in no uncertain terms that cats don't obey commandments and have no ideals. 
"Talking as a top predator, a highly developed sense of empathy would be most dysfunctional to us cats. How do you think we could catch anything if we felt sorry for it? Now leave me alone I'm writing my magnum opus. 
I asked him what he was calling it and he told me No Time to Die. 
He ignored me when I suggested that was the title of the new James Bond film.
 "Do you say that to your prey as you are about to pounce on them?" I asked.



And this was not one of the best of times for this poor fox who got caught up in the electric fence surrounding the chickens he had only wanted to swop recipes with.



This dear hedgehog, also at the wildlife hospital, on the other hand loves being stroked and makes his prickles go all soft so that you don't hurt your hand whilst doing it.



To the dark wood where dwell the lost and the dead announced Scout. 
I suggested to Scout that she may like to write a book - perhaps about her adventures chasing wolves in the snow. She told me she wasn't sure if she'd ever done that in spite of being a wolfhound. 
You could make it up I say - after all you are a wolfhound - I wouldn't be allowed to write it because I am not a wolfhound and these days in the book world you're not supposed to write as someone if you are not them. I reflected on stories about fairies. Could you write it if you weren't a fairy now a days? What about snails? Or guinea pigs?
 "I thought that writers used their imaginations," she said.  "Surely you can imagine being a guinea pig?"
"You could call it Scout of the Antarctic ." I carried on.

She told me she'd rather do a paper round.
                      

And talking of papers here is Rocket exhausted after a morning spent rounding up the papers.




Grass

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
                                          I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                                          What place is this?
                                          Where are we now?

                                          I am the grass.
                                          Let me work.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

new beginnings

 


It's half way through February and I haven't done any of my new year resolutions and new beginnings. I can't actually remember what they are so I search through a box of second hand ones- other people's dog-eared beginnings - perhaps fulfilled perhaps not. I write another list of resolutions.
Be nicer. Do better. Go to Australia. Swim with dolphins. Swim with whales. I find last year's list at the bottom of a mountain of thoughts. The list is just the same. Did I do any of them? No. But here's a picture of a juvenile swan I saw walking along the road.


The Road was a book by Cormac Mc Carthy who  I greatly admire. As a writer I've often thought of myself as a cross between Cormac Mc Carthy and Enid Blyton.


Mc Carthy in a writing about Whales and Men said
Suppose God came back from wherever it is he's been and asked us smilingly if we'd figured it out yet. Suppose he wanted to know if it had finally occurred to us to ask the whales. And then he sort of looked around and he said
"By the way where are the whales?"

Yes - If we're not careful there won't be any whales to swim with.


The crow with the white feathers is still with me. 

The other birds have all left now - the jackdaws may be the ones nesting on our chimney - but the crow with no name stays even though he/she could leave any time through the open door. He/she has shed her/his baby feathers and is very sleek but still has the white wing feathers and still doesn't/cannot fly. I gave him(I can't keep writing her /him) a pouch of cat food - one of those cat sized portions in shiny foil and just opened the top a little and left it on the side. After examining it and pecking fiercely with his beak to extract the meat he then drags it over to the water bowl where he dumps it, treads on it and pushes the rest of the meat out into the water where he eats it. So clever. We should be asking the crows if they'd figured it out yet.




Rocket loves putting his head under things, bed clothes, cushions and here under a curtain. "Get thee to a nunnery" I say to him.(Hamlet Act 111 scene 1)) 



"These are wild and whirling words" pipes up Rocket, informing me that this thought had just entered his head. 
That's Hamlet Act 1 scene V  I tell him - I didn't know you'd been studying Shakespeare. He looks at me as if I have no idea what I'm talking about and informs me he is writing a play called 
The Tragedy of Hamlet the Cat of Denmark
I don't argue and imagine if I asked him if he'd figured it out yet he'd come up with some hocum pocum involving felines. He did however tell me that cats (and he assumes all animals not us silly humans) don't have a desire to live a long life. They don't want to make it to Xmas or someone's birthday or be ten years older or meet their grandchildren or fulfill some bucket list. They just want to be happy day by day.
Like a clam? I ask. He ignores me. Are clams happy I wonder?





Narcissi Erlicheer - mmm the smell is so fragrant - sadly I haven't worked out how to do scratch and sniff on this post - perhaps that should be one of my new resolutions to work it out. Either that or try and figure it all out. Or try and be more whale. Or clam.


from Humpbacks by Mary Oliver


We wait, not knowing 
just where it will happen; suddenly
they smash through the surface, someone begins
shouting for joy and you realize
it is yourself as they surge
upward and you see for the first time
how huge they are, as they breach,
and dive, and breach again
through the shining blue flowers
of the split water and you see them
for some unbelievable
part of a moment against the sky -
like nothing you've ever imagined-
like the myth of the fifth morning galloping
out of darkness, pouring
heavenward, spinning; then
they crash back under those black silks
and we all fall back
together into that wet fire, you
know what I mean.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

the way back

 

This blog post is a blatant attempt to advertise my new book The Way Back.



Inspired by Dante's Inferno a dog, a cat and a horse are on their way to cross over the Rainbow Bridge but getting lost they find themselves in a world of extinct animals -----published by Beezle books with a beautiful cover by Chloe Coggin you can buy it on Amazon. (it's a slim volume)
I am posting the first chapter for your amusement and if you manage to get to the end you'll find as a reward two photographs of an adorable baby otter I cuddled at the wildlife centre. There are no pictures of Pocket the superior cat (who wanted to know if the cat Geoffrey in the book was based on him - I imagine it was) or Scout the wonder dog or Rocket or beautiful flowers but honestly the first chapter is worth it and so are the otter pictures.
Hope you enjoy.

 Chapter 1

 As Billy lay by the side of the road he knew two things. He 

knew that he was loved and that his legs hurt. 

All four of them.

“He just ran out into the road!” sobbed the woman who had been driving the car but Georgia and her mother were not listening. They were cradling Billy’s head and Georgia was whispering in his ear that everything was alright and could he stand up now?

“That’s greyhounds for you,” a passer by commented “they just have to run don’t they?”

 

 

There was quite a crowd of people gathered around  Georgia, her mother and the crumpled dog. Georgia was now begging Billy to maybe just raise his head or wiggle his tail and her mother stood shaking her head and fighting back her tears.

Billy didn’t raise his head but he opened one eye and looked at the road. He’d never been on the same level as the road before and there was a lot going on. There were several beetles risking the crossing of the tarmac and in the verge nearby was a shoe. He wondered why there was only one shoe and how it got there and hadn’t whoever owned the shoe realised he was only wearing one?

 

“You should take him to a vet – put him out of his misery,” someone said as Georgia tried to cuddle Billy. 

“Don’t cry love. You can always get another. There are plenty of greyhounds that need rescuing.”

Georgia’s mother glared at the man and told him that wasn’t the point. Billy was their dog and they loved him deeply. But she still took her phone out of her pocket and rang her husband to bring the car over and asked him to warn the vet that they were on their way.

 

Billy had come to Georgia and her family from greyhound rescue. Who could have resisted him? It was Georgia that chose him from his picture on their website.

Billy is a friendly, happy boy who likes a fuss and walks nicely on his lead. He’d love to have a family he could call his own and we hope he finds his forever home.

Has not been tested with cats.

And there staring out at them from his photograph was a lovely dark grey dog with a white fur heart on his chest who looked as if he was smiling at them.

They applied for him right away, filled out the forms and had a visit from the rescue centre. It was noted that there were no cats and they signed him off. That had been nearly a year ago and he did walk nicely on his lead. The trouble was he wasn’t on his lead the day he ran into the road.

 

When the vet saw Billy she frowned and carried him into her examination room, shutting the door behind her. Georgia and her mother stood alone in the waiting room, sat down on the bench for a moment and then got up again. They walked round and round looking at the pictures on the notice board but not really reading them.

LOST.  Cream labradoodle. Last seen by the heath. Reward offered.

KITTENS for sale assorted colours.

A fire that wasn’t really a fire flickered in the pretend fireplace and on the mantelpiece were lots of thank you cards from people who wanted to thank the vet for saving their pets.

 

Georgia and her mother waited and waited which is what you do in a waiting room and when the vet opened the door and they saw her face they both knew.

“Come and say goodbye,” she said, “I’m afraid he’s not going to make it. We can mend his legs but he’s in shock and his heart will soon give out.”

They found Billy lying on the table. He lifted his head a little, waggled his tail, sighed then shut his eyes.

“He’s gone over the Rainbow Bridge,” Georgia’s mother whispered to Georgia, holding her tightly.

“What’s that?” Georgia asked, wiping at the tears that were pouring down her cheeks.

“They saw it’s the bridge leading to Heaven where pets go. They wait in a meadow the other side until their owners are re-united with them when they too die.”

“But Billy will have a long wait won’t he? For us I mean?”

“He won’t be waiting – he’ll be playing,” her mother said grasping for something that might cheer her daughter up. She didn’t believe in it herself  and rather wished she hadn’t put the idea into Georgia’s head.

But it helped. Georgia attempted a small smile.

 “Run free Billy,” she said.

 

They say it is the hearing that is the last to go and Billy heard the words Rainbow Bridge and liked the sound of it. He’d heard those words before and tried to think who else had said them. Then he remembered the neighbours Mr and Mrs Parsons. They used to have a naughty old terrier that loved to play with him. The dog was called Ted and he was always getting into trouble but everyone loved him. If the neighbours went away on holiday he was allowed to stay with Georgia’s family and Ted and he used to share the same basket and play fight over the rubber bone. Then he’d died. He was after all very old and one day his heart gave out. 

“He’s gone over the Rainbow Bridge,” Mrs Parsons had said crying into her handkerchief. “He’ll be with the others now - Bob and Jessie, Rover and little Terry.” And Billy had thought it all sounded rather jolly.

 

Now Billy opened his eyes and through the window he did see the beginning of a rainbow in the distance. His legs didn’t hurt anymore and jumping off the table he decided to check it out. Beyond the car park were fields which Billy ran through, scattering butterflies and small birds as he raced and chased and barked and snarled. He felt so happy he rolled in a clump of clover, stretching out his long legs as if he were riding a bicycle. 

There was indeed a small wooden bridge at the edge of the field that crossed over a river but although he sniffed around it and looked underneath it he couldn’t see the rainbow. In the water shoals of silvery fish glided by and hands of seaweed floated in the current. Billy didn’t think this could be the right bridge but ran over it anyway and took off across the next field.

 

On the other side of the field which was full of buttercups and ox-eye daisies that made him sneeze, was a lane which looked as if it might be going towards the rainbow. 

Making sure no cars were coming as he’d learnt somewhere that cars could be painful, he squeezed through the blackthorn bush and onto the lane. He set off at a smart trot as he was keen to see what this Rainbow Bridge was all about and was excited at the thought he might be able to play with Ted again. He wondered if there were rubber bones on the other side. He rounded a corner in the lane and saw a figure strolling along ahead of him. He pricked his ears. 

A cat! 

 He hadn’t been tested with cats but he felt that cats were to be chased! Gathering his legs beneath him he tore off up the lane towards the cat.

Now most cats run when they see they are being chased but this cat turned around, fluffed himself up, laid back his ears and bared his teeth.

“Yes? What do you want and what the hell are you doing?” he snapped at Billy.

Billy skidded to a halt.

“Chasing you?”

“Oh we don’t bother with that sort of thing any more do we.  What are you doing here - where are you off to anyway?”

“Er – the Rainbow Bridge?”

The cat reduced his size and started to lick his stripy paws. Although he was only one quarter Bengal he pretended he was all Bengal and Bengal cats are both beautiful and unpredictable.

“Yes well if you follow me you’ll get there. I know where to go. My name is Geoffrey by the way.”

After Billy had told the cat his name he asked why the cat was also going to the bridge.

“Poisoned rat! Wretched farmers they didn’t tell me they’d put poison down. Really they employed me to catch mice – what did they expect?”

“Oh sorry to hear that Geoff.”

Geoffrey,” the cat replied through gritted teeth. “My name is Geoffrey. How would you like it if I called you Bill?”

“I don’t think I’d mind,” the dog replied. 

 

They carried on walking in silence. It was really quite pleasant, Billy thought, the sun was warming his fur and birds were singing in the trees and no cars were driving up the lane that might run them over. He suspected though that the cat was far too clever to allow himself to be run over.

“When do you think we’ll get to that Rainbow Bridge then?” Billy asked.

Geoffrey stopped and fixed his green eyes on the dog.

“Why do you think I’d know?”

“I thought you said you knew where to go.”

“I do know where to go but I have no concept of time.”

The cat stuck his tail up in the air and strolled on whilst Billy trotted behind.

“I got the impression one just ran off over the bridge,” Billy said “not that I know anything about it. I imagine it’s just a nice place to go to. I’m hoping to see my old friend Ted.  Anyway, what do you think that is ahead?”

They stopped and stared. It did look like there was a rainbow bridge in the near distance but there was something else in front of it which snaked off in the same direction.

“A queue!” said Geoffrey in disgust. “Look at them – hundreds of them. All waiting to cross.”

He strolled up to the end of the queue.

“Who’s in charge here?” he asked a black Labrador who was in conversation with a whippet.

“Well God I suppose,” she replied.

“God? What sort of God? There are hundreds of different Gods - is that the problem – or is it paperwork? That always holds things up.”

Billy and the cat looked past the Labrador and could see the queue went right over the brow of the hill towards the bridge. It wasn’t just cats and dogs either there were at least two guinea pigs in front of them, several rabbits and quite a few goats. Billy thought he spotted a couple of greyhounds ahead and was excited at the thought there might be some racing in store. This was going to be fun he thought.

Geoffrey sighed and started to wash behind his ears.

“Might as well spruce up I suppose.”

Billy was about to reply when he heard a loud noise behind him. It sounded like the thundering of hooves. He turned and saw, galloping up the lane, a very large brown horse with the most enormous feet. Out of breath it skidded to a halt.

“Am I too late?” it asked.

 

 

                          




Monday, 20 December 2021

the incredible therapeutic properties of the irish wolfhound



The wise and wonderful Scout has returned to the fold. Though I knew Rocket would come back I was not sure if she would and was thrilled when she did. Since she strolled into the house my mood has lifted and I can honestly say all the gloom has dropped away.


I've told the black dog that had moved in when she and Rocket left that he must get off the dogs' bed now and stop chasing his tongue around the moon of the dog bowl, stop patting the ball behind the sofa and go and bother some other poor person. 
Go and cock your leg on someone else's sapling I'm not letting you back in. I told him. When Scout arrived back I think he got the message.


Rocket was first back and eyed the black dog with suspicion. Then he just wanted to play with it but actually black dogs don't play - not this kind of black dog. He just made himself smaller and eventually disappeared.

Life is strange without the horses. I've hung onto the tack though and the cart - just in case - you never know what might come trotting around the corner. I did walk along the aisles of the farm store though feeling nostalgic that I would no longer stop and pick up a salt lick or some fly spray or a handy new halter.

I gave Rocket a welcome home chicken which he loves and we have to take it on our walks. It's handy though because when it's misty and I can't see him you can hear the chicken squeaking in his mouth as he tears up and down the hills in the nature reserve.
Pocket likes to accompany us sometimes on our walks. He usually likes to do it in the gloaming but today he prowled out in the afternoon, sometimes ahead of us and sometimes behind us making little mewing noises so that we'd know he was there.

I told Pocket how much I missed the horses and he stopped licking his stomach and told me
to live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
My I said, two therapists in the house now - so you've been reading a Mary Oliver poem have you?He stared crossly at me, told me he didn't know what I was talking about and returned to the arduous task of fur washing.


I love this time of year for the heady scent of the paperwhites which fill the house with their heady aroma.

and here is my wreath balanced precariously on the gate to wish you - dear Readers
 - a very happy Christmas and a better new year than the one you might have already had.

A Blessing

by James Wright


Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnisota,
twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
to welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
that we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the 
darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
for she has walked over to me
and nuzzled my left hand.
she is black and white,
her mane falls wild on her forehead,
and the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
that is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrists.
Suddenly I realise
that if I stepped out of my body I would break
into blossom.
 



RIP HARRY V11  1998 - 2021