All I need is a square of sky,
a sight of sea,
the flight of birds
and dance of trees.
Not my loved ones, but rather,
All is born in longing.
May your muse turn you on this weekend.
See you on the flip side.
Wild Goose Island http://pdphoto.org/index.php
I recently read about a 72-year-old man who goes by the pretentious moniker of ‘Roadkill Connoisseur’.
He used to be a taxidermist, and would bring home roadside pickings to skin and stuff. Then he decided that instead of throwing the bodies away it would be frugal to start eating them. His palate has taken in all types of creatures such as badgers, polecats (their meat has a vile smell) and swans (tastes like mud). His freezer is crammed full with the whole gamut of British fauna.
In this day and age of recycling and trying to combat our wasteful habits there is a certain common sense to what he does. He does not like waste, and calls himself a freegan-he doesn’t pay for his meals. His vegetarian wife eats her meals upstairs to avoid a row. That is the secret to a successful marriage. Relate take note.
Now I am sure you may be thinking he is just a harmless eccentric, and that his story is slightly amusing in a detached way. But then he goes on to say that his favourite food is labrador.
Now that puts a different complexion on things doesn’t it? I know some of you discerning people who follow City Jackdaw have these lovely, cuddly dogs as family pets. All of a sudden, your cornflake laden spoon has frozen on its way to your mouth. Mid-dunked digestives have crumbled into your cups of tea.
I was uncertain as whether to tell you that he says Bouncer tastes a little like lamb. But in for a penny in for a pound.
The thing is, he isn’t actually killing these animals. He isn’t even harming them. But could you do the same? If you was hungry? And you wanted to do your bit to save the planet?
Waste not want not.
Walking the East Lancs road must be like a finger buffet to our dear old connoisseur.
Which brings me to something else.
I also read the story of a man who lost a finger and part of his hand due to a motorcycle accident. He had always, even before banging his head, had a curiosity about cannibalism. But of course other people’s meat is off-limits (damn the law). His culinary opportunity arose when surgeons informed him that they would have to amputate his finger. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly. He took the severed appendage home and boiled it (the best way not to damage the bones) without adding anything to the broth that may disguise its true flavour.
Once consumed, he lovingly placed the bones in a box as a souvenir. His act has been greeted with disgust, but also, notably, with the approval of a vegan. Animals unsportingly do not give their consent to be eaten, whereas this guy gave consent to himself to eat himself. Partly.
What is wrong with these people? Is it me?
There is no way I am telling my wife that this guy ate a part of his own body because he was curious and it was no longer of any other use to him. Not when she is clipping her toenails. My stomach just wouldn’t take it.
Enjoy your lunch.
At the weekend my wife, father-in-law, two youngest children and I spent the day in Southport. It had been many years since I had last been there-thirty seven to be exact. I can be sure of this as my previous visit had been with my first school, and I had only spent just over a year there before leaving due to moving home.
The first thing I can remember about that trip, way back in 1976, is that the sea seemed miles away from our little flock herded onto that stretch of beach.
My second recollection was an accident that occurred in the toilets of the car park where we disembarked from the coach. A girl from my class got her fingers trapped in the toilet door, and I remember a male teacher carrying her out in his arms. I no longer recall the teacher’s name, or what he looked like. He remains forever a faceless comforter.
Later, weary and bedraggled, as we were about to begin the journey home, the girl was sat on a coach that was immediately adjacent to the one that I was on, her seat parallel with mine. She was red-eyed, and had what seemed to be a huge bandage wrapped around her index finger which she held up, supported by her other hand.
I have no class photographs from my time at that first school, but I can remember the girl’s name, and amazingly, thirty-seven years after the fact, I can still see her face in my mind’s eye. She is one of four fellow classmates whose faces I can still conjure from memory alone, although there is now a blurring of features that were once well-defined. Like old snapshots beginning to fade and curl with time.
That day was the first time I can remember attempting to make somebody feel better with humour-I offered an apple that was in my lunch box to her through the two different coach windows that separated us, then pretended to devour it in great, over exaggerated bites. Red eyed and bandaged, I can still see her smiling.
That method of lifting spirits, particularly with children, has remained with me. Humour I mean, not the ‘old apple trick.’
Anyway, on my latest trip to Southport there was nothing to trigger any further recollections. It could have been any other seaside town.
We went on the funfair, with the not unreasonable expectation of a leisurely, pleasant day. But my nearly three year old son immediately became focused on his one obsession-obtaining his regular fix of balloons. He spotted the sign on a shop front, quite a way away, and, mistaking the painted balls for balloons, he was off, racing towards it as fast as his little legs would take him. That set the tone for the rest of our time on the site. No amount of distractions by Granddad, cajoling by Mum, shouting by Sister or pleading from I would deter him from his goal.
“Boons!” he cried, “boons!” over and over for the next hour and a half or so. Turning up his nose at every kids ride or chocolate on offer.
And of course we couldn’t find any balloons anywhere. You could forgive us for thinking our luck was in when we finally spotted a stall with the following title scrawled above it in bright lettering:
‘Balls and Balloons’
A great sigh of relief exhaled by three generations drowned out the cacophony of loud music and screaming kids of the funfair. But when we got to it-in James’ wake, there was not a ball or balloon in sight. Just one of the those punch ball things that you are supposed to hit as hard as you can to set the bells ringing and lights flashing.
James’ hand was already balling into a fist.
Back in the car, strapped in and still pleading for a boon, we drove for a few minutes to another spot. As I bent to unstrap him from his car seat, I said to him “Let’s get you out, are you going to be good now?”
Very calm, very low, but with a perceivable hint of menace, he said just one word: “boon.”
There was no compromise, no acknowledgement of our predicament. Just a you-know-what-I-want, and a you-know-what-you-have-to-do. A measuring with the eyes, a shifting of power between us.
New part of town, same old story. No balloons. The same old tat being sold in every shop and stall we passed, but no balloons. This was unfathomable to James. In the end we coerced him with ice cream, paraded him up and down in a hall of distorting mirrors that alternatively stretched out or compressed his sulking frame, and then finally distracted him with a trip on a motorised boat for twenty minutes. We all climbed aboard, with two young kids in tow, yet it was my forty one year old wife who asked nervously “We wont sink will we?” I think if we had stepped out of the boat the water would have come up to our knees.
Balloons, sinking ships, there’s always a drama.
James climbed in the front next to his Granddad and the little tadpole soon grew his sea legs as he turned the wheel, exclaiming “Mummy, I driving!” while unsettlingly trying to play Death Race 2000 with the gulls in the water.
This photograph was taken after the gulls had wisely scarpered.
Once out of the boat, his mood had lightened considerably, and we decided to head to the beach.
On the way I took this photograph in one of the shops:
When we got there, neither of the children would go into the sea. In fact they both point-blank refused. I cannot for the life of me understand why.
Content with the beach, my daughter Millie discovered a huge ‘X’ drawn on the sand, and made the connection to ‘x marks the spot.’
“It’s a treasure map!! She began to dig furiously with her spade, until her enthusiasm began to wilt. James stood observing this with all of the potential of a future construction site supervisor, when he suddenly straightened up, squinting past his sister into the distance. I turned to see what had caught his eye.
A kite could be seen further down the beach, fluttering high, all rectangular and green in the blue sky.
James momentarily caught his breath, then gasped, barely audible:
It is that time of the year again when an attempt to vegetate in front of the television set may result in us being compelled to actually open the blinds and peer outside, maybe get out in the garden or, if we are truly touched by the adventurous spirit, get our boots on and seek out the more scenic parts of our country.
To get involved with the outside world.
Yes, Springwatch is back on. This programme, and its sister programme Autumnwatch, is partly responsible for a public increase of interest in our indigenous wildlife. We have also recently had a shorter-run Winterwatch, with a promised Summerwatch too this year. So that covers just about everything then.
We are nine episodes in, with live cameras and twenty four hour web cams set up in a variety of locations around the British Isles to document many different species of our wildlife, showing how they have faired through the winter months and the struggle they face to breed and survive among a changing world and predation.
We have been treated to, among many others, ospreys and otters, finches and foxes, warblers and weasels, dippers and dolphins, buzzards and bees. We have marvelled at feats of endurance and display, persistence and guile.
And among all this impressive footage, who do you reckon have been the villains of the piece?
That’s right, the jackdaws.
There is a bird box set up in a barn, and two jackdaws have nested there, raising two chicks. The parents are doing a masterful job of mucking in and spreading the load. No single parent or free loader in this set-up.
The problem is when the two parents are off foraging for food. In their absence, two other adult jackdaws have been entering the nest box and going about the process of systematically attacking the defenceless chicks. Time after time, day after day, they have come in and merciless pecked at the two cawing chicks, as they huddle together in the corner trying to find some kind of protection. It only ceases when one or both parents return to eject the invaders from the box. The problem is that they need to go and find food for the young ones, and as soon as they do the deadly duo come back in and the whole sickening spectacle begins again.
Over and over.
Viewers throughout the country have been horrified, dropping their digestives into their cups of tea as they reach for their phones to tweet their disgust
The theory given is that these two intruders are lower down the..ahem..pecking order in the jackdaw hierarchy, and want the nest box for themselves to breed in. They have even been bringing in nesting material of their own. Talk about cheek.
The one thing going for the chicks is their size. They are close to fledgling. If they had been younger it would all have been over with by now. And they are beginning to fight back themselves. Like bullied kids the world over, they have their tipping point.
I know that wild life is just that-wild life. Red in tooth and claw. I mean we have recently seen a young meadow pipit taken by a grass snake as the rest scatter from the nest in a desperate attempt at survival. But at least that was quick. The young jackdaws are being subjected to constant, prolonged attacks.
Having a front row seat to witness this violent drama has caused me to feel a little uncomfortable about the title of my blog. Do I really want it associated with such, well, animalistic thuggery?
And what would I change it to? What if I kept it along the wildlife line, but chose something nice, inoffensive, cute even?
What about a rabbit? Everybody loves rabbits. Rabbits are lovable. Cute? Check. Fluffy? Check. Not psychotic? Check.
Right then, I will have a blog name incorporating the word rabbit and something else, something that would not cause me to waiver after watching a single episode of Springwatch or Watership Down.
But before I could make that connection, a memory came to me. My Dad, saying very casually to my Mum:
“Rabbits sometimes mate with rats in the wild.”
I can’t for the life of me remember the context of that conversation, and I am convinced he was pulling her leg. But my Mum never ate rabbit again.
Now I have another vision. The horrific sight of those attacks on the poor, defenceless chicks has now been replaced by another, unwholesome image.
Rabbits mating with rats.
That’s it. I’m sticking with jackdaws.
Perusing, like you do, a collection of quotes on culture, I came across this quote by William Bolitho:
“General jackdaw culture, very little more than a collection of charming miscomprehensions, untargeted enthusiasms, and a general habit of skimming.”
Now if I had not spent a fortune on curing myself of my deeply ingrained paranoia, I would swear old Billy was talking about my blog.
Charming miscomprehensions? Possibly.
Untargeted enthusiasms? Probably.
A habit of skimming? Definitely.
Tune in for more of the same after the weekend.
See you on the flipside.