Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ramblings: Natural Selection




I was standing outside yesterday (having a sneaky cigarette, naturally) when a flock of parakeets flew past me. I thought I was hallucinating for a moment. I'm not in the Tropics but in South East London. Then I remembered, there are colonies of parakeets all over London. The urban myths are that they originate from a pair released by Jimmi Hendrix or that they escaped from Pinewood Studios during the filming of The African Queen. I prefer the latter explanation and like to think that these parakeets may be descended from a celebrity bird who perhaps had his stomach tickled by the steely Katherine Hepburn.

This is the kind of nature I like. Nature that's close to a 24 hour shop, is in a grimy urban environment and in a place where there's full reception on my mobile. It's much safer that way.

Every morning a heron flies past my flat at about 7am. He's huge, like a creature from pre-historic times. He glides over the courtyard at the back of my flat and I assume he's on his way to work. I think he may be a commuter. He works long hours though. I've seen him returning at 7pm. He needs to get on to the ornithological union about his terms and conditions.

Two minutes walk from us is a little park which is the grounds of an old manor house. The lake is a water bird reserve and contains a variety of newborns at the moment. There are goslings with dense yellow fluff, clumsy little moor hens and a group of miniscule ducklings. These bring out the inner child in me and I can stand and watch them for ages. There's a sign by the lake advising against over feeding the birds and this sign is a picture of a huge rat. This brings out the inner panicked housewife in me. I want to find the nearest chair, jump on and tie the bottoms of my trousers up.

An article in last week's Time Out London did the same to me too. I never respond well to pictures of people holding up over sized dead rodents. I would have mounted the seat for ankle protection and screamed (a perfectly normal response to even the mention of a rat) but I thought that the other people on the train to Charing Cross might think I was odd.

At the weekend I saw a crow attacking a pigeon, pulling chunks of flesh out of its wing. It was a malevolent beast, mean and brooding yet beautiful with it's shiny black plumage; like a pantomime villain. This reminds me of my love/hate relationship with the natural world and why I don't watch wildlife documentaries. I always end up horrified by the expression on the little animal's faces as they get eaten alive by lions and I end up perturbed. Why can't they all be vegetarians? I suppose you just can't get good quality Quorn antelopes in the Serengeti.

Yesterday I saw a dead fox. He was laid out on the window ledge of a big Edwardian house. He was magnificent and would have looked like he was just sleeping were it not for the little trickle of blood pooled around his mouth and the bone jutting out of his back leg. I squirmed a little at the sight but not at the corpse. I was more perplexed and disturbed as to why someone would have placed him on the window ledge. Surely a window ledge isn't the ideal place to lay out a corpse? I'd hate to be that resident when they opened to the curtains. I'm not good with road kill.

The local high street on the way to work is a minefield too. As a child I hated visits to the local market in the Midlands town where we lived. There were always rows of dead rabbits hanging up and my father would show his usual sensitivity by singing 'Bright Eyes': the theme from Watership Down to me. The local high street has stalls with 'boiling chickens' hanging by their feet. These are plucked chickens with their heads still on but with jagged knife wounds through their scrawny throats. I'm not tempted by them.

As a child our house was a place that lacked safety from dead animals too. My father knew a man who knew a man who would provide him with game. I would skip into the pantry only to confronted by a pheasant or a wood pigeon or a rabbit hanging by its feet. One time, memorably, I screamed to see a massive white goose hanging by its webbed feet. I suppose I should count myself lucky to have never walked in to find a deer hanging by its hooves.

I know its all part of the natural plan. The weak and soft get killed by the predators or the hazards. I don't have to try to like it though, do I? I think for now I'll stick to admiring nature in parks and stick to my humus and lentils. It's safer that way.

 

Ramblings: A Moving Story


I've been very tardy on the blogging for the past few months but as ever I have good excuses.

I've just moved house. It's not been a run of the mill move either. Rather than moving a few streets away or to an adjacent suburb, I've left my home town where I've lived since birth, the hospital where I've worked for 20 years and moved down to London (well over a hundred miles away). I've left behind some brilliant friends too.

The preparation was pretty intense with a hideous amount of planning, hours of sorting and sifting, arranging and getting passed around by electronic non-people on telephone systems. It's been a horribly frustrating and disconcerting process. I knew it would be hard work but had underestimated how time consuming and soul destroying the process can be. For someone who likes order and routine, the chaos of moving has been really hard to bear.

My house is now about to occupied by tenants, along with their tortoise. They're a young couple with a baby and typically for me, I forgot to ask them how old the baby was or what her name was. I did find out that the tortoise is called Terry, though.

I had a difficult farewell from my workplace and from my close friends. Wanting to control the whole process, I chose to have one big leaving party rather than have to go for lots of tedious meals out and awkward occasions. It was a fantastic party. I hired the cafe at a local dance centre and had a fabulous 1950s style burlesque singer who belted out some nostalgic tunes.

London is looking good. I miss my friends and colleagues but am in sensory overload at the moment with all the stuff to see and observe. The people watching and eavesdropping here are amazingly good. We're in the slightly less fashionable South East but the flat is roomy and stylish, the neighbourhood is fine and in a great location to get to some lovely places in London with ease. I feel like a child in a sweet shop with lots of delightful things to consume all around me. I've already been to see a comedian, a play and traipsed round the British Library and an Art Deco stately home. I will definitely need to monitor my over active nature.

So, here I am. I'm back blogging. I've survived the removals process (one of the removal men was model gorgeous, so that distracted me) and apart from one or two minor meltdowns I seem to be getting through what has been a very tense process. Expect some tales of my new life.