A freebee

There was a bee apparently pirouetting in mid-air outside my office window. I went to investigate and found that it was trapped in a spider’s web, and the spider was busily wrapping it up.

Poor little bee, all covered in pollen that it had painstakingly collected, and now bee-ing prepared for the spider’s pot.

You’re not meant to interfere with nature, but I couldn’t bear to watch those little legs struggling so helplessly. With two small twigs I freed the bee from the web and removed its bonds. Bee-fore I could blink, it had flown away. Et voilà – a freebee.

Sorry, spider, but I couldn’t let you take the bee – they are having a hard enough time as it is. Help yourself to as many flies as you like, though.   🙂

The generation game!

Going through the old packet of family papers and photos, I found another surprise. A ragged piece that had been cut out (it looked as if it had been done with a knife and fork!) from an old sepia photograph. It shows my great-grandfather with his mother – which means I now have photographs of seven generations of our family! Not of interest to anybody but us, of course, but here we all are:

Annie Sophia Parry (neé Billing), with her son, Sidney Herbert Parry (photo taken about 1890)

Grandmother and father of:

Florence Elsie Parry, aged 14, Covent Garden opera of Hansel and Gretel

who was the mother of:

Florence Rosalind Kelly

who was the mother of:

Me, who is the mother of

Julie, my daughter, at 17

who is the mother of:    

Catherine, 17


Rob, my son, at 16

who is the father of:

Jamie (at 16), Jasmine and Leoni

which makes Annie Sophia Parry, at the top, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Catherine, Jamie, Jasmine and Leoni.

Vengeance and redemption

Max Mosley has won his case against the News of the World, and so we now know that he was not involved in Nazi role-playing. Unfortunately for him, no matter what damages he may win, he will always be known and remembered for his “eccentric” sex life. I can only imagine his fury at having his reputation and image utterly destroyed, and no doubt his vengeance will be a terrible thing to see. It will also ensure that the whole episode remains very much in the public eye for a long time to come.

Having tried to shake off the stigma of his parentage, only to acquire a second and debatably even worse stigma, must seem to him very unfair indeed. As much as I dislike the man, I have to agree.

During the 60s there was another high-profile sex scandal, when the then Secretary of State for War was involved with call girl Christine Keeler, who also had links to a Russian spy. John Profumo, after initially lying to the House of Commons and denying his involvement in the affair, subsequently resigned.

His wife stood by him, and he redeemed himself by spending the next forty years of his life working for a relatively low-profile charity in the East End of London.

Mr Profumo died at 91, just over two years ago, and although his name will always be synonymous with a sex scandal, he will also be remembered as a man who restored his dignity by accepting his culpability and his genuine remorse at the damage he caused.

Snakes alive!

Apart from one fairly small grass snake that sometimes crosses the lane, I was lamenting the fact that I haven’t seen any decent snakes this year.

That all changed ten minutes ago, when a robust specimen – a Western Whip Snake of about one and a half metres – came to explore my office, a chalet in the garden. Noticing a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, I looked down to see two very round eyes looking back at me, from a green and black head resting on the threshold of the door. The visitor was winding itself up in preparation to come in and explore.

I’m not afraid of snakes, I like them, but the thought of sharing a fairly small space with this one, which, who knows, might have decided to get into the printer or into the foot-well of my desk was a little unnerving. The whip snake, as well as being quite large, can sometime also be aggressive. As I reached for my camera, it retracted, retreated and vanished before I reached the door.

It’s somewhere out there, now, probably around the pond.

PS  For the last two nights, I have also seen a small deer when I’ve walked the dogs. Both times it has been standing very conspicuously in a field of wheat stubble, and both times it has sprinked away towards cover, stopping several times to look back.  And both times, thankfully, the dogs have been too busy hunting butterflies to notice it.

But I have not yet seen the kangaroo, which was spotted half a kilometre up the road about one month ago.

Summertime – with apologies to George Gershwin

And the livin’ is sneezy
Pollen’s floatin’
And the grass is head high

The mower’s bust
And the strimmer is missin’
It’s OK little baby
Just you have a good cry

Nights are hot
There’s no air in the bedroom
Cats are fighting
Every night until dawn

One of these mornings
The whole house will have vanished
Swallowed up
By the vines and ivy

Bindweed’s winnin’
It has strangled the roses
‘matoes are mildewed
And the lettuce ran off

And the livin’ is itchy
Flies are bitin’
And the mossies are too

Skin is peelin’
And hair is too dry
It’s OK little baby
Just you have a good cry

Country Life

Yesterday was one of those days.

Very, very hot and sticky, with a strong wind blowing, and hundred of flies on every surface. The kind of day when you long for a good downpour to dampen the dust and perk up the lettuce. The pygmy goats had found a way – which I have since discovered is via the roof of a car, onto a fallen tree, over a corrugated iron roof – into the garden of one of our neighbours. I had extracted them twice.

With the busticated toe the exact shade of deep purple that I have been considering matching with dove grey for dramatic effect in the living room, I walked the dogs, shovelled out the goat shed, put out all the recycled stuff for the binmen (who call at 5.00 am), and by 9.00 pm, rather early because I’m a bit of an owl and usually keep working quite late, I was ready for something to eat and perhaps something stronger than tea to drink.

Final task of the day is to lock up the chookies and goats, but Sammy, the black pygmy, had managed to get himself trapped in an old vegetable patch within the neighbour’s garden, which was well and completely surrounded with fencing. How he got in there will always be a mystery.

How to get him out was even more of a mystery, because he was charging around in a state of needless panic, when, if he had only stood still long enough for me to get hold of him, his troubles would have been immediately over. Our new and delightful neighbours Janice and Tony had heard the bleating and nobly come to help, and with head collar, rope and bowl of food, we chased and cajoled Sammy through weeds, for what seemed like hours, in the fading light, until finally he was captured and carried back to his field by Tony.

It was dark by the time I’d locked up, and just after 11.00 pm by the time I’d cooked some fish and chips and poured a few gins. I slept well.

This morning I awoke, with several mosquito bites, one on the end of my chin. The humid conditions seem to be giving the flies and mossies supernatural powers to defeat all the electronic and chemical powers that are employed to destroy them.

I went down to the field and began re-knitting the ancient sagging fence, with the help of several metres of baling twine, hoping to thwart the goats from forcing their way back into the next door garden. It meant scrambling through shoulder-high stinging nettles, sharp thistles and scratchy brambles, and dealing with strands of rusty barbed wire that have probably been there for 30 years.

So in the space of 36 hours I have collected a broken toe, myriad mosquito bites, arms covered with lacerations, and nettle rash. Somehow, too, there was a flap of skin hanging from the side of my index finger. In the bathroom I found a small spray can of liquid elastoplast, so I poked the flap back into place and sprayed the liquid onto it. This was like putting my hand into a naked flame. It made me yelp. I read the directions. There was a warning: May cause a slight burning sensation. Maybe I’m just a bit of a wimp.

Ah, country life. You can’t beat it.

Don’t even bother trying.  🙂

I think my toe is busticated

Took the dogs for their run yesterday evening. Two things happened.

First, I bashed my toe really, really hard against a partially submerged rock. I was wearing WOZ (French version of Crocs, but made of a sort of reinforced polystyrene material – extraordinarily comfortable). They proved no match for that particular rock, and two things happened: an excrutiating pain (the kind that makes you instantly foul-mouthed), and a sinister snapping sound. Because we were only at the beginning of the walk, I decided to wait until we returned home before examining the damage, so stoically I continued for another mile, keeping the anguished toe pointing upwards and walking on my heel, wiping little involuntary tears from my cheeks.

Then the second (of the first two things) happened. I noticed, shortly, that the dogs had disappeared. They do that, but normally reappear within a couple of minutes. Only this time they didn’t. Having reached the end of the path, I turned for home, and whistled. Nothing. I met a group of walking ladies, who had not seen two large dogs, but were rather anxious that they might encounter them, despite my assurances that both were harmless.

Still walking with my strange gait, still whistling, I was relieved when after about half an hour, Dobbie galloped up, heaving and panting, tongue lolling. But no sign of Tally. Maybe he was already home. But no, he wasn’t, and that was very odd, because he knows that end of walk = dinner, and he is the most gluttonous creature I’ve ever known.

Leaving Dobbie slurping water and munching his food, I took the car to look for Tally. Because of his vile and depraved eating habits (recently the whole body of a dead cat that he found), he wears a soft nylon muzzle that prevents him opening his mouth wide enough to get anything in, while still leaving room for him to breathe. I was starting to worry that the muzzle had become entangled and he was trapped somewhere. It was an immense relief when he came racing up to the car, and I opened the door so he could leap in. But on my God, what a stink! He had obviously been down in the reeds and was covered in a thick, greenish-brown slime, which he shook jubilantly all over the car, and all over me. 😦

After we’d both showered, and I’d fed him, I had time to examine the squealing foot. It doesn’t look too good: a sticky-up hard lump at the base of my big toe, with bruising emerging all round. It hurts, too. Still, it’s lucky really, because it’s my left foot, and I’m right-footed, so I can still walk. 🙂