Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Wildlife catch-up

Big Spid was last seen above the dresser two days ago. I still haven't broken the habit of looking upwards for the Spider of Damocles every time I go through a doorway.

Bald Fox now has quite a respectable covering of red fur, though its tail still doesn't resemble a brush although it has a faint covering of ginger velvet.

The pond has acquired ten new fish, all called Les after their donator. There's Les 1, Les 2, etc., only distinguishable by their tails, some white, some black and some spotted. The other day, when Summer returned for a few hours, there was fish troilism going on. The three, oddly conjoined, were leaping out of the water, twisting and twining and appeared to be having fun. How do fish do it? I haven't a clue. I'm off to look it up on Google.

Bloody computers

So my laptop died. On the very day I had a received a cheque for £700 that had been owed since last March. I had opened a new savings account specially and the £700 was destined for there, the first penny I had saved all year. But Sod's Law dictated that the computer store was going to get it instead.

Walking past Curry's, I saw an Advent laptop for sale. £499 reduced to £399. 17" wide screen, 120g hard drive, lots of memory. Mmm, it looked good and the sale ended after the Bank Hol weekend, so I bought it.

Now, I am a Windows 2000 and occasionally XP person. However, I soon discovered Microsoft and determined to turn the world into Vista people. I turned on my new machine. For a start, the typesize was so tiny that I needed magnifying glasses to see it. Then I discovered the evil secret of Vista. Everything you've bought in the past and want to carry on using, like Photoshop, won't work with it. Instead, my screen was alive with pop-up windows ticking me off and telling me it had disabled this, that and the other. Bastard!

So, off I went on grovelling hands and knees to my recovering-from-double-stroke boyfriend and asked him, "Please, pretty please, could you take Vista off for me and install my old Windows XP instead."

Off came Vista. On went XP? Oh no. Mr Bill Gates wasn't going to make things that easy, was he? So my new computer is still sitting lifeless, eviscerated, and my old one with the burned out hard drive now does nothing but access the internet. I could cry. In fact, I will. So there!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Slugs have feelings, too

I bet you've never looked at a slug this closely before. Look at that shiny little face. Isn't it adorable? Somehow reminiscent of ET, a wrinkly bloodhound, or the sad old face of a loggerhead turtle. There is something beseeching in those eyes, a 'please don't throw salt on me' appeal. Its lips are parted. Dammit, it's speaking! Now, how could anyone want to squash a cute creature like that?

I read some statistics yesterday. Apparently the wet weather this year has caused the UK slug population to double in size. A rough guesstimate puts it at 60 billion, that's 61 slugs per square metre, all as winsome and slithersome as this one. Let's hear it for the gastropods! Anyone like to join me in starting a slug fan club?

Big Spid's On The Move

Yesterday the Spider of Damocles was on the ceiling above the patio doors (see left).If you look closely, you can see the little hairs on its horrible legs.

Today, I was just placing some washing up in the drainer when I felt something looking at me and there it was, sitting on the edge of the drainer. Boyfriend gave it a prod and it moved down to the cupboard where it dangled from one leg (see right, and more hairy legs). Then it decided to drop onto the floor and chase me across the kitchen. I legged it, spider eight-legged it. I leaped over the door threshold into the lounge and spider dashed behind the fridge where I hope it stays for a very long time, eating stray bits of cheese and crunchy woodlice. If it doesn't choose to stay there, where WILL it be tomorrow... ? (Shudder.)

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Spider of Damocles

"Take care when you go through the kitchen door," my boyfriend warned. "What do you mean?" said I, a bit crossly as I was about to stomp through in my normal hasty fashion, always in a rush to do something or get somewhere.
"Look up," he said, with a smirk. I did. Clinging to the doorframe was one of the biggest house spiders I have ever seen. Its leg span must have been 10 cms and that wasn't even at full stretch.
Quietly, cautiously and cringingly, I stepped through. Silly really. These spiders don't bite. They can't harm a human. The annoying daddy-longlegs, aka crane fly, apparently contains enough poison to kill a person, but luckily for us it hasn't been equipped with biting mechanism. So what is the point in all that poison? So it can fly into your salad and lurk under a lettuce leaf, chortling as it awaits the chop, the swallow, the gag and the ambulance? Could I have discovered an unusal way to kill someone off? Do I have a Miss Marple-type crime novel waiting in the literary wings? If that spider doesn't move, I shall never get to my computer again!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Parrot fashion

Just returned from four days of cat-sitting in Camden Town. Many years ago – about 23, I think – I spent a week parrot-sitting in Windsor. Whilst there, I rang a radio phone-in prog about transport but the presenter was much more interested in the parrot and asked me to make it talk. Minutes earlier, it had been parroting my singing and guitar playing of the prevous night, but once on air, it got stage fright. Would the damn thing talk? Not on your nelly. I prompted it till I was Amazonian Blue in the face but it refused even to say, “Pretty Polly.” The moment I was off air, it flew out of its cage and soared about the room screaming, “Get your knickers off,” something it must have learned from its rather rampant owner. (Who, incidentally, on his return accused me of turning his parrot into a ‘woofter’, to use his non-pc phrase, as it was now singing soprano rather than baritone.)

Cat-sitting was a doddle until I sat down to a ham salad, when 40 claws and half a million sharp teeth did their best to swipe the ham before I did. Having turned their pretty pink noses up at catfood, they made short work of my ham, even though I lectured them about salt and additives not being good for feline health. I then went to Camden market and found a lovely Turkish lady who makes medieval velvet clothes for her stall. “They fit size 14-16,” she assured me, but when I got back and tried to pull the top over my head, all I could hear was stitches busting and the cackling of a ghostly parrot. The cats can have the ham. I’d better stick to the lettuce if I want to be a medieval maiden that gets some knight errant (I think I might prefer a knight errand to go to the supermarket for me) singing, “Open your drawbridge, I’ll enter your keep!”

Friday, 10 August 2007

Fairies in the Garden

Saw this dragonfly laying eggs in the pond today. Its wings fluttered and irridescence flashed off them and sparked off the vivid green and blue of its body. I think it was the same dragonfly that I rescued in May when I found it newly hatched and trapped beneath the netting. They say that, like frogs, dragonflies return to the pond in which they were born to lay their eggs. I wonder if it was the dragonfly that gave rise to the fairy legend? It would be easy to imagine them as little people flitting through the air - especially after a few pints of strong farm-brewed cider!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Chaos in the Cemetery

The funeral of my friend who died of a stroke two weeks ago will be on August 15th. My pal led a chaotic life and her influence continues after her death, to the effect that nobody knows which of the Great Yarmouth area cemeteries it's at, and we've all booked rail tickets to different stations. Now a splinter group is emerging who want to boycott the service and have a wild party instead - dress in style, the way she always did, light candles, buy beautiful lilies, as elegant as the lady herself, and get rollicking drunk in the way she loved, till we all slide down the wall giggling. A better way of remembering someone and seeing them off, perhaps, than standing in a plain brick room watching a shiny coffin disappear behind a curtain to the accompaniment of a bad tape of organ music.

When I go, I want Shine on, You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, followed by The Sun Has Got His Hat on as the coffin slips away and drops my mortal remains into the fires of Hell, to join my soul which will already be reposing there with the phoenixes and the dragons.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

... and more.

And what about the animals owned by a dead person who lived on their own? My friend who died in Spain a couple of years ago had a dog. It was the animal's frenzied barking that alerted his neighbours. But far from caring for the poor animal, they had it taken away and put down.
My friend had three cats. Her local RSPCA assured us that the police would have 'put arrangements in place' for the pets. No doubt they will end up being put down, too. No, death is a rotten, rotten business and one you never get used to. Like each new love in your life, each new death is different and has different effects and its own distinctive shadows, echoes and pain.

More Thoughts on Death

Death is never convenient. Neither for the one who has just died, for no doubt they were looking forward to a holiday, a pint in the pub, the embrace of their loved one, the birth of a child, or just getting home to bed, nor for those close to the departed. Funerals always seem to occur just when you're having your busiest ever time at work, or about to fly off on the trip you've saved for all year.

Death is never neat and tidy. I have a terror of dying in public, with the shame of losing control of my bodily functions in front of a crowd of strangers on the train. And as for that famous extract from a book that people always pass on to you when you lose someone... You know the one I mean. It tells you that the dead one hasn't vanished but has just gone into another room. Huh! What it fails to mention is that they're not ever going to bloody come back! So much for comfortable cliches.

The Grim Reaper

Just heard the dreadful news that a close friend who lives some distance away dropped dead last Friday. She was a complete original, an artist, sparkling, talented, who'd somehow ended up in a dead end place because her parents left her a house and she was out of a job. I had only spoken to her on the phone the day before. She had just spend five weeks doing the job from hell, dispensing tickets at a theme park and dealing with the worst examples of Joe Public. She walked out last Tuesday and three days later, she was dead of a stroke at 58. What a dreadful waste of one's last few weeks on earth. What with my boyfriend's stroke and the death of another friend at the hand of a hit and run driver a fortnight ago, I feel buffetted by the wings of the Grim Reaper.

We were very close, soul mates in a way. I could tell her things, even the most outrageous thoughts, that I could tell nobody else. I am angry, angry, angry. She always called me her 'bezzie' - her best friend. So why did she not come dancing into my dreams and tell me? Instead, this leaden gap of five days during which I carried on with my life and didn't know her sparkly spirit had passed on. I just don't believe it. My mother died in her sleep and I was 200 miles away, but I knew. She came to tell me. The room filled with warm pink light and I had a feeling I had been swept by the wing of an angel, even though I'm not particularly religious. The room was full of love and I went to bed with raging flu and slept like a baby, but next day got worried that she wasn't answering the phone and rang her gardener, who had a key. I caught a train, still with a high temperature and full of flu, and arrived to an empty house as the police had taken her to the police morgue. They didn't release her body for a week, though I went there every day and begged to see her.

The elephants have it right. When one of their herd dies, they crowd around, visit the corpse, feel it with their trunks, weep, come to terms, lay the relative or friend to rest in their hearts, minds and souls. We need to do this, too. There is an overbearing need to see the body of the loved one, to convince oneself that they really are dead, to see their shell and know their spirit no longer inhabits it. It's a natural part of the grieving process, I think. Hence the dreadful suffering of those whose loved ones have simply disappeared.

Death is an unfinished symphony. A conversation abruptly terminated before the final words have been said. Cymbals are crashing a cacophany in my head.