Let’s make this a small picture for you arachnophobes! This is a plea to be kind to the spiders that cannot get out of the bath. It’s that time of year. Don’t try to scoop them up in your hand or a cup, just drape a towel so that one end rests inside on the bottom of the bath. Then she can climb out when she’s ready.
Of course, a true arachnophobe can then worry in case the hairy little creature is in the folds of the towel when you come to dry yourself…
Advancing age inspires caution when tackling physical tasks. I first observed this as a teenager, working in the local park. The old guys, as we thought of them, got as much and more than we did in the day with less effort. They weren’t afraid of work; most of them had been miners, but knew how to look after themselves as they worked.
So I try to plan jobs to take account of my aches and pains. Now, though, it is important to remember Robin, who takes great interest in whatever we are doing. Today it was stacking logs, just delivered from the orchard, to keep us going through the winter.
For Robin the logs were a source of dainties. After a year or two’s seasoning they had a population of woodlice, worms and other creatures, some of which were disturbed as I moved the logs, only to be pounced on by this miniature bird of prey.
We managed to work alongside each other very successfully. I’m sure he’s as good as any young Robin can be at self-preservation.
One wall of our house has many pitted bricks, like this one. Some of the damage may have been done in World War II air raids on the nearby railway. It’s good to see how this hole has been adopted as a shelter by this daddy-long-legs or harvestman. He fits in very well with the cracks in the brickwork!
We’ve begun revising for GCSE exams by working through past papers. A recent English paper from Wales asked students to read about urban herring gulls.
That noisy juvenile in Cornwall was amusing, but I’ve also had run-ins with these resourceful birds, swooping down to steal a seaside lunch, attacking my students and me when we dared venture into the yard behind our building to raise a phone signal, but most especially at that same building when I rescued a juvenile whose first flight flopped down the boiler room steps. His ungrateful parents were not amused but my students were.
The other evening at dusk I was still pruning the bushes that divide our garden from the public footpath, with passers-by homing from work or school, many of them wearing earphones. Difficult even to make eye contact through their personal bubbles!
Yet above their heads flew an army of gulls, effortlessly homing to their roosts along the salt marshes, their subhuman calls echoing from the surrounding house walls, their white bellies glowing back gold to the dying sun: one of winter’s blessings.
The cuckoo of May Day Eve is still vocal across the meadow. He must be spending his time in the woodland on the disused railway bank. He’s the first resident cuckoo we’ve had so close in a great many years.
We recently returned from Wroclaw, Poland, where the house looked across meadows to an active railway track. The trains asserted their territorial rights by whistling as they approached the nearby level crossing.
Also vocal in claiming their territory were blackbirds, a most emphatic and persistent reed warbler, a cock pheasant and two cuckoos, one of them a little hoarse. The birds’ outpourings made early morning tea a pleasure in the tiny back garden. I like to think their emotion is one of celebration as well as assertion: enjoyment of the gift of home.
As for the cuckoo: he had no home, and was probably hatched in the warbler’s nest, down by the railway line’s territorial marker – the reed-filled ditch.
I found myself wishing that the birds’ territory would not be entirely swallowed up by the houses advancing, terrace by terrace, out of the city. Perhaps the railway and reed beds will provide a lasting haven for the smaller birds. I doubt they will shelter the pheasants once the fields are all built over.
And yet; it must be a joy to move out of those grey communist era apartments into a place of one’s own, a room of one’s own. Virginia Woolf almost took that for granted – then realised how precious a gift it is and wrote about it. I have to confess to rubbing my house keys like a talisman as I turn the corner and make for home. Let’s say I know how blessed I am.