Well that’s not Cricket!

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Yep. I know it’s not a cricket but I spent ages looking for one, couldn’t find one, got bored, sat down and then this obliging little chap hopped on my knee!

Alex and I went to visit my sister – this was a few months ago now – but while we were in the kitchen talking, I gradually became aware of a noise … faint, but distinct and very persistent. I thought perhaps her fan oven was making a weird noise, or she’d set an alarm and left it on somewhere upstairs, forgetting to turn it off.

Eventually, I could ignore it no longer – “What is that noise? I asked, irritated by her seeming acceptance of it.

Lisa – my sister – looked somewhat resigned and replied: “It’s a cricket.” In answer to our puzzled faces she went on to explain: “I bought a box of live crickets to feed David’s bearded dragon and one escaped. And now it’s living behind the cooker.”

I couldn’t help myself … I burst out laughing. The cricket joined in, merrily chirping away from its new abode.

Alex asked: “But what does it eat?”

Still snorting with laughter I said: “It’s probably eating all the dogfood and growing to massive proportions, snugly tucked behind your oven!”

Lisa paled somewhat, clearly not relishing the thought of Cricket-zilla squatting in her kitchen … coming out with the dogs… sitting for its dinner…

Right! That’s it! I’m evicting it tonight!”

We took our leave, I cheerfully reminded her to message me to let me know what transpired at Cricket-gate… Later that night I received an irate text saying: “Can’t get the bloody thing. Now it won’t let me concentrate, just keeps chirping all the time!”

I replied saying she should think of it as her very own brand of ambient music, some people pay good money for recordings of things like whale music…cricket song… I heard nothing else for the rest of the evening, and indeed the rest of the week. Most unlike my sister.

Meanwhile, the cricket chose to accompany Lisa with some choice pieces of background music in whatever she was doing until one day she decided shereallycouldn’tstanditanymore

Now. My sister is only small, and had at the time broken her toe, having fallen up a step; yet with irritation levels threatening to overflow she managed to haul her fridge/freezer halfway across the kitchen floor to make enough space to pull the cooker over a bit so she could crawl behind it to catch the cricket. Suitably armed with a plant pot the battle began … they raged back and forth in the limited amount of space behind the cooker until in a last ditch heroic effort my sister launched herself across the floor and rugby tackled the cricket, trapping it firmly beneath the plant pot.

She lay, for a little while, catching her breath while the cricket chirped away in the pot, perhaps pleading for mercy… But no. Lisa got to her feet, clutching the captive cricket and took it outside to the very top of the garden where she left it sitting miserably inside the plant pot.

Back indoors, she made herself a well-earned cup of tea and sat down to do a little relaxing sewing. What was missing… ? The silence was, well, deafening. I remarked upon it myself, the next time I saw her.

Well, I don’t miss the bloody thing!” she stated defiantly.

Then one night, later on that week, she went to the kitchen door to let the dogs back in:

Ee-ee ee-ee ee-ee!!”

She looked down.

And there, at her feet, on the step, sat the cricket!

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Smelly…

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My sense of smell has vastly improved since giving up smoking, although obviously humans don’t have the ability to smell as acutely as dogs or cats.

It always amuses me when my mother’s dogs greet me, I can see their noses actively working to “read” me and decipher where I’ve been; but it has also recently been put forward that in fact cats have a better sense of smell than dogs.

Here’s the science bit… all mammals have three different types of scent receptors, dogs have nine variants of this, humans have two and cats? Thirty… It is thought, therefore, that scent and smell play a far more active part in a cat’s well being and health than previously assumed. I must say though, that any self-respecting cat owner is bound to be aware of their feline friend’s almost supernatural sense of smell…

Oh my God… what is that perfume you’re wearing?? Vile!!

And they will grace you with that gape-mouthed, whisker wrinkled expression of complete distaste that leaves you feeling vaguely inadequate and revoltingly smelly… This is actually more correctly known as the “Flehmen response” – cats have a special scent receptor in the roof of their mouths which helps them analyse what hey are smelling, hence the disgusted look they pull as they open their mouths to allow the scent molecule laden air in to flood their receptors… try not to take it personally. Or maybe just change your perfume…

Anyway, I had to buy some peacock feathers the other day (a costume for Alex) and I had laid them out on the bed while I looked for something to pack them in safely. When I came back, Charlie was sitting on the bed, studying the feathers intently. I wished then, that I could see into her mind – what was she seeing?

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Her little nose was working, wrinkling back and forth, and I would have loved to have known what pictures were conjured up in her little mind as she smelled the iridescent feathers… did she see majestic blue birds strolling serenely across well-kept lawns, their feathers gleaming under the heat of an Indian sun…Was the lush verdant jungle, so unlike our own garden, brought into being in her mind’s eye, emerald green vines wreathing the long-forgotten remains of mysterious crumbling redstone temples…did these foreign scents call to her own inner tiger… or did she merely think:

Good grief! That’s the biggest bloody sparrow I’ve ever smelt!”

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Buddleia And Butterflies

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When I was a little girl, my grandparents had the most wonderful buddleia bush in their garden – a truly magical place for me to visit and explore , and populate with my imagination, aided of course by a feline friend.

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I can remember sitting beneath the buddleia’s silvery arching branches and looking up into the natural architecture of the tree, an intricate fretwork and interlacing of branches reaching upwards, an arboreal cathedral.

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The flowers! Sumptuous, heavy-headed spikes of tiny purple flowers, overflowing with intoxicating fragrance; the scent irresistibly drawing crowds of various butterflies and bees to feast like gluttonous courtiers at Henry VIII’s table.

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I remember my grandmother carefully deadheading and pruning this wonderful shrub, and my father – perhaps in a fit of envy, or perhaps to please me – visited every garden centre in the region to procure our very own buddleia.

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He even managed to get an orange buddleia (“Golden Knight”) which was quite rare in those days… even though the man down the road has one in his garden. Nowadays, everywhere you go you can see buddleia growing prolifically – apparently it’s quite invasive, it self-seeds on waste ground, hence its nickname of the “bombsite plant.”

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Not bad going really, for a bush whose origins lie in China. Of course, it’s a great source of nectar for all sorts of creatures – some have even evolved flowers designed specifically for a hummingbird.

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Buddleia is also known as the “butterfly bush” and it was originally named after an English botanist called the Reverend Adam Buddle.

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This year, I’ve tried my hand at a little gardening, and to be honest, I have both enjoyed it and found it therapeutic. I’ve even joined a Facebook group for gardeners… Throughout the post I have included some pictures of the visitors we’ve had – I hope I’ve managed to recreate a little of the magic in my own garden that I was lucky enough to experience at my grandparents.

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The Seagull

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Thank you Alex for the use of your beautiful photo x

I saw a dead seagull today and it upset me more than it should have done, or perhaps more than I thought it would.

A big herring gull, crisp white feathers and smooth grey wings. Strong, curved yellow beak, but greyish filmy lids closed over fierce proud eyes.

Still and silent in the middle of the road, carelessly crumpled and neck bent awkwardly back on itself and legs outstretched.

You should be flying free and wild, soaring over the sea, screeching your savage call to carry on the wind. Not here.

You should look down upon seas churned with foam, waves crashing towards the land. Not here.

Not dusty tarmac. You should blink fiercely out of existence into magnificent nothingness.

A dirty city street is no place to die.

Plan Bee…

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I have known Alex’s father, my partner, for twenty years now. In addition to the usual ups and downs you experience within most relationships, he’s also changed a lot of his thinking. Not just to please me, but the sort of thing he sees the sense in. For example, he found me crying after I had accidentally stepped on an earwig:

WHAT’S THE MATTER? IT WAS JUST A BUG!”

No! Earwigs are really good mothers and they will fight to the death to protect their babies!”

I get very worried about bees too. I treat them with a healthy dose of cautious respect since both my mother and my sister are allergic to bees and will have an anaphylactic reaction if stung. I’ve never been stung, so I have no idea if I’m allergic or not and I don’t intend to find out either…

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Generally, then, if a bee (or a spider) needs rescuing, it is down to my partner to get the job done. I was out the other day when we had a short burst of rain. I returned home to find my partner putting my hairdryer away and at the puzzled look on my face – he has very short hair – he explained.

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He had been out in the garden feeding the fish, and as he was going back indoors out of the rain, he found two bees who had been surprised by the sudden downpour. He picked them gently up and rushed back indoors with his soggy casualties.

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Their bee-fluff was soaked, so he tenderly laid them on a piece of kitchen towel, inside a plastic bag, and with my hairdryer on its lowest setting, proceeded to revive them within his makeshift apian oxygen tent.

He was very soon rewarded with signs of life as their legs and wings began to stir, and aas the rain had stopped, took them back outside. He sat them down on some flowers and watched in satisfaction as they flew away.

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” Did you see that Barry?” “Yes Paul – Bee-hold the Light!” (R.I.P. Barry Chuckle, your gentle comedy will be sadly missed)

 

Mother – Don’t Go!

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It was a beautiful night and I was restless. I couldn’t settle to sleep indoors so I went outside to the garden.

Dimly lit and full of perfume, bats fluttered overhead, moths whirred softly by and with every drifting breeze the petunias and stocks released their scent to float softly on the warm night air.

I fell asleep. And I dreamed:

I saw a young woman. She was beautiful. I looked at her face and in her eyes was all the kindness of the world. Love shone from her skin and water flowed in her hair, the eternal movements of the seas and the patterns of the rivers.

I saw lush forests and grassy plains, alive and full of burgeoning life, shimmering behind her skin. It changed.

The delicate bones of her face filled out, herds of buffalo roamed across the plains now; the rivers and seas teemed with movement, fish, seals, otters, whales and dolphins played and lived. The forests filled with birds and chattering monkeys and the love for all these creatures welled up in her eyes and made her bloom.

She smiled and in her motion humans were made and she loved them, nurtured them, cared for them. Her skin was rich and bloomy, her hair glowed with warmth and being. Then the picture changed again.

Her eyes were worried, unhappy, pained. The lushness of her hair faded to grey, drab and coarse. Across her face and behind her eyes wars and famines raged. Disease and death followed, carving misery in her countenance and sorrow, bleak. People died. And as they died her face grew thin and gaunt, cheekbones like dead branches, till finally, finally burning tiny embers appeared on the plains.

Black holes spread quickly, the ashy edges spreading and charring and killing her vitality. Seas dried up, rivers ran dry and forests decayed. And still they did not stop.

I tried to hold her hand and then I wept as she died.

Porcellanite And Prey

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This unassuming little green stone with delicate black etchings has a lovely tactile smoothness to it, so it is no surprise to learn that it is a wonderful cleanser and healer for connective tissues, ligaments, skin and intestines, mirroring everybody’s (well mine at least) wish for smooth and perfect skin, well-oiled tendons and a stomach that behaves itself.

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Perfectly smooth and soft Princess paws… 

Porcellanite feels smooth and serene to hold, the calm green colour giving strength and focus to your thoughts and feelings and how you wish to express them. The little black etchings within the stone act as markers and signposts of encouragement, inspiring and creative.

Speaking of creative… I know cats are inveterate hunters and killers of prey – it’s part of their genetic history and instinctual makeup, but Charlie, Ting and Tooty don’t hunt. Never have done, and I can’t see them starting anytime soon, although Charlie has, once or twice, presented me with a dead moth, and once a tiny live mouse, that I think she thought she could keep as a pet.

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Tooty’s more of a tree-hugger really… 

Like Ting and Tooty, who also lost their mother at an early age, perhaps they missed that essential part of their feline education, and their hunting instinct just wasn’t switched on. They are all keen birdwatchers, though, and Ting seems to have formed quite a close relationship with the fish.

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“Hi Bert, hi George, hi Alfie, hi Maureen, hi Hilda, hi Nemo… “

Not so Lily. Indeed, I’ve never known such a cat for hunting and bringing her prey home. She excelled herself the other morning… I am accustomed to the usual mice – two different species, sometimes live, sometimes dead, sometimes whole, sometimes… not – and the occasional bird… but the other morning…

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Butter wouldn’t… even dare go near her!

I heard her special “meow” and realising that she’d brought a gift in, leapt out of bed and rushed downstairs to take part in our shared hobby of early-morning mousehunt. (I’m actually quite good now.)

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Yep…o.k….I’ll leave you alone…

Lily had vanished. But on the doormat was a very large, very dead rat. You can colour me surprised, impressed, a little scared and rather sad… kind of brownish-purple, like an old bruise, I suppose…

I’ve had rats as pets, and know what gentle and loving creatures they can be, so I gathered up the body and disposed of it in the wild part of the garden, in a little hole. I say little…it was a very large rat, so when the Demon Huntress returned later that morning, I seized her and checked for injuries.

I did, out of courtesy, thank her for the rat, but mentioned I would prefer it not to happen again, only to receive the reply:

But why? You tell us it’s always better to buy in bulk when it comes to cat food!”

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