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!

Stop Bugging Me…

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It never ceases to surprise me, the variety and colour and sheer detail of the insect world. From beetles like enamelled jewellery, to the delicate grace of butterflies and moths, I remain entranced by these tiny miracles of Mother Nature, all with their own particular place on the page in this Book of Life.

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I remember when I was a little girl, our cottage had an enormous lavender bush in the garden, with the most wonderful soft, silver grey leaves and tiny rich, purple flowers, brimful of scent. When my Nan used to visit, she loved to pick and dry the stems then sew the dried flowers into dainty lace and satin bags. She would place these pastel coloured sachets in her lingerie drawers and wardrobe and say with satisfaction:

Lavender is such a lovely scent for a lady, dear, very suitable.”

To this day, I love lavender, the oil and the flowers, although the plants aren’t terribly happy in the cold clay soil of my garden. Point being, the original plant played willing host to all varieties of bee, my favourite being the large furry bumble bee, traditionally striped in black, yellow and grey; so drunk on the heady lavender nectar they didn’t notice my little girl fingers, stroking them…

And ants. I was always fascinated by their busyness and wonderful communication – I attempted to convey a sense of this to my son. He was only about two at the time and he squatted down beside me willingly enough.

Look! See the little ants! Watch how they talk to each other!”

My son (to be honest, I can’t remember whether it was my older or younger one) gave me what can only be described as a withering look, stood up and stamped on them…

I remember my older son, at about seven years old, telling me earnestly about some homework from school, looking for ‘minibeasts’. To demonstrate this, he picked up a rock to show me how a little creature could be living underneath, only to be greeted by quite a big spider…

Oi! Put it down!”

He flung the rock down in horror…

At this time of year, I find that spiders give way to daddy-long-legs, and I must confess, I don’t really like them very much. I find the buzzing way they fly straight at you quite off-putting and when you try to capture them, they appear to cast off legs and throw them at you in self-defence…this reduces me to hysteria as I try to bat away the offending leg.

Although, on second thoughts, it could be useful… next time I am accosted by our over-enthusiastic postman (“Does somebody need a hug?” “No. Give me my letters and go away.”) I shall simply throw a leg at him and fly off….

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Spiders: Part 4

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I am afraid. Very afraid…September is here. Three days old. And I’m waiting. I know something will happen…it’s my oldest son’s birthday, but that’s not what I’m talking about…Spider September is here…

This is the month when all the single male spiders come out to find a partner…and my house seems to be a particular focus of lonely male arachnid attention. I’m not sure why because I certainly don’t encourage them – I actively wish they’d go elsewhere in search of true love and the possibility of baby spiderlings…

I’m prepared. They’ve thrown little testers my way which I have met with equanimity and fortitude. The spider sitting in my favourite cup – an old one but a good one that never fails to raise a scream. The observing of the routes that I take in our garden whilst pottering about, digging up things to see if they’ve grown, then sighing and replacing them as I see that they haven’t…The stringing of silken lines across these paths that I take so I am left screaming and flailing, clawing desperately at my face and leaping up and down as I try to remove the clinging, sticky threads from my face and hair…

_MG_7427 (2).JPGIt’s enough to make a cat laugh!

Oo look! ‘Er at the corner’s off again…doing one of ‘em funny dances that she does..”

I had a particularly trying moment with a spider the other night. I’d gone to bed, and I was quite tired, so I’d fallen asleep quite quickly. A couple of hours later, I was awoken by a gentle tickling against my thigh. I shifted irritably, hoping that my partner would get the message that he had absolutely no chance…A minute’s peace and the tickling resumed, edging up underneath the hem of my pyjama top…I sighed and flung my arm out crossly, hoping to discourage him with a pretend sleep whack. His side of the bed was empty.

IMG_6932 (2).JPGFlowers are always good

In the split second I registered this my eyes pinged open and I was completely awake and alert. I have a bedside light and carefully-oh so carefully- I reached over and pressed the on switch. Then, with a little light on the situation, gently – oh so gently – I peeled back the sheet and duvet and looked down at my body. The edge of my pyjama top slipped aside, and out fell a spider. Not a very big one, admittedly, but a fair sized one, perhaps about the size of a raisin.

Everything’s fine, Miss Murdoch, nothing to worry about up there..”

With a friendly wave, the spider continued on his exploration of my bed, whereupon I leapt agilely out of my bed, catching my elbow painfully on the bedside unit and entangling my toe in the sheet so I fell, arms and legs akimbo to the floor…

Gasping breathlessly, I raised my head and the spider is WATCHING me, a faintly puzzled look on his hairy face:

Oh, come back…I won’t hog all the duvet and I don’t snore..we can have a little cuddle!”

With bones of water and lungs of lead I managed to lurch away and finally scream for my partner to come and rescue me from this over-friendly arachnid bed invader.

IMG_5286 (2).JPGBlue Lace Agate… good for overcoming suppressed fears and linked to the Throat Chakra, enabling good communication… could have done with a piece to help me scream properly… 

Perhaps you see my predicament…I won’t kill them any more, they don’t deserve that, but I do wish they didn’t feel so…compelled to make me part of their lives. If this is just the beginning, then I am more than a little apprehensive about what is in store for the rest of the month…

Woodlice…

Woodlice…

I am not a big fan of the Insect Kingdom although to be fair, everything has a place in the Universe. Woodlice, along with spiders, bother me particularly. You get the odd solitary woodlouse, walking along the skirting board with the directness of a guided missile. Put something in their way, or try to capture it and they will will extend their feelers robotically, wave them up and down to inspect the obstacle, then make a 90o turn and carry on their way. Turn over a log, or lift a plant pot, and a seething mass of scurrying ensues as these alien monsters hide from the light.

Stuff of nightmares indeed. They remind me of monster films from the 40’s and 50’s where plastic unconvincing models of dinosaurs knocked over cardboard cut out cities. One of my most memorable films, I forget the name now, featured an iguana, an obvious iguana, playing the part of a sea monster. It looked uncomfortable and sad, fake spikes stuck to its back to make it look fierce. It flickered its tongue uneasily as miniaturised humans screamed in pretend fear and fled. It’s amusing how cinematic trends change and develop. Horror to me is not a plastic dinosaur and painted blood; but a hideous burned man in a red and green jumper with knives for fingers. I’ve only ever seen the film once, such was the effect on me. A monster that COULD get you in your dreams – I had nightmares for years as generations of my cats could testify, comforting me as I awoke panicky and sweating…

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One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”

Likewise ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘Candyman’. I have only ever seen these films once, and although I would like to think I am a logical person, these films filled me with fear and dread, and a conviction that the creators of these characters had seen the dark side of the Universe…

NOSMOKINGTruly horrific…

Still. A place for everything and everything in its place. My son took the photos of these woodlice and although I shuddered in repulsion, it was the details… and I love a detail! I inspected them closer, and was forced to think again. The fantastic interlocking sections of armour plating, so carefully hinged to allow for flexibility and movement. Coated in shades of grey, from elephant trunk to mouse fur, inscribed in whorls like the bark of a tree. The legs, delicately jointed and small clawed feet to allow for gripping. The tiny mandibles, fluttering anxiously in search of the next mouthful of decaying wood or plant material, nothing more menacing or grotesque than that. I looked again and was charmed – almost – by the small red eyes, peering at me worriedly, and the waving feelers, as delicate as hairs and I was irresistibly reminded of an old lady, in a neat grey dress, perhaps a shopkeeper, enquiring as to what I would like…

A quarter of sherbet lemons? Some nice toffee dear?”

The woodlouse is actually a crustacean, so related to lobsters and crabs. However, I am not suggesting that you try woodlouse thermidor as they don’t taste very nice… (I haven’t tried, I’m just judging from the look on my cats’ faces whenever they have tried to eat one!) What made me re-consider woodlice is the fact that they are devoted mothers, carefully carrying their eggs in a special sac underneath their jointed shell, until they are ready for hatching. I would like to consider myself a devoted mother to both cats and children, and the nurturing quality of this little insect, or more correctly, arthropod, appealed to me.

WP_20160413_17_26_59_Pro (2)Woodlouse kebab anyone?

Next time you see a woodlouse, busily working its way around your room, or sitting peacefully under a log with its siblings and babies – look! A little miracle of evolution and God’s engineering!

All photos were taken by my son!

Red

I have mentioned previously that colours are very important to me, they affect my moods, and although I tend to dress monochromatically, I enjoy the variety of colours the world has to offer, a visual banquet if you will. I follow a lovely blog, whose stunning imagery and lyrical descriptions enthral me (https://mirandavoice.com/). She commented on my earlier post (Pink) about the colour red. The quality of her blog inspired me to look again at a colour that until now, I have dismissed.

My son’s favourite colour is red and as soon as he could, he insisted upon painting his room red. “Oh no!” I thought. “It will be like being inside a giant mouth!” To be fair, it’s a warming red, reminiscent of coal embers and his room always seems the warmest in the house. In winter, you’ll find him generally accompanied by at least three cats, the budgie, and even myself on occasion, enjoying the illusion of heat.

The featured photo is a collectible glass paper weight my mother bought my son when he was little. “Red! Red!” he exclaimed ecstatically as he opened it on Christmas day. To me, it spoke of Elizabeth Taylor, her love and eye for fabulous gems. Hence its posing in fur (fake, of course) reclining and languorous, Elizabeth playing Cleopatra.

I tend towards paler colours of flowers, the white satin sheen of lilies, honey gold of daffodils and the delicate Impressionist palette. One birthday I was given American Beauty red roses. I was fascinated by them and the glamorous velvet depths of their petals. The little flower below is actually a viola. It appeared as an imposter in my mother’s hanging basket originally coloured blues and violets. I admired its cheeky presence and noticed another variation of red, a subtle burgundy undertone.

Red Fler

The crystal world is full of reds, relating to the root chakra. Rubies of course, like droplets of mythic blood, garnets, earthy and sensual, drawn up from the centre of the world, molten lava made touchable. Carnelians are a cornucopia of colour, ranging from pink to orange to red. Bounty from the centre of the earth, harnessing its power and working with us. Sunrises and sunsets, another wonder of Nature, carnelians in the sky…

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(My son’s Alamandine Garnet… Luscious!)

My two black cats love red. They have a red blanket they like to lie on and knead…

“Black and red, don’t you know it’s the new colour combo this season…” My Siamese is impartial:

“Dahlings, with blue eyes you can use any colour…” while my tabby prefers colours that harmonise with her own fur.

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(My Siamese posing – “Make sure I’m in focus!”)

Obviously, a lot of food items such as fruit and vegetables are red. Peppers fascinate me, another culinary rainbow, along with their cousin tomato. When I was a little girl, tomatoes were red and red only – now you can get them in green, yellow, tiger stripes! When I have salad I have a childish satisfaction buying all the colours of tomato and arranging them in traffic lights: (“Mum! I’m sixteen not six!”)

This apple and tomato lent themselves beautifully to my quest for red – then the colour fairy smiled on me and added a ladybird!

Lerdyber

 

All photos were taken by my son!

 

Cats and Insects

Cats and Insects

My cats are all keen students of entomology. They’re not particular, any species will do. I don’t mind them observing, I just don’t like the killing; up to now I must bear the guilt of the deaths of thousands of mice and birds, to which I must add flies, moths, beetles etc. upon my conscience.

There have been mornings when I have come downstairs and the front room has resembled a Battle of Britain air fight in miniature, with moth corpses strewn across the floor, tucked onto windowsills and swept under the coffee table. Apparently, cats need the chitin from insects to help whisker growth, although with the quantities of half chewed up corpses I sometimes find, the cats’ whiskers should be at least three foot long…

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(A sketch of my Siamese when she was little and I was feeling vaguely arty…)

I was looking at my Siamese in the garden the other day, and she was just tea-cosied on the path, with her nose pressed flat to the ground. She was there for about ten minutes (I didn’t like to disturb her in case she was meditating, or engaged in her part time job of being a rock). I could see her eyes were wide open, so I thought I would be all right to engage her in conversation.

What are you doing?” She looked up at me, with an amused expression,

Look what I’ve found, I don’t know what it is, but it’s quite funny and it wriggles when I do this.” I just managed to glimpse the face of an enraged earwig before my cat pressed her nose on it again, pinning it to the floor…

It’s actually an earwig, and I don’t think it really likes what you’re doing to it…”

Oh well, my shift’s over now, just thought I’d pass the time of day with it.” With that, she stood up and sauntered off, super-model style, leaving me to apologise to the earwig and assure it legal intervention wouldn’t be necessary…

Here’s a question… have any other car owners picked their cat up and run round after an annoying fly in the hopes they were helping the cat catch the fly…?

I hope I’m not alone in this, both the cat and I derive a certain amount of pleasure from this and it’s more ecologically friendly than flyspray… Don’t often catch much.

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I have watched my younger black cat track a tiny fly, her yellow eyes wide with excitement as she tried to catch it. My tabby has spent half an hour prodding a woodlouse, entertained by its rolling up, a miniature playball! My older black cat was stung by a bee and her poor little paw was so swollen, she willingly let me run it under cold water and administer first aid.

(“How was I supposed to know they did that? I thought it was a small multi-coloured flying mouse!”)

I am indeed blessed to share my life with four cats… Although I wish they would keep their extra-curricular studies outside where they belong!

All photos were taken by my son!