Island Blog – Animation

This night my African son tells me he is going out for dinner with his wife and her folks. I know the place. Its all sand drives and security controlled, a sort of housing estate but without living too close to anyone else. In the mornings and evenings, they watch giraffe, zebra, warthog and a million rainbow birds who come by in their search for water and possible food. The local shop sells wild animal food pellets and, although none of the above agree with feeding wildlife, it is tempting. It means the animals stay awhile and I get that. Did it myself when I was there.

On the ‘estate’ that flanks a big croc busy river, lies Kruger park on the other side and fenced high. From viewpoints we can see elephants, leopard (if we are lucky), crocs, hippos, kudu, giraffe, zebra and so much more. It is quite intoxicating. They seem so near and so safe and yet not one of them is either. There are a few restaurants, all a big sandy drive away, and some offering eventide views of the big five coming for water, for it overlooks a freshwater pool (when there is rain, which is not often). Some restaurants are nestled in the bush, and the sounds of cracking branches and birdsong, like we never hear in the UK, interrupt and cause us to look here, or there for a catch of rainbow or the big butt of a rhino just minding her own business, for we are are on her territory.

It thinks me. It has been a very long time since I felt that flutter of anticipation, knowing I was going out for dinner; what dress to wear after a shower, what boots to wear, what perfume? Like an electric pulse but not one that hurts. If I knew in the morning, it fizzed me all day long. If, as was often the case with me and Popz, it was 30 minutes warning but nonetheless the electricity fizzled. He might say (way back in the day) What’s for supper? I might say Ah I don’t feel like cooking tonight and he would respond immediately with Let’s go out and I was hooked, line and sinker. We have…..had…. superb restaurants on the island, brilliant ambience and excellent chefs and I knew he was driving so I could just enjoy my wine. We went oft in the summer months. I loved that. Needless to say we didn’t go out (for some time) once he became compromised with what he could eat, the amount of voice ‘noise’ he could bear and the whole faff of driving out when he was really ready for bed. It happened like a season. Slow, gradual, almost not noticed.

Looking back I remember the wild times. The suddenness of action. Pick up your bed and walk, kind of thing. I got really good at looking marvellous in minutes. I can do it now, but now there is covid and fear and all restaurants closed and the ferry a threat and, although I thank this isolation time for the chance he and I had to re-connect as friends, I would choose it gone.

Once, on my chance for escape, when day time carers were enough for him, I took myself to Glasgow, to the river and to a flat on the quayside. It was a few minutes walk to about four excellent restaurants. In the morning I wandered out to choose my place for the evening meal, the lights, the buzz, the life. I had no problem at all booking a table for one.

I wonder if I will find this place again, this animation, this lift of independent life.

Island Blog 117 Animals I have known

 

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It’s cold here today.  I’m looking out across the sealoch through a hail of white bullets. A huge white-tailed eagle has just flown past the window, pinching all the light. The trees are quite stripped of any whisper of autumn, thanks to the endless storm force winds that plunder the nights.  Last night the roof tiles danced as if there was a load of Gene Kellys up there, singing in the rain.  Sleep gave up on me around 4am and I woke to a lime green glow casting weird shadowy shapes around the room as the curtains fought to stay connected with their moorings.  Oh hallo moon, I said.  Full she was and quite chuffed with herself sitting there all alone in the sky, quite the big cheese.  I checked my clock, though what for I can’t tell you.  There was nothing to be learned whatever it said, with it’s luminous hands morse-coding the passage of time.  I suppose if it had read 7 o’clock, it would have meant I could get up and make tea.  But 4am is not the right time for anything other than going back to sleep, which I didn’t manage.

On summer mornings, when I wake early, I can bounce (quietly of course, although I bounce a bit more noisily these days) down the stairs, make tea and feel warm and excited about the day ahead, as I write.  In the sleety wind-battered winter, the very thought of pushing back the duvet and stepping into the chilly room is enough to remain me beneath the goose down.  So, I lie there thinking about things like sealing wax and kings and sundry other daft forays into the world of my imagination.  One such journey showed me a mouse, made of velvet and the colour of chocolate which is very swish for a mouse by the way, and I bet you’ve never seen one.

Animals often appear in dreams and play large parts in whatever drama unfolds before my eyes.  It has always been the way of things and not least, I imagine, because of all the hundreds of animals I have shared my life with.  I remember the working horses in the flatlands, those gentle chestnut giants with slow gait and kindly eyes, with broad backs and feet like meat plates.  I remember watching them pull a plough, bracing their wide chests against the harness and leaving, in their wake, deep straight lines across a field that reached to the horizon.  After their work was done, we unclipped them and turned the huge collars around on their thick necks to give them some relief.  The children, just toddlers, always wanted to ride them home to the stables and a welcome bucket of nuts.  They looked like coloured dots, perched high above the rest of us, and clinging on tightly to the wiry manes, laughing with glee as they rocked and rolled their way down the track.  We never had to lead the horses, for they were weary and only looking for food, water and rest.  I remember someone making a hoo-ha about the danger we put our children in and it made us laugh out loud.  They never fell off, couldn’t fall off, not with that width of back beneath their little bottoms, a back that could have hosted a small tea party quite safely.

Then we had collies, labradors, hens and cats, one, named Cosmic Creepers, whom we found with a rabbit snare embedded in it’s neck.  It was wild and had a set of extremely sharp teeth that it enjoyed sinking into arms and fingers.  Mum and I spent ages snipping the wire, bathing the wounds and minding our fingers.  Cosmic Creepers became part of the family, as did Isobel the hen as you will know if you’ve read Island Wife.  Isobel was also wild, but, thankfully, quite without sharp teeth.  We had pet calves and lambs who always got daft names.  Mint Sauce, for example, and Bovril, and Lamb Chop.  Once we had a crow called Jim who lived in a cage in the barn and smelled dreadful.  His wing was hurt, and after he was set free, he hopped around the garden as if he couldn’t quite remember what to do next.

Living with animals is never dull.  They teach me.  If I only think as a human I miss something, an extra dimension, for animals are quite honest and rather definite about their needs.  They don’t fanny about wondering if it’s convenient for me to serve up dinner, they just whinny or moo or march into the kitchen, which is okay-ish if we are talking Hen. A working horse might have caused a bit of a stooshie, had she got indoors, but I caught her in time.  She just followed me back from the stable and……well…..kept coming.  I fed her a carrot and turned her smartly around.  She did wander back, but not immediately, deciding to visit the farm veg shop on the way for a big mouthful of winter greens.  I could see them hanging out of her mouth as she sashayed up the track, and wee Polly, who worked in the shop had to go home for a lie-down.

I always thought of myself as a wild horse.  I said so, to the island husband one day.  He snorted, which was a bit rude.  No, he said, not a wild horse, oh no definitely not!

Okay……….thanks for that……….what then, if not a wild horse?

A hen, he said and thought it was terribly funny, for quite some time.