Thursday, 22 November 2012

Catching up with the rest of October


                 I had an amazing wildlife experience while walking along the beach at Bay of Lopness. After strolling for about half a mile West toward Newark, I turned around and saw an animal of some kind making its way along at the water’s edge toward me. My first thought was that it was perhaps Vicki, our neighbour’s dog, so I scanned the dunes for her either Barry or Sheila, but there was nobody there. Then I reached the conclusion that it was a cat, judging by the way it was bounding along. Not wanting to risk scaring it up towards the road, I headed to the dunes and sat down to wait. I took Gail’s Bloggie camera out from my pocket and snapped away. Then the penny dropped. “Stone me! It’s a bloody otter!” I pressed the video button on the Bloggie, but I forgot to press record. Idiot! The otter carried on, occasionally stooping to rub its chest in the sand, and reached where I had been standing only moments before. It stopped barely ten yards from where I was now sitting, completely oblivious to my presence. I could not stop myself from saying hello to it. Now fully aware of me, but quite casually, the otter trotted down to the water to complete the rest of his journey, where-ever it was he was off to. I had hoped to see an otter in the wild, but I never for a moment imagined it so close.

Some days the beach can get really crowded.
                Another animal with which we continue to have close encounters is the visiting Siamese. I had spent ten minutes playing with him on our doorstop just before my otter walk. He was back again the next day when we received a phone call from a lady living just down the road. She was asking if we had, by any chance, seen her missing cat who was overdue for his medicine. Not only had we seen him but we were looking at him right now! She asked whether we could keep him entertained while she drove around to collect him. We chatted to Ruth for quite a while, as her quarry, Leo, clearly unhappy at being imprisoned, shredded the newspaper lining his cage. It came as a relief that the handsome wee fellow wasn’t a homeless feral and had such a loving home to go back to. So can someone please explain why he was back again before the week was out? He arrived with blood around his mouth. Concerned that it might have been his own, I wiped his chops for him and found that it was not. He was scrounging for biscuits having just had his face buried in a rabbit carcass, the freeloading bastard! Since then, he has been a common sight on our ‘estate’, hunting high and low for his next wild meal. He has often been loitering right at our door as well, much to Smokey’s frustration as he often appears there just when I am about to let her outside. Only today, I saw him making his way away from the house toward the loch yet only a few minutes later when I opened the door to let madam out, there he was. Some hissing and spitting ensued before I could shut the door again. After an hour or so, she did get outside. She’d been out for about ten minutes before she went tearing off down the garden toward the road. Leo had returned again, as if he had an elasticated collar caught on our door-handle. Fortunately, there was no rough stuff and Smokey came back when she was called. Personally, I attribute her compliance to the fact that Leo didn’t seem at all intimidated by her, a reaction, or rather lack of one, I don’t believe she has ever experienced before. She frightens the bejesus out of me all the time.

                As the cold weather returns, the temptation to stay in bed for far too long becomes irresistible. And with the house constantly creaking, not to mention birdlife trotting noisily across the metal roof, it is too easy to not hear the odd knock at the door. Less easy to miss the ensuing phone call from the cavity wall insulation guy calling from the top of the driveway. Fortunately, he had another home visit to make just up the road, giving us time to make ourselves presentable. He was back though within five minutes. His other ‘client’ had gone shopping to Kirkwall for the day. I had to break it to him that the appointments that he was keeping were secrets known only to him and his co-ordinator, as they had clearly been made without any consultation with his proposed hosts at all. Gail had phoned them about having the walls insulated, but had heard nothing in reply to her enquiry for many months until a call out of the blue the week before. Provisionally they stated that an engineer was due onto the island on the Wednesday but failed to confirm the date or a time. That is, until this very moment. I barely had time to fetch him our ladder so he could check the walls out, when the phone rang again. Our friend Andy who lives between Kettletoft and Lady was looking to erect a windbreak fence around his poly-tunnel. I’d already helped him dig some of the post holes and today, in quite glorious weather, was the day he had chosen to set the posts in concrete and was I available? Gail assured me that she could deal with current visitor, so I got on my bike for the three mile ride to Silverhall.
Our friends Denise & Andy's polytunnel. Rainbows are an optional extra.

And again after we'd erected Valhalla around it.
                I spent the rest of the day humping barrowfulls of concrete around Andy’s garden and tipping the contents into the footings to create a henge of stout wooden posts surrounding his ‘Eden under plastic’. Andy’s other glamorous assistant, Dean, was in charge of the mixer, turning out load after load of sloppy goo and Andy busied himself with making sure that the posts were upright and in line. Never having done a hard day’s work before in my life, it was quite a struggle. A couple of rounds of cheese and tomato sandwiches kept us going all afternoon. I didn’t fall over or spill any so I guess I did alright. I even had enough puff for the ride home. It got a bit blowy over the next couple of days but he assures me that they are all still perpendicular. It should be noted that most of those couple of days I spent at home whinging about my back aching.

                Ten months after choosing which removals boxes go into which rooms, Gail has decided that it was time to search for her sewing machine pedal. I keep trying to get her to wing off an email to the removals company just in case, but she insists that we turn the house inside out first. I was adamant that we’d actually been through them all before, but after we discovered the missing Steiff and Ikea Billy bookcase bolts, it would appear that if we did then we had done an extraordinarily crap job of doing it. With all the shelf space now available, instead of searching a great many boxes, we actually got to completely empty them. It also freed a bit of floor space that, hitherto, had been obscured. Some of my fiction paperbacks had gone a bit mouldy and required some TLC which included a spell in the window to dry off. I must admit, however, that I got a little OCD and set about reorganizing our complete book collection by subject, author and genre. Needless to say that the Gail’s original purpose had taken a back seat and, to think, that that woman used to manage staff. She has absolutely no idea how to boss me about. No carrot and no stick. She’s hopeless.
This has sod all to do with the narrative, but is cute.
                Weekends. I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the concept. It seems very decadent indeed to do nothing productive all week but still celebrate the Capitalist Sabbath at the end of it. It can be quite a challenge to think of something even more worthless to do for two days when you already do sod all for the other five. Even so, it’s still not exactly heavy industry. Hurrah for sport on the television, especially when the sport is happening in the Far East so you have to make an extra special effort to stay awake for a whole forty eight hours to make sure you catch it all, whereupon  another week of slobbing can begin. I reckon that it’ll take until Wednesday before I get my body-clock sorted out. That’s all the excuse I need.

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