DAY 66: Mon 18 May

A day of reflection, regrets, disappointment, and an ice cream.

The wildlife camera picked up another 876 images last night, many showing the chickens going about their business in the early houses (indeed the camera was activated on a couple of occasions by catching sight of chickens actually doing their business from their high perch). I need to change the time settings. Only two sequences featured a rat. At just before 8.45 it the evening it was up on its hind legs drinking from the suspended water dispenser, evidently unperturbed by the five chickens roosting above him. At 3.15 in the morning it appeared to be heading towards an old sink where the chickens get their evening treat. There is fierce competition and they never leave a scrap behind, so it would have left hungry.

My colleague calls to find out why I have not finished reviewing her paper yet. I explain that I have not been up for it the last couple of days, preoccupied with other things and unable to concentrate on something so serious. I promise to get on with it today, but her call causes me to reflect upon why I have felt so ill at ease in recent days. I realise that its because I have been replaying in my head my conversations with the council’s ratman and my neighbour. At one point my neighbour, with whom I have been on friendly terms for years, had threatened me with legal action if the rats hurt his Staffordshire bull terriers. He later apologised, but then told me the ratman had suggested that he damage the fencing so the foxes could get in to deal with the chickens. I have already lost 7 chickens to the foxes (plus one got ill and wasted away soon after a daytime attack by a mangy fox in the garden). It’s an upsetting thought, and very improper.

Meanwhile I am on tenterhooks waiting for the supposed letter from Environmental Health telling me to get rid of the chickens or concrete over their coop. It is as if the Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, and those of the chickens.  There are always rats around everywhere, anytime; why am I somehow to blame? There has been evidence of rats visiting my garden since I first moved here ten years ago. And the neighbour’s dog pen has been there since well before I brought in chickens, about four years ago. Running through my mind all the time is how to handle the situation, especially as the chickens have become an increasingly important part of my landscape over the last three months,

I am still ruminating in my dressing gown when a man turns up at the front door gesticulating at the ground and pointing the camera eye of his phone at me, He has delivered a package for my house guest. The man tells me he wants a picture of the package with the door open. Rather primly I say “You’re not taking pictures of me.” I don’t want your picture,” he grumpily replies. I step back, he snaps a shot. I learn later that the tracking app shows that he managed to catch my feet. 

On investigating the latest racket from the chickens in the garden I see that  a pair of courting great tits have decided to make the garden their trysting place. The prudish old hens are evidently offended and run to me clucking their disapproval. I distract them with some bird seed, and hope they haven’t noticed the pigeons getting very fruity on the roof.

I get on with reviewing my friends opus, interrupted only by the next adventures of Culann who has used magic to rid himself of mysterious Menessa and has now set off around Ireland to find himself a beautiful, intelligent, strong woman to be his wife, with the help of his leprechaun chums. Some dodgy sexism here, much like so many children’s fairy stories. Then it was back to work.

I spent hours working on the document via Google Docs, only for the whole thing to disappear just before I finished. This is the second time it has happened. Is this a thing with Google Docs or another problem with BT’s bloody broadband? Infuriating. A real downer.

A grandfather writes; Now there’s a treat I wasn’t expecting. Pissed off with new technology, I went out to bring in the bins and heard a familiar purring sound from a vehicle just out of sight. Poking my head around the corner, I see that it is indeed an Ice Cream Van! It was making a birthday delivery ordered online for a neighbour’s child. I asked if I could buy one, and the nice man, suitably masked and gloved, supplied a £2 cornet complete with raspberry syrup and a flake. I ate it in the sun beside the pond in the front garden – and of course managed to drip gooey substances onto my jeans, the weather being warm and me wanting to savour this luxury as long as possible.

The fact that less than 200 people officially died of COVID19 in the last 24 hours, has to be seen as good news shows what sort of state we are in. But there is also extremely bad news, The nasty piece of work called Priti Patel is going ahead with her cruel Immigration Bill. A Home Secretary happily treating the key workers from abroad who are keeping people safe and alive in care homes and hospitals as if they were unworthy of a welcome here. Rather shocking to hear Labour’s Yvette Cooper say she won’t vote against it (yet).  

I was in a  sombre mood when I put the chicks away this evening, and reinstated the camera in a new location. Should I stop rat-recordings or gird my loins for what may be an upcoming battle to keep my chickens?  Do I really need the aggravation?

Watching the local news I learn that the community Iftar that has graced St Marks Road in Easton for the last few years is going virtual and international this year. It normally attracts more than 3,000 locals of all ages, religions and none. Cheerful news that the organisers have set in motion a movement that could mean similar community Iftar taking place on the same day in all the countries of the world.

As my house guest was visiting Easton this evening for a suitably distanced street Iftar, I dined alone watching Split on Film 4. It might have helped to know it was the middle part of an M. Night Shyamalan trilogy – which  might have explained why Bruce Willis turned up in a coffee bar at the end.  A piece of rather unpleasant nonsense with James McAvoy working hard to win an oscar as the man with many personalities. He won some awards but not the big one.

Now I am going to bed with La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir’s 1937 anti-war classic. 

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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