Monday, 9 November 2009

Wildlife At Home

Opened my oven door for the first time ever. The gas cooker came with the flat (ten years ago) but I’ve never used the oven: I’m vegan. Only opened it because I plan to get rid of it. Wish I hadn’t bothered inside was the tiny skeleton of a bird. I’ve no idea how it came to be there. Odd thing: no feathers: Unless it had plucked itself, before plucking up the courage to commit suicide. Bird commits suicide? Not as farfetched as it sounds.

This photograph of “A Hen Chaffinch Hanged By A Hair” was made by the Kearton brothers (in the late 1890’s), who described it as “a most pathetic picture, and as the photograph was being made, the poor bird’s mate kept on calling for her and flying round in the most evident distress”.

This skeleton in the oven, it wasn’t the first distressed bird I’ve had in my flat. In the summer a thrush flew in, and also started “flying round in the most evident distress”. I tried everything (endeavored to blow it out with the hairdryer; catch it in my sleeping bag - like a big air-sock – thought the bird would feel an affinity with the 82% Siberian goose-down filling) but I couldn’t get rid of it. So I opened all the doors and windows and went out (it’s perfectly safe, I live on the second floor).

It was a warm day so I walked down to the Thames, where I witnessed a couple rowing, rowing. He called her a whore. It’s a wonder she didn’t stop rowing and slap him across the face with her oar. It would have been the perfect retort.

I left them to it and made for the charity shops. I bought this copy of “Practical Hypnotism”; not because I planned to hypnotize the poor creature (if it was still in residence when I returned) - purchased it (40p) because of the five dabs of glue on the first (blank) page; and who could resist a publication by “The Society Of Metaphysicians”?

The book didn’t appear to offer any advice on how to hypnotize birds; which is funny because there was a whole chapter on “Hypnosis in Animals”.  But in the chapter on “The Theory of Hypnotism” I came across this:

There's plenty of chalk in m flat, I could trace a magic circle around the bird. I set off home, reading as I went. But as I approached my block my newly discovered hypnotic confidence ebbed – I’m frightened of touching anything with feathers. I may be vegan, but I’m also chicken.
I had to be sure it had gone before I dare go in. So I decided to climb one of the big trees in the garden, the top of which is directly opposite my windows. As I became level with my sitting room, things looked optimistic - I observed the all clear. Then, to see into my bedroom window and have a clear view through to the hall, I teetered out along a horizontal branch. It’s a very odd experience, spying on your quarters – to be so connected-to, yet disconnected-from, your things. Larkin was right: “Home is so sad. It stays as it were left/Shaped to the comfort of the last to go/As if to win them back. Instead, bereft/Of anyone to please, it withers so,/Having no heart to put aside the theft…

All was quiet in the bedroom and I’d remembered to close the bathroom door. But just as I was thinking about making a descent, I saw it move - the silhouette of a bird perched on my pull-up bar in the hall. I suppose it was the obvious place for him to have gravitated to – only natural if you think about it. Then, as I looked more closely, he appeared to be pecking at the chalk residue on the bar between his feet: surely he couldn’t be feeding - recycling chalk into guano, on my perch/patch? 

At this point I became aware of a neighbour’s steely stare. Reluctant to take my eyes off the bird, I glanced down to see a woman, half hiding-behind, half pretending to be hanging the washing out. “Are you stuck? Do you want me to call for help?” she shouted (so loud the whole street must have heard). “No, I’m quite all right; I’ve just swapped places with a bird for a bit. I’ve lived in there for ten years (I gestured towards my window). The bird – he’s a thrush, local too I think; you've more than likely seen him up here where I am now. Well, he's in my flat for the time being, eating my chalk - it's possible to hypnotize them, you know - birds. No, I'm just keeping an eye on him – he's made himself quite at home - call it a house swap. No, so I thought I’d try his branch out. No, I’m very comfortable since you ask. No, everything’s hunky dory, really, don’t worry, we’ve just traded places for a while, that’s all.”