Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Chronicles of EggBert

The Chronicles of EggBert

Baby birds are ugly. I mean well ugly. Only their parent’s could love them. Cuckoos are the ugliest of the lot because their parents dump them in someone else’s nest and disappear. Baby birds are ugly.I’m talking about those poor little mites that hatch naked, blind and utterly defenceless looking like something a child made out of Play Doh. EggBert Day 1

These two sparrows were slightly prettier when they arrived in my kitchen – but only slightly. Largely bald, with just the tips of their feathers poking through, they sat quietly in a covered basket to recover from the shock of plummeting from my neighbour’s eaves.

That’s the last time they were quiet.

For the last eleven days I have left my bed at 5am to blend a mixture of cat biscuits, water, mealworms, apple and vitamin powder into a gunky, smelly sludge and syringing it down their little throats. I do this every forty-five minutes or so until about 9pm. I am quite tired now and the incessant cheep-cheep-cheep coming from their ever open beaks is really quite nerve-shredding.

Egg day2.1

(And before anyone tells me off for holding the bird lest it becomes ‘imprinted,’ I could not get the little horror to gape for me.)

But all life is precious and deserves a chance and I could no more leave these guys to their fate than I can stop myself apologising when I hear and feel the tiny explosion of snail, and shell, under my foot on a dark, rainy night. So I nurse them. And I worry about them. And I teach them. And I let my niece name them EggBert. (I would not allow her to call them Jedward!) They eat, shit and grow. And cheep.

Egg day 2Bert day 2

But that’s not all they do. From the first day, Egg, the smaller, younger of the two, was easier to catch and to feed. Bert always played hard to get. He would not open his beak for me and escaped my clutches many times. On day three of our acquaintance, I had the following text conversation with my sister at 8am.

Help! Bert has escaped. He’s in the sofa!

Shit! is he OK? St F asked.

Yes but he’s in sofa. Can’t lift it by myself.

Just getting dressed then on my way.

 It’s OK. Got him with feather duster. Now fed and back in basket. Phew!

It’s lucky for Bert that Eric the Dobermann is no longer around because he’d have disappeared down the dog’s throat in a single gulp. Roger, had he bothered to get out of bed, would have stood frowning over Bert and looking worried.

The next morning I saw Bert fly for the first time. He was heading for the patio doors until I caught him. Two days after that, Egg got his first lift off. I felt so proud.

They spend their afternoons in the garden watching other sparrows on the feeder, while I keep an eye out for next-door’s cats, and their nights on my kitchen table. From a wicker basket lined with a fleecy pyjama top they’ve graduated to a huge rat cage via a friend’s cockatiel cage that St F wrapped in paper and duct tape because the bars were too far apart. And yes, before you ask, it was Bert that demonstrated how to escape that cage in less than fifteen seconds.


Today, a wet and boring Sunday, I took the brave decision to open the cage door. Only in the front room, of course. They are far too young to leave yet. – they aren’t fully weaned or feathered. I had visions of them getting into hard to reach places but, as it turns out, they couldn’t find their way out of the cage. I lifted them out and placed them on the top. My main idea was that they should exercise their little wings a bit. They can flutter about in the cage but the more they practice the better. That was the theory, anyway. Mostly they sat on the cage and cheeped at me. Their characters have swapped now. Egg is difficult one. He’s also a messy eater and usually ends up wearing much of his meal. Bert is getting that ‘puffed-up’ fledgling look and has adopted David Brent’s dance from The Office as a way of informing me that he’s hungry. Can you tell that I’m a little in love with them?


I don’t know how things are going to turn out for EggBert. I don’t even know what gender they are (or identify with) but I’ve given them the best I have to offer and I continue to socialise them with their own species in the hope that they will become successful and happy members of the sparrow community and raise lots of little hatchlings of their own.

In the meantime, I thank God that they are fast asleep now and  … quiet.

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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Nature



It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

I should have thundered north in an overcrowded, hot train but time, tide and finances were against me. Instead, my sister and I went to the beach and, just as the funeral was starting in Yorkshire, found ourselves a comfy spot on the pebbles at the tide line. Quietly, without drawing attention from the few holiday makers sitting around us, we built a small cairn around the flowers that I’d brought from garden.

Further up the Jurassic Coast, hymns were ringing out in a Methodist chapel in a town perched at the edge of the North Sea. Here, by the Channel, the sea sucked and sighed over the stones below us. Nature’s dirge to remind us that all will eventually erode.

She would have loved it here. The café hidden at the foot of the cliff, the sea, the red cliffs topped with the deep lush green that causes east coaster’s to catch their breath. Best of all she would have adored the beach huts. She had a thing about beach huts. She rented one every spring and autumn. How many times did we sit huddled in blankets discussing books, writers and the sex lives of people we didn’t like?  Not enough.

Cairn built, flowers fluttering in the breeze and an inscription on a stone, written in marker pen, I made a rambling speech to the sea about how I’d planned to come dressed up a bit but, on reflection, you and I were very similar in that most of our clothes came from charity shops and were well ‘lived-in.’ As long as we were clean and had brushed our hair at some point then that was good enough. Oh, and you had to have lippy on, of course. I spoke about you riding the comet behind Rufus and Betty and I cried. And that was it. Not showy, not loud, just heartfelt. I looked across at St F and she laughed. The cheap, council toilet roll that I’d swiped from the public loo had disintegrated when I’d wiped my eyes leaving me with white fuzz all over my face.

‘By the way,’ St F said. ‘I don’t belive Betty would allow Jenny on Rufus’ comet. I think she’d be jealous. Rufus was her best pal.’

We talked through a few alternatives and then went to the café for a coffee and a scone.

It definitely wasn’t showy, but it was a release. Distance doesn’t matter, I was there to see Jenny off in my own way and I’m kinda glad it turned out that way because I could be alone in my thoughts of her.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for teaching me about true friendship without even trying. That’s just the kind of girl you were and I miss you still.


For Jenny 2 For Jenny 1

And in case you’re wondering, I believe that Jenny has two comets by the tail and has hitched them, Boudicca-like, to her chariot and is racing Rufus across the heavens.

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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Family Life



That Was Foolish, Mrs

You led me to some dark places, Mrs. Most of them between the pages of a book, admittedly but, and let’s not tiptoe around here, there was your addiction to Freddo chocolate frogs. Malteasers were good but I imagine they were like Methadone is to a Heroin addict.

I remember so many afternoons in your front room at the table in the bay window, scoffing Freddos and trying to come up with penetrating critiques of modern art featured in the supplements – whilst simultaneously wondering how pissed the artists were when they painted them. Your daughter, Boggy, would look up from the TV where she was watching DVDs of The Crystal Maze and say, ‘You two are foolish.’

One must never be ‘foolish’ or ‘showy’, and there must never, ever be any ‘slacking.’ These expressions that Boggy had slipped into your family’s vocabulary as she was growing up, you generously shared with me and they have become part of my vocabulary too. As has ‘Terribly heppy.’ According to you, women in old black and white British movies could go from utter desolation to carefree jollity (or terribly heppy) just by applying some vivid red lipstick. You swore blind that your mother was just such a woman. It was how you always remembered her , in my presence. It’s how I remember you – you were never without your lippy when we went out. Though it was rarely bright red.

When my other half was being a …., I lodged with you for six months and painted every wall in your flat in lieu of rent. When I was broke, and you had money, you lent me a grand – just like that. When I moved back to the south-west, you stayed firm to our friendship and when I confessed I’d hit hard times, you were there.

Oh, the times I sent you filthy texts about a certain vertically challenged, older chap of our acquaintance! You always replied in kind. Boggy would not only think us foolish but rude too. She laughed anyway. I think she’s also a bit rude.

The last email I have from you, dated 1st July, is short and to the point but the previous one on the 30th June is long and chatty. I’d been helping you with a project and you ended by telling me not to spend too long on it because ‘life’s too short.’

Ah Mrs, you went to bed three days later and you didn’t wake up. That was way too short a life.

You inspired loyalty and deep friendship in a lot of people – from the people you went to uni with to my sister, who met you in passing, once. And yet, according to you, you bumbled through life humming, ‘de de de dededede’ and wondering where your next Freddo was coming from.

You introduced me to Wallander and Daphne DuMaurier and your ancient coffee percolator that was older than we were. All those times we timed ourselves doing The Times crossword whilst the percolator gently burbled in the hearth. We were crap but we loved the challenge. Life was never boring as long as our minds were able to hop, skip and flip from subject to subject and laugh at the world’s expense while we were at it. You even tried to teach me punctuation! And who’s going to edit my magnum opus now? I haven’t even written it yet and already you’ve bailed?

I miss you. Who will I email with my daft meanderings now?

I am a confirmed atheist but right now my heart and mind are one in picturing you, riding behind ST F’s cat, Rufus and Betty on the tail of a comet singing, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I hope that it’s true and I hope that as you roar across the galaxy you know there’s a corner of a west country heart that is forever yours.

Have fun, Mrs and be as foolish and showy as you like XXX

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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Family Life


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