The Blackbird

January 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sometimes you just have to celebrate good news. You really have to hand it to the French, the way they took time out from their national pastimes of burning sheep’s carcasses in the streets, policing the anti-burka laws and their President Hollande dyeing his ever decreasing hair an ever more unconvincing shade of black. In the midst of all those demands they pulled together and magnificently managed the Paris Accords on global warming. I am rather fond of the Maldives, lovely people, beautiful scenery and stunning reefs. Okay, when I’ve been snorkelling there my neck ends up aching from constantly looking over my shoulder in fear of its terrifying, and stunning in an entirely different sense, marine monsters. Yes, it is great that due to the Paris Accords the Maldives are now less likely to be submerged under rising tides.

But for all that, politicians never seem to grasp the concept of the law of unaccounted for consequences. Most mornings I’ll go and sit in the back garden and watch the birds feed. It’s the middle of winter, the sky is blue, the daffodils are starting to push through and it’s one of the warmest winters on record. So, notwithstanding the Paris Accords, occasionally I’ll be sitting there, as I was this morning, drinking a cup of tea, and think “bugger the Maldives.”

Although they are there in summer, somehow garden birds stand out better in winter. An occasional shy heron glides between the trees unamused by the blue-tits, sparrows, finches and occasional robin that flock around the bird feeders hanging from the walls. A pair of blackbirds that inhabit our garden year round are my favourites though. The male is splendid, he flies down and struts around the lawn, his feathers a glistening blue-black and his orange beak held high with pride.

blackbird rspb images

He struts and struts until joined by his female mate, then he struts and struts some more. She is pretty unimpressive, her coat a dull brown, her feathers usually ruffled as if she is in a rush and her beak ragged and worn. I’m not too sure what he sees in her, she is so unexceptional she even has to take his name: Blackbird.

Mind you, for all his strutting, the Blackbird does little else; strut, strut, strut and that’s about it. In contrast his female mate is a whirl of activity. She flies down and first has a little wander around her strutting companion as if to say: “Looking good this morning, mate” then she’s off, scurrying around, constantly alert to the danger of neighbourhood cats, scavenging for food and, in springtime, debris for nests. Brave as well. Cautious yes, but not so much that she will not wander down towards me as she seeks out the overspill from the bird feeders. Her resourcefulness and intelligence can be irksome as when, during last summer, she discovered that the withered vine on the wall hid some grapes and one by one she stole them all. So I sit there and watch the strutting male and the endlessly energetic and resourceful female and think “Blimey, why do you let him get away with it?”

In the almost forgotten far off days when women were fighting for equality and, fair enough, men didn’t always give them their due, women would sometimes accuse men of aspiring to fast cars as some sort of symbolic penis extension. Totally untrue of course, but as I sat there this morning watching the Blackbird I couldn’t help thinking that if the little sod could drive, there would be wheelie marks all over the lawn. Inspired by my insight and capacity to construct a decent metaphor, I thought I’d pop indoors, have another cup of tea and draw up a blog post. First things first though, I had noticed that before she went out this morning my wife had taken the decorations and lights off the Christmas tree. She’d been pretty quiet as I guess she hadn’t wanted to wake me. I’m big and strong so I reckoned I could get the tree outside on my own, that way when she gets in from work she’ll be pleased as she will have free range to vacuum up all the needles left behind from the tree.

It’s good to strut your literary stuff and pull your thoughts together in a blog post. Before I post anything I usually run what I’ve written past a few people, oddly all women, all of whom in truth, are infinitely better writers than I am. There’s a friend, about my age, in England who I regularly send stuff to. One of the brightest, sharpest, literate and best informed people I’ve ever come across, she gives feedback that absolutely nails what I’m struggling to express (even if she is prone to overdo the hyphen!) And then my wife, she has a grasp of the English language that leaves me struggling, even without the strand of Australianism in me. After “I’ve bought you some new razor blades”, one of the most over used phrases in our house is “I think that the sentence would sound better the other way around.” My two daughters had also both outpaced me in any literary race before they entered secondary school. On the rare occasions when I persuade them to share anything they have written with me, it totally blows my feeble efforts away. My youngest daughter has just sent me a wonderfully witty and erudite poem she insists is as yet unfinished. I sat there all day, reading it again and again, thinking “Where did this come from?” and “How did you pull this off?” Even her word choice was a few literary light years away from anything I’ve ever managed. Strange thing about the four of them, not one of them ever publishes anything. They claim their writing isn’t good enough to be published, even more unbelievably, they reckon they just don’t have time!

So anyhow, I drift inside and start tapping away at the kitchen table. Time passes but I seem to have enough of it so I make another cup of tea and wander back outside to watch the birds. The blackbird has disappeared, I guess he’s tired and has gone for a rest. His dowdy mate is still scurrying around in the background, picking up seeds and poking her head under trees as she goes about what seems to pass for her daily business. It will be a shame if the Paris Accords kick in early and the poor Blackbird spends his winters shivering in his nest. His mate seems a good sort though, so perhaps she’ll find the time to collect a bit more moss to keep him warm. Perhaps the Paris Accords are not all they are cracked up to be. For a start they seem incredibly over complicated, twenty-five years of targets, plans and infinitely complex gobbledegook. Surely the obvious solution would be for all nations to agree one simple universal law. I’m pretty sure that if men could only purchase and drive cars with a horse power which was statutorily tied to the size of their penis, carbon emissions would reduce by 35% almost overnight and the Maldives would double in size over the next decade.

It starts to rain, no wonder the Blackbird has disappeared. I notice that the bird feeders are getting low so I’ll ask my wife to get some more seed the next time she goes shopping. She claims she is pretty busy these days, even if she does manage to fit in quite a bit between doing the housework, going to work, doing the shopping (I have been instructed at this point to add: “and the cooking!”) and calling in on her aged father. According to her, it’s demanding being the sole carer of an elderly man (I think she is referring to her father) but he’s not a bad old bloke, tries to keep the pressure off her, why, even when she is going through his paperwork with him he’ll sometimes say “this seems a bit complicated, perhaps I should ask your brother to help me with it.” For my part, I try and do my bit, I may even let her use my car when she goes shopping and picks up the bird feed. Not a bad car, a BMW getting on a bit (like me) but can still pull away first from the lights when it wants to (unlike me). Perhaps, on second thoughts, she should use her own car. There is always the danger that if she uses my car, as she goes past the local car dealership on the way to the shops, she will call in, rapidly conclude a good trade-in deal and part-exchange my BMW for a Hyundai i10.

So, to all the women I know and have ever known before, one simple question: “Blimey, why do you let us get away with it?”

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