Keeping a lid on things. Nymphea in the garden and sundry Frenchmen.

We  have nurtured and protected goldfish in our garden pond for many years. Many visitors have delighted us there also, an industrious wren, robins, sparrows squabbling with the starlings, blackbirds bathing together among the lily pads and occasionally a bejeweled dragon fly. None of these have ever interfered with our goldfish except to nick some of their food. There was a net to discourage the heron but he mastered the vertical take off and landing. Our ghost koi disappeared. The net got taller and unsightly to a point where we couldn’t see the fish or the flowers. It was like a shabby nomad encampment. We settled for a lid. It kept the heron at bay but it depressed the lilies. The heron gave up on us and went back to his solitary vigil in the rock pools. We became careless, like the nymphea. We left the lid off. It was off for a year. The heron never came back.

Claude Monet might have sniffed at our small spread of water lilies. They take their time. For a few months of summer they probe upwards from the depths, more than a dozen at any given time, a little patch of Amazonia in our back garden. Adam in his garden probably named them, as he tried to name every creature on the earth, but the Greeks  saw them as beautiful water nymphs. I’m ok with that. Monet would have given a little Gallic shrug, ‘Zut alors!’ and gone back to his  great work. Candide would would have gone back to cultivating his cabbages. Erich Cantona would have muttered something cryptic about seagulls.

I’m with Erich on that. Seagulls are the original snappers up of unconsidered trifles. They can out-eat all competitors in the garden or anywhere else. They soar. They cruise. They watch .”Why do they follow the fishing boats?” asked Erich. He was speaking metaphorically about journalists. “Because they know that sardines will be thrown overboard.” That’s fine too, as long as they open the tins themselves and dispose of them responsibly. I like sardines, but not in our pond.

Anyway these are herring gulls. Their job is to chase the herring fleet and scavenge behind the boats. They can squabble with the fishwives and gutties on the quaysides. Sooner them than me. It’s a question of definition. In recent years they have branched out, abandoning their traditional trade. They have moved inland, preferring rubbish dumps and dustbins, not to mention wayside cafés and outdoor diners. They are thieves and brigands at heart, not honest fishermen. Our few fish are goldfish, a breed of carp. Freshwater fish. Perhaps I’m being koi. Have you ever heard of a carp gull? A shubunkin gull? A black-molly gull? I rest my case.

Our grandchildren witnessed the crime. On Saturday last a seagull dive-bombed the pond. He grabbed the biggest goldfish and swallowed it live. They gave us graphic descriptions of the culprit. I’m sure I could pick him out from a line-up. The next time I see those hooligans congregating at The Brook, I shall confront him and issue a stern warning. If I were a younger man I would administer a kung fu, Cantona style, flying kick and put him to flight. Meanwhile the lid stays on. No more topless bathing, malheureusement, for the nymphs.

Advertisements

The Birds are Back in Town. WAGS and The Spice of Life.

seagulls at the Brook 2014 012

The making of laws, observed Bismarck, and the making of sausages, should not be too closely examined. The Germans know a thing or two about sausages, as do the Italians. Think for a moment on what constitutes a sausage. No, don’t. Just enjoy it. The film 1900  has a memorable scene in which a pig is slaughtered, dismembered and re-assembled into hams, bacon, joints, brawn, crubeens and sausages. Every component of the original animal, every component, was used.  It would be a grave discourtesy to the animal to throw any of it away.  As to sausages, it’s all in the seasoning. I saw a headline in a newspaper yesterday: A spicy diet guards against dementia. Job done. I love a good sausage. (Latin botulus)

Did you ever dismember a golf ball?  With The Ryder Cup in full swing, I am reminded of how we used to peel a golf ball to get at the  miles and miles of rubber inside. Miles and endless miles of mini catapults and that was without even stretching. Inside that again were a few miles of broad rubber band, a flaccid version that was good for nothing. At the very core was/is a small balloon of deadly poison, a bacterium, a living organism that swelled and grew, constantly reinforcing the tension of the outer skin. Considering the treatment meted out to golf balls, it’s not much of a life. Is it?  Don’t touch that. You’ll die. At least run it under the tap before you try to blow it up. Those balloons won’t blow up. They are no use for anything except for imprisoning bacteria. I threw an old golf ball into the fire. It writhed and squirmed. A hissing reptile emerged from its shell and bombarded me with a blizzard of burning scraps. The golf ball’s revenge.

seagulls at the Brook 2014 017

As children we went down to the harbour when the trawlers came in. The fishermen always put up a box of fish for the lads. The harbour master always chased us away. “Get off the quay. Get off the quay.”  He actually said ‘Kay.’   “Get off the kay.” It has a ring of authority about it. I recall the cold of winter evenings and the pain of the string  when you carried a hank of  ‘whitenin’.  If you were lucky you had the comfort of a bike. You could drape the hank over the handlebars. The handlebars were freezing too. Most of all though, I remember the gulls, screeching and wheeling, emerging from darkness, yellow in the trawler lights and disappearing again, to squabble in the water over scraps and fish guts. The gulls bred on the islands. They knew their place. They swarmed after the boats, as press men swarmed after Eric Cantona. (He is a poet, fond of a good metaphor.) For a couple of decades the gulls moved into town. They nested on the houses, with broods of squealing chicks.  They white-washed the roofs in dry weather. They bullied cats away from their food and stalked imperiously around the bins. They became commuters, from one dump to another, from Ballealy to Dunsink and Kill in Kildare, crossing and re-crossing the flight paths to the airport, without a care for their own safety or that of anyone else, thinking only of their own gratification. Jet-setters. But always they came,  impeccable as golf WAGS, in their white suits, to The Brook at low tide. How can they stay so clean, given the nature of their work? The gulls, that is, not the WAGS.

Nokia july 2014 042

Then came botulism, dodgy sausage disease, bad food disease. If you dine out in low dumps, what can you expect? Clostridium botulinum. Dammit. Those sausages are ‘on the blink.’ I meant to cook them days ago. No amount of alchemy by Olhausens, Haffners, (clever Germans), or even Dennys, Kearns or the wizards of Clonakilty, can ward off that sinking feeling, that fruity whiff of a deceased sausage, that ruined breakfast. Not even the iron constitution of the sea gulls could withstand botulism. Their numbers dwindled spectacularly. They became, for a few years, rare birds indeed. Even the Iron Chancellor, a thrifty man, would not have endangered his health to a superannuated sausage. That would be the wurst fate imaginable. He wore a military uniform because he could get one free. He had a pickelhaube, a spiked helmet. I always wondered what he put on the spike. A pickle? A sausage? Nah!

On the other hand, if you are feeling bedraggled and worn down by age, you might consider spicing up your life with the miracle of botox treatment. Botox is a derivative of botulism. It is.  I understand that the sausage meat is injected into the areas in need of an uplift, eyebrows, sagging cheeks, scraggy necks and all points south. Get it into you. You’ld be mad not to. You will look swell.  The seagulls are back at The Brook, in greater numbers than I can ever recall. A man with a golf club, put them all to flight yesterday. A great golfing spectacle.