You know the life balance isn’t going that well when seven out of ten of your best friends are not the same species as you. On bad days, I’m seeing this as an alarm call. On good days, I recognise the fact the those allegedly further down the life-tree than me are much easier to understand than an Acer downloading process.
My two closest pals here are Percy and Pamela pigeon. They nest in one of the tall Swedish conifers I have next to the pool plage. (Don’t you just love it when I parody Jeffrey Archer’s fiction style?) Last year, one of their fledglings fell out of the nest and I fed (it?) on insects and worms for three days. Pam kept flying down to check I was doing a good job. I don’t think she was that impressed really: by the third day, Mrs P was forcing her own premasticated worms to the young ‘un; I’ll make an effort with animals, but I draw the red the line before chewing worms. This is something about which Alexis Tsipras and I are in entire agreement: I won’t have people calling me a masticater, and I’m sure he feels the same way.
The Wolfgannext day, something – a rat, maybe a fox – dined on the poor little chap. The fledgling, not Tsipras. Although having written that, I find myself debating who’s who when it comes to Wolfgang Schäuble and Jeroan Diddlebloomers; on balance, I’d say fox and rat respectively.
Anyway, Percy and Pam bonded with me about the death of their little one. They sit on my telephone wire preening each other in between the carriage trade of small twigs for the new nest. The rest of avian life here legs it the minute I open the kitchen door, but the Pigeons at No 2 the Conifers just sit there. When I’m in the hammock at the bottom of their tree, they show their gratitude by shitting on me. All cultures are different; one has to take account of this.
My new best friend is a dark brown bordering on black rabbit. Clearly, he isn’t wild: he’s obviously an escaped pet. And before the Wimmin get on my handbag, I’m using the masculine form here because Reggie (as I’ve christened him) is as daft as a brush and doesn’t help with the housework…so he has to be a bloke.
He’s daft because, when caught trying to burrow into the new terrace – and faced with Ben Gunn waving his arms about while yelling “Get off my creation you ****ing sh##!!!se” – he just sort of looks at me. I can almost hear him thinking, “Oh well, I suppose that’s the downside of care in the community”.
I’ve asked around en ville whether any of the local kids are a rabbit short of a menagerie, but it seems not. This will, of course, have firmly established me as the local sicko kiddy-fiddler, but as the French government has more sense than to let dribbling Australian tabloid pornographers into its media community, the chances are I’m safe for the time being. (‘Weirdo preyed upon innocent children using rabbit to fulfil his evil bestial appetites’).
Not so much a friend more the vocal cabaret is my resident nightingale. I’m using the singular here, but I suspect by now there’s more than one pair. The chap who sings during the early morning and late afternoons is a sort of yodeller in the Frank Ifield mould (how these references date me) and no Sisters, this is not further evidence of my incurable misogyny, just a simple fact of natural science: lady nightingales don’t sing: they’re too busy asking Basil Nightingale if he’s put up the Moosehead yet.
Moving beyond animal life, particularly close chums are the two courgette plants at the far end of what’s going to be, in due course, the world’s most eclectic herb garden. The great thing about yer courgette, right, is that unlike cherry, hazelnut and prune trees, you don’t suddenly find enough Vitamin C to last until 2034 ripening all at the same time: if watered regularly but not copiously, the zuchinis pop out at daily intervals to become one of the Daily Five or whatever the healthy mantra is these days.
And last but by no means least, I have Mr & Mrs Redvers Squirrel in residence at No 6 The Dormer Windows. Having decided to set up home within easy jumping distance of the main walnut tree, the couple are not seen much during the day at the moment, as they spend the entire night shagging. Either that, or they enjoy using each other as a trampoline; I’m not an expert on the private life of Squirrels.But as they’re directly above my bedroom, I can comment with reference to the nocturnal noise levels.
What I do know is that their alertness and bravery in the face of magpie and jay attacks earns my respect. Watching a red squirrel going about its business always leaves me feeling I’ve been watching an undercranked movie: every cocked ear and nasal sniff seems to take place at impossible speed.
So there it is….my odd circle of friends. But on examining Twitter this evening, I am pleased to note that it’s not just me. Ed Miliband is tweeting about an art house movie he’s just seen: it sounded to me like an afternoon matinee, and he wasn’t with a bunch of mates. Tonight, Tsipras and Juncker are meeting for talks…which shows what a pair of Billy Nomates they must be if the best they can come up with on a Saturday night is talking to someone they don’t even like.