Monday, 10 June 2019

The birds! The birds!

Birds! Large, black, raucous birds! Rooks or crows or jays or all three together! There are masses of them in our neck of the woods! We see them flying around and Phil comments, without fail, “Flying school!” regardless of the time of year and whether or not there are any young ones involved.

And that is where they should be: flying around outside! Not inside my house!

Now, everyone has something that gives them the heebie-jeebies. Some people can’t stand spiders. My grandson cannot abide wasps; all his courage disappears and he becomes a quivering wreck. Me, I can catch spiders, even large ones, and throw them out at the bottom of the garden, as I have boasted only recently. I am a pretty good wasp dispatcher as well. My kindness towards spiders does not extend to wasps. I have been told lately that I should not squish hem as they are as valuable as bees in the pollinating business. However, I find them much more annoying than bees and far less inclined to let themselves be trapped in jars and transported outdoors. So squishing it has to be.

But things that flap give me the willies! Butterflies I can just about cope with. Moths, which are stupid and seem to fly deliberately towards people, give me the jimjams, but over time I have trained myself not to panic. In a supreme act of bravery I have accompanied the grandchildren into the bat cave at Chester zoo. Pigeons taking off in front of me cause me to shudder and I have to force myself not to scream in horror. You can imagine my reaction to seagulls and pigeons on the terraces of Spanish bars.

But birds indoors are, for me at any rate, the stuff of nightmares!

When we first viewed our house, well over thirty years ago, there was a very old-fashioned gas fire in the living room. In the romantic flush of relative youth we decided to get rid of it and replace it with an open fireplace - coal and logs and such would provide our cheer. And, in addition, we installed, or rather had someone else install for us, a coal-burning stove in the basement kitchen to run the central heating. When the coal-burning stove eventually packed in we had gas-fired central heating put in. Several years ago now we gave in and bought a very realistic-looking electric-powered fire to go in the fireplace in the living room, effectively blocking it.

What has all this to do with large, black, raucous birds? You might well ask.

About twenty years ago, when our daughter and her small daughter were living with us, I set off for work as usual somewhere between 6.30 and 7.00am. All was well. About an hour later our daughter brought her daughter down for breakfast and found a crow, or a rook or a jay, sitting in the fireplace with its baby. She did not panic, as I most assuredly would have done, but retreated upstairs to alert her father to the situation. He came down and calmly opened the living room window as wide as possible and amazingly the bird and its young flew out.

That was bird invasion number one.

A few years ago, while Phil and I were away in Galicia, our daughter, accompanied by the same daughter as before, now in her mid-to-late teens, popped in to check that the the house was fine. It clearly wasn’t. Things were knocked over in the living room but it did not really look like a burglary. Further inspection revealed a certain amount of soot and bird droppings. But no sign of a bird. On going upstairs they discovered a similar sort of mess in the main bedroom. But again no sign of a bird. Like angels, they cleared up the mess and eventually found a poor dead rook, or crow or jay, in a corner of the bedroom. They cleared him up too.

That was bird invasion number two.

One summer, after the installation of the electric fire and thus the blocking of the fireplace, our daughter and her partner came round, again in our absence in Galicia, and heard flapping and squawking behind the fire. Armed with large shopping bags, they gingerly moved the fire and successfully caught a large, black bird, rook or crow or jay, and sent him on his way into the great outdoors.

 That was bird invasion number three.

Yesterday granddaughter number two complained that she had heard a noise behind the fire. It was only hailstones tumbling down the chimney. She did, however, put a hex on the place for this morning it was plain that bird invasion number four had taken place. I was up fairly early as I had an appointment for a dental check-up. Having some breakfast in the basement kitchen, I distinctly heard a squawk, the kind that rooks or crows or jays make. But this one appeared to come from inside the house. Somewhat freaked out, I steeled myself to go up to the living room and check. No sign of anything but a certain amount of noise from behind the electric fire. It was still too early to wake Phil so I put up a fireguard and placed a moderately heavy coffee table in front of the fireplace in the hope that whatever was there would not be strong enough to shift the barricade.

And then I went out. A couple of hours later, my dental appointment over, I phoned Phil and mentioned, en passant, that there was bird in the chimney. Which he had already discovered, of course, but which he had decided to leave where it was as a problem for us to solve together.

On my return home, I spent some time working in the kitchen as I could not bear to sit in the living room and hear the scrabbling and squawking. In the meantime, my hero and knight in shining armour had consulted the great god Google and found instructions on How To Remove A Bird From A Chimney Or Fireplace. And so we carefully moved the fire and managed to drop a towel on top of the by now exhausted bird, clearly a young crow or jay or rook. Phil scooped him up and dropped him out of the window, whereupon the bird flew away. 

Quite traumatised, we had to have tea and cake!

The thing is that after bird invasion number three we spoke to the builder next door and ascertained that he would be able to fit a cage over the chimney pot.

We know that around here rooks, or crows, or jays, whatever, like to nest on or in or next to chimney pots. And the young are daft, like all young creatures, and are prone to falling in. The builder next door assured us he would cap the pots. He has not done so and as he promised to do it free of charge I did not like to nag.

I did hear that he has been suffering from vertigo, not a good ailment to have when you plan to do roof work. I know a good do-it-yourself cure for vertigo as I have helped Phil to overcome the problem. It involves moving the head around a certain way in order to perform what the website calls “rolling the stones”, shifting bits of crystal that get into the ear canal and cause dizziness. Who knew we had crystals inside us!?

While I have no intention of helping the builder next door to “roll his stones”, I think I need to ask him once again about putting a cage on our chimney pots.

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