Tuesday, 28 January 2020

About monsters!

We were walking towards our house the other day, my daughter, her three year old, the baby and me, when the three year old stopped and declared that she was going no farther as there was a monster at Grandma’s house. Nonsense, we told her, there are no monsters at Grandma’s house. And then we spotted the tail hanging down from the garden wall, the tail she had seen before us as it was pretty much at her eye level.

We soon realised that her “monster” was a pheasant but the little girl took some persuading to continue walking. The bird hopped down into the garden and walked along in that stately way pheasants have, giving the little girl a chance to admire his plumage from a safe distance. No longer afraid, she declared him “too cute”.

Looking out onto the back garden later, as the evening drew in, we saw that the pheasant was now perching in a tree. Aren’t pheasants flightless? queried my daughter. Well, clearly not, but I could see where she was coming from. Like chickens they seem to have a body much too bulky to permit much more flight than a few yards or, evidently, a flap up into the tree. And there he sat, like an oversized wood pigeon, who also look as though they are not built for flight but clearly have no problems with it.

The heron, on the other hand, a bird we regularly startle into flight from his peaceful fishing spot in the river, has a splendid wingspan and a skinnier body. He is quite magnificent when he takes off over our heads.

By the time I looked out next morning our “monster” had already taken off. No monsters in my garden. 

If only all the monsters the small girl might come across in life could be so easily explained away. 

Monsters of one kind and another keep us all awake at times. Here is an article about sugar and sleep.   As with all such articles it gives you a bit of science about mysterious things like tryptophan, found in beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains and poultry. Apparently, “Tryptophan helps to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, known as the ‘happy hormone’. One of the things it does is prepare you for sleep.” Who knew?

So, the article asks, what should those who have late-night food cravings eat? “Certain plants are seen to have a sleepy effect – lettuce, for example. A turkey and lettuce sandwich on wholegrain bread would give you slow-release carbohydrates from the bread, tryptophan from the turkey, producing your serotonin, and the soporific effect from the lettuce.”

Long ago I used to read the Peter Rabbit stories to my children. In one of the stories the small rabbits get into Mr McGregor’s garden and eat his lettuces, whereupon they fall asleep and are captured by the dreaded gardener (the “monster” of the story.

I always thought Beatrix Potter had invented this soporific affect just for the purposes of her story. I may have been doing her a disservice all these years.

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