Sunday, 21 April 2013

Pointless thoughts on a Spring day

Ah, I’ve just seen the first swallows of the season.  Two flew over my head, making a little chirruping call, so optimistic sounding.  The buzz of a miniature light aircraft (of sorts) passes by my ear at the same time: a large black and red bumble bee whose furry body looks too heavy for its wings.  It hangs low in the air, legs dangling, reminding me of a microlight.

And it makes me think of this song:

Squatting down on the path to pet the neighbour’s cat, who doesn’t seem to mind my somewhat absent-minded stroking, I'm distracted by tiny beasts busying themselves on the ground.  I let my focus adjust incrementally like a camera lens, zooming in to the microworld at my feet.  Ants, a cautious spider, a woodlouse.  I wonder what their view of the universe is like.  I attempt to envisage their surroundings from their perspective, like when you’re a kid and you lie on your back to look up at the ceiling, trying to imagine it’s actually the floor.  (I loved my fantasy topsy-turvy room with its window just above ‘ground’ level and white stippled plaster instead of carpet, an upturned lampshade sprouting from it like a futuristic sculpture.)  My mind idly follows this line of thought, just as my hand idly follows the curve of the cat's sun-warmed back.  How might that stone, that leaf, my foot, look to an ant?  And are we like mere ants in the vast garden of some other giant life-form? 

Oh, stop! 

Fortunately, the bee draws my attention away from this mind-boggling mental meander and instead to a dandelion, where it lands on the bright petals.  I like the fact that the name comes quite poetically from the French for lion’s teeth, ‘dents-de-lion’ – I guess that refers to the jagged-edged leaves.  The French themselves have a more blunt label for this plant: ‘pissenlit’ as in piss-the-bed, thanks to its diuretic qualities.   A good herbal remedy, apparently.  I've never tried it but  my childhood pet tortoise, Twinkle, loved eating dandelion leaves.  She frequently pissed on me too...  Maybe this was just desserts for when I sometimes used to wrap little string harnesses around her shell so I could watch her carry an egg box behind her like a horse with a (very lightweight!) cart.  Occasionally I'd set up small obstacle courses with objects to navigate around which, following that ant’s-eye-view-of-the-world line of thought, must’ve looked like some kind of Stonehenge equivalent to her.  However, in spite of this humiliation, and the pissing, she and I got on well, and she would come running (ok, maybe not exactly running…) from the flower beds when I called her name.  She was lovely.

And so my mind wanders on this sunny Spring Sunday: swallows, bees, dandelions... and a pissing tortoise. 

I think I'd better get back to work tomorrow...


  1. One of the strongest memories of my Grandmother when I was little (other than going to buy her and my great grandmother snuff)is of her picking up a tennis ball with an ant on it and explaining to me and my friend that, because the ant was so small, the tennis ball seemed flat to him. Just like the earth does to us.

    She might have made it through the sixth grade. She was crazy as an outhouse rat but, autodidact.

    1. She sounds a wise woman, e.f. and I love the ant analogy.
      I think my slightly unconventional lifestyle is taking its toll as I spend far longer than I should pondering the kind of questions for which there are no real answers. Hmmm...

  2. The garden is quite suddenly a torrent of activity isn't it? It's as if nature is going at double speed to make up for lost time due to the never-ending winter.

    Loved hearing about Twinkle, the pissing, but loyal, tortoise. It got me thinking about the pets my family had while I was growing up, budgies and cats mainly, and not always ours. We were like a safe house for waifs and strays. We did have a suicidal goldfish though. We came downstairs one morning to find him on the floor in the middle of the living room. It appears that he'd swum into the air bubbles being pushed up by the pump and was thrown clean out of the tank, poor bugger.

    1. That's so true - everything is growing like mad, I feel if I just sat and watched the grass for an hour I'd see it gain an inch!

      Oh no, your suicidal goldfish! You must have wondered how on earth it got onto the floor! Before you explained about the pump I was thinking one of your waif and stray cats might have been involved...

  3. I actually had a tortoise as well as various other reptiles and little furry things as I was not allowed a dog and they were all subsitutes I suppose...don't remember it pissing but it's poo was a strange white sort of stuff....weird!

    1. Sounds like you had quite a menagerie there, OPC. Oh now you've reminded me about the white poo... a bit like bird-poo isn't it? (Oh the things we talk about, eh...)


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