I■t EVERY DAY I go
round the garden serving the birds crumbs and nuts and tasty little morsels of this and that. Once I gave them a big bit of Christmas cake because there wasn't any bread. I have been told that the unfortunate Marie Antoinette did not suggest giving the populace gateaux, but croissants (which makes her seem less idiotic and casts an entirely new light on French history).
Back in the present, I have been observing the behaviour of our feathered friends and it's not good. We have a multitude of tits and what they all have in common is appalling manners. They are greedy and selfish with a most regrettable tendency to commit acts of needless violence. They are given quite enough food to go round but each one wants it all for himself and offers a deplorable example to the children.
I was talking about this to my friend Dee and bitterly recalling the seagulls of Camden Town who begin quarrelling like fishwives before the sun is up, when one of them comes shrieking down the road making a noise fit to wake the dead. Dee said gloomily it always reminded her of Maria Callas at her worst.
The sheep, too, are still behaving oddly. They are female and pregnant, but instead of being calm and serene in respect to their imminent maternity, they are viciously ill-tempered and unpredictable, butting and leaping on each other and suddenly racing round the field as though there were a wolf in the fold.
WolveS, I believe, are nicer to each other, showing consideration when one of their number is wounded or unwell. The farmer's wife says the sheep cannot be held totally responsible for their actions since they are not only dreadfully dumb but short-sighted as well. She was bringing home an ailing lamb to put in the oven on a low heat, not to roast but to revive it and she was encouraging its mother to follow. If she walked too swiftly and moved too fast the mother sheep forgot what they were supposed to be doing and turned back, pausing occasionally to eat grass.
When they finally made it back to the farmyard the farmer's wife put the lamb down for a moment and its mother started jumping up and down on it. The farmer's wife, a tolerant soul, made allowances for this abhorrent behaviour, but it is not endearing. One wonders whether St Francis was perhaps a little unobservant or, being a saint, was so full of charity that'he was untroubled by the aggressive aspect of the birds and animals. The only one I feel any sympa thy for at present is the woodpecker, a solitary creature who does not engage in strife but pecks away at the nuts and occasionally the wooden sill through force of habit I suppose. Despite my new found reservations about the animal kingdom I am missing Basil the cat. Since he is a town cat he wouldn't like it in the country and would find it unsettling. If I didn't want a kitten, people in all the valleys would be trying to press one on me. As it is, I put the word out and got no response.
Maybe the cats have fallen out with each other. t