Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Curious Tiger

I feel the earth beneath my feet, damp and soft. It smells warm and familiar – comforting. My claws sink into the ground and I move quietly through the forest. I am not hungry; only yesterday I ate very well indeed. But today I want to walk through my domain and mark my territory.

I tread softly, for I sense a change. There is a tang in the air – a smell I do not recognise. I stand still and listen, my whiskers twitch forward, my mouth slightly open, my ears attuned to every crackle and creak. Standing still, I am invisible. Small birds and animals fly and scurry round me. They know who I am, and rightly fear me. That which is ahead of me is new, unknown, and I am cautious.

I am also a curious tiger, and instead of avoiding this uncertainty ahead, I move steadily forward. My presence is undetected, I am sure. The heavy forest air brings me scents I know and many that I do not. It is the unknown, which draws me.

I enter a small clearing and smell wood moke scented with the ripeness of burnt flesh, and of many other things I do not recognise. I am intrigued. I move closer and see a small fire in the clearing, but not fleeing through the forest as it may do on dry, dangerous days. It is controlled, restrained. I look carefully about: next to the fire is something I have never seen before. It smells of rotten plants. Next to that, is the monkey.

I call it a monkey for that is what it most closely resembles. It is decked in something that is not fur and does not seem to be a part of it. It smells of plant, and of bitter things that make me open my jaws widely so that I may detect their taint more clearly.

My ungoverned movement has given me away - the monkey has seen me! It stands with a strange stick in its hand as if in defiance. Puny creature! I lift my head – the stick exudes its own unique odour: It smells of wood, of the caves, and it the air about it tastes hard and sharp like the red rocks in the mountains.

The monkey is afraid. It waves the stick hesitantly in my direction and I can taste the odour of fear. This is reassuring; the creature is not so foreign, it fears me. Yet as well as fear there are many other smells and tastes that cling and cloy my senses – that of the creature itself, and many more that surround this strange animal. I decide that its signature is as distasteful as if it has dived into every kind of excrement it could find.

I gently pad a little nearer. The monkey sits down upon a rock, but has not stopped glaring at me, or pointing its stick - as if that might stop my progress! Its pale skin is damp, slick with sweat – in its fear. This is as it should be.

I do not wish to eat the monkey. But I am curious. I have heard of these creatures in the forest before. I have smelled their flesh-burning fires. I have tasted them upon the wind before. Like most, I have avoided them. But this is just one, on its own.

I move closer. The monkey is now shaking, trembling beneath my gaze like a found calf. Its legs have a very fine fur upon them, and each hair stands on end at my approach. Still it points the stick at me. Now I am nearer, I detect something else – further pungency from the stick: it stings my nose and I twitch in disgust. The stick smells hot, and it smells cold. It smells … of death.

I am now near enough to kill easily. But first, to try and understand this creature, I lick its nearest leg with my long rasping tongue. I can taste it completely now: Piss and sweat, strong, natural odours, combined with a myriad of other strange tastes that are sour and rancid. The creature shivers. It does not look nor sound like any monkey I know. I do not think it would be good to eat.

I look into its eyes, trying to fathom exactly what kind of creature this is? It has the tang of carnivore, yet is rank. I do not understand - as I look into its eyes I see nothing – no connection, no life behind its small, frightened white and blue eyes. It is almost like a dead thing. If I look at any other creature, or they look at me, we see that we are one. We know that whether we are predator or prey, we are all part of the same. We all know what we are and where we belong in this world. This creature – this upright, smooth skinned, foul tasting monkey – does not have a place.

With its acid taste lingering in my mouth, I yawn (for effect, I admit), and the creature waves its death stick at me again. At any moment it may fall back off its rock, its thin legs waving skyward – that would amuse me. But it does not. It just keeps watching me with those dead eyes. Bored, I turn my back on the thing – it is not worthy of my time or my interest.

I walk away, swaying my tail in contempt, letting the monkey see my strength and power. of course, it does not understand, it does not realise that I have given it the gift of its own life. that gift is a waste - I am sorry for such a thing that does not belong to the world.

My curiosity is satisfied. I move on, knowing that such creatures will not warrant any further investigation should they ever cross my path again.

(C) Carolyn Sheppard 2006

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dowse and out

I spent a few days in Mallorca recently and instead of coming home brown, I came home black and blue. Fell off (through) a ladder which wasn’t very clever. I did replace a roof tile and take down and chomp (ready for burning) around 30 dried palm fronds though.

I was only there for a few days, but long enough to make the place habitable for Sally for her last proper sojourn there as resident before she turns the casa over to Orlando’s children. I also managed to spend quite a bit of time watching two hoopoes in the neighbour's yard. Wonderful looking birds! The house, though, is too difficult for Sally to maintain, so it’s good that it is going back to Carlota and Robert now. There’s so much needs doing! Oh - and this was how the garden looked before we had a good tidy.

That’s why I was up a ladder, trying to clear the weeds off the bathroom roof, and that’s where I came a cropper as the ladder slipped its feet and I descended ungracefully and vertically through the rungs.

But black and blue notwithstanding, it wasn’t just Mallorca that prompted me to write this blog post today. I had an interesting couple of days this weekend too.

Firstly, I spent Saturday in Kingston helping out at a summer fair for the Aurora Health Foundation. This is a small local charity that works with people who were abused as children. It’s a valuable service and one that is desperately seeking funds, as are so many of these independent charities today. But they provide services that you can’t get anywhere else – counseling, complementary therapies, all sorts of things that the NHS can’t provide, even if they wanted to.

I spent my time singing mostly – sitting in the corner with my guitar and mumbling my music. I enjoyed the day not because of the singing, but because of the amazing atmosphere of cooperation and fun that there was. Everyone involved in the day was volunteering their services. What a nice bunch of people to meet. I also liked seeing the parakeets that are wild in that part of London. Noisy birds, but oh my, so colourful!

Late Saturday night my phone beeped at me. ‘Are you awake?’ – well I am now! My friends who had been to Glastonbury had been diverted and were near our house, could they stay over as they had to be back in our town in the morning? Well, of course.

So I set them up in my son's room, on his double bed. Meanwhile, an hour later (2am), Penni came by after a late night London gig. She stayed downstairs. So when my daughter came down in the morning, it was with some surprise to see five of us sitting down to breakfast.

The reason my friends were over our way was to visit Therfield Heath and go dowsing. I'd had a play with two dowsing rods and they wiggled wonderfully at the kitchen table! However, on the heath - where we had a very windy and slightly damp picnic - I was not so successful.

In an area on top of a huge water table, ripe with natural energy lines (St Michael's and Mary Ley lines go through our town, as does the Greenwich Meridian and two of the oldest Roman roads in Britain) I detected nothing. My pendulum did not swing except when caught by a gust of chilly wind, and my dowsing rods remained immobile in my frozen hands.

Looks like I'm not a natural dowser. The others in the group were tripping gaily over the ancient tumuli and planting little flags where they felt energy responses in the earth. And I wondered what it was I was missing - like being at a party and the only one sober, or in a room where everyone is speaking a different language.

I enjoyed it though - a different experience. As I wandered back across the heath to go home, there was a heavy metal rock band in a trailer playing to an audience of about three down by the sports club. There were dog walkers and children tumbling down the hills, rolypoly style. Kite fliers enjoyed the wind and the larks were christening the cool air with their melodies. Good thing that red kite I'd seen this morning wasn't around or they'd be dinner!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A long day

See these guys? You've heard of them. So, why are they in my blog? Well, it all starts with a rather ordinary day. I woke at 7, had a bath, and eventually got number one son out of bed by 10, when we were due to drive daughter to work and him to see his girlfriend in Birmingham.

All the way to Brum was easy. He and I had a nice chat, the traffic was easy. The Sat Nag took us up the M6 and then the M48 - not my preferred route, should have gone off the A46 to our particular destination. No matter, I like arguing with the sat nag.

I dropped Alex off, turned around and headed straight back. It was about 12.45 by then. Sat nag said 'go this way' - I ignored and headed for the A46. Then the A45. Wonderful! Then sat nag took me on to the M1. OK, I can cope with that.

Well, right up until we got to Silverstone I could cope with that. 'Slow, Pedestrians in Road' said the big overhead sign. What?! Well, we slowed just past the turn off for the services. We slowed, then we stopped.

Something was up ahead, and there was no turn off for us to escape. We waited for 10 mins, then 15. Most people turned their cars off then. The sun was beating down. Three lanes of stationary traffic. And not a bean in the other carriageway either. Whatever it was had closed the entire motorway.

30 minutes. An hour. We are out of our cars, wandering up and down, talking to eachother and seeing who was going to be late for what. Some motorbikes cruised down the gaps, irritated by the open car doors. But they didn't get any further when they got to the traffic stop which we could see in the distance. Flashing lights, just below a green bridge.

The beautiful sun beat down on the hot tarmac and hot children, dogs and other motorway creatures were seranaded by the muffled tannoy and achingly annoying permanent 'vroom' of the nearby racetrack.

Amazingly, no one lost their tempers. One story reached us that someone was on the bridge threatening to jump. Another said an accident, someone else said protestors. I don't know. But I do know that for two hours I was parked on Britain's busiest motorway, with several hundred others.

I stood in the fast lane. I chatted with various people, including a huge guy in a green tracksuit from the tour bus ahead. Yes, one of the Harlem Globe Trotters (I think he's third from left on the ground in this pic, but somewhat older and a little heavier now). I wish they'd got out and given us a show! Imagine the news coverage an impromptu show on a motorway would have gotten them. Instead we had kids playing football on the other carriageway, and an old man walking his dog. At one point we saw a cyclist heading full speed down the other carriageway (the wrong way). It was all getting rather surreal.

The Harlem Globetrotter guy was nice, from Washington. A bit worried as they had a show at Wembley at 6pm. Tomorrow was Belgium... Radio and internet reports said 'the M1 will be closed till 3.15. Till 4.15. Till 4.30...' Eventually the highway folks gave up. And for the first time ever we had to do a three point turn on the motorway and drive the wrong way back up the hard shoulder.

I didn't folow the diversion back onto the M1 -that was anightmare. I cut across to Northampton and then home that way.

I eventually got home at 6pm. That's a helluva long day for a simple round trip to Birmingham and back. - yup, it was a jumper! We thought we were having a bad day, hers must have been worse.