Bird Life

Everyone should clear out things they have not worn or read or paid any heed to for more than a decade. It’s oh so easy to hang on to things because they evoke the feelings of another time or an event. There comes a point though, when the original moment has long passed and the feelings they evoke are the feelings you had last time you considered showing them the door.

There is no particular reason why I should have hung on to my O’Level biology notes for more than thirty years. They evoke no other feelings beyond the embaressment I felt, as me and the remaining members of my all male year group, learnt about reproduction. This may have possibly been surpassed by the terror of a bucket full of earth worms being handed round for dissection. The chief architect of the worm terror incident knows who he is. The notes were for the bin.

Along with yellowing biology notes were a large pile of books on British birds, a legacy from my Uncle who was a keen twitcher. I kept them in a vain attempt to teach myself a bit about birds because I have never seen a bird and have always been curious. It never happened.

The limit of my bird knowledge is culinary. I know how to take a chicken apart and where bones and fat are located. Pheasants on the other hand are a little bit more complicated. My Father used to kill them, gut them and put them in the post to me. This came to an abrupt end when I went to collect my pheasant from the post office. There was a small mishap as the package was handed across the counter. A trail of blood was left in its wake. Her Majesty’s Royal Mail takes a dim view on packages that leak blood and gave me a stiff talking to about sending body parts through the post.

I doubt that gutting a pheasant is something that I could achieve without the gift of rather more visual acuity than I have, so I limit myself to the breast meat. To remove this, sight is not required, merely a sharp knife. My experience is that you need a feel for what you are doing. What goes on in the privacy of my kitchen though, has not always resulted in the best of outcomes in public.

Outside the pheasant enclosure at London Zoo, the son, who was strapped into his pram at the time, leant forward and pointed and exclaimed loudly, “Oh look Mummy, Pheasant. Delicious.” I couldn’t tell you where the gaze of the surrounding public fell next or whether looks could have killed, but we beat a hasty retreat.

I once had a cat who was afraid of a huge pigeon that lived in a tree at the end of the garden. She would stand at the kitchen door and mew her despair. I never did see that bird but the cat never failed to signal its presence.

On a trip to Scotland, I spent a day sitting in a hide, from where it was possible to see all kinds of wildlife if you had the sight for it. I have no idea why I agreed to go. My companion and I spent a miserably cold day, sipping bottled water and whispering, while flocks of birds descended and ascended before us. I never saw a single one of them. In an effort not to embarrass either one of us, because I was in too deep now, I echoed his appreciation of the drama he observed and the blank canvas I was facing.

Who knows why it is that I agreed to such a ridiculous notion as bird watching for blind people. Perhaps we were both complicit. My friends wanted to go bird watching so just put the obvious impediment to this out of his mind. I thought that being generous would make us both happy. So we went bird watching. It did not make me happy and my misery leaked out to fill the atmosphere.

 

Other than the ones I have eaten and the odd blob passing by, I never have seen a bird, but I get the general idea. One last look at “Birds of the British Isles” reminds me that I’ve lived my entire life without birds. It’s not a space that needs filling with old books.

These days I’d scoff at such a ridiculous idea as bird watching, but there are probably all kind of other things that I’d agree to do, if I thought it might make someone I care about happy. I once went star gazing because I knew it would bring pleasure to the person I went with. Stars are definitely beyond the final frontier and remain a mystery.

I love trying new things but I’m better in setting my boundaries. I definitely draw the line at pigeon and Opera, both of which are best avoided however much I may want to please others.

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