It always takes a while to settle in when you move into a new house. There are so many new things to notice and work out. The walls creak differently at night, the heating system is usually incomprehensible, and there are switches you dare not press*, as you don’t have the foggiest what will happen if you do.
When we moved just a few streets away into our current house, it was extremely exciting. We went from an old-woman-who-lived-in-a-shoe-situation (so many children, we didn’t know what to do, and certainly not enough rooms to put them all in), to space galore and a large garden to boot. It was amazing. Even the landing was big enough to roll around on, and after school we often did just that. The quiet calm of a house lived in by just one couple since the 60s (with no children!), was suddenly shattered by our messing about and silly games. It’s a friendly house, though, with a smile in its bones (as evidenced by the extraordinarily jolly swirly carpets), and it quickly got into the spirit.
One of the first things I noticed in the glorious new garden were the birds. Because the previous inhabitants had been quiet, watchful, kind and gentle people, the garden was full of birds, and wildlife of all shapes and sizes. It helps that we’re next to the railway (another thing we loved!). The railway cutting is like a wildlife reserve through which trundles sedately a train on the branch line every half an hour. A varied selection of undisturbed British wildlife is right there, just over the fence.
Of course, a fence is nothing to a fox, and so we look up from our dinner almost daily to see one sauntering through, sometimes with her babies in tow. Woodpeckers drill, and dig for ants, and bees buzz from one buddleia to the next without heed of any garden boundary. Long may it last. The crows who used to live in the tall trees next to the railway have moved house themselves, and now dominate our cedar tree, high up at the top. The colourful jays that search for acorns in the oak tree on the other side of the fence are regular visitors, and indeed one year worked together with the magpies to raid the nest of Mr and Mrs Wood Pigeon. We’d watched the lovers diligently building their home in the flowering clematis in the birch tree for days. How pretty it was! We were monitoring it closely, with mounting anticipation. But, disaster struck. A scuffle in the trees one breakfast time – two chattering magpies and a pair of screaming jays set to work, the nest was no more, and all the hard work of Mr and Mrs Wood Pigeon came to nothing.
That tree keeled over in the storms last Winter, so this year there is no nesting place, no clematis, and no romantic wood pigeons. We still have the magpies though – insouciant, cheeky, supercilious birds who parade around on the lawn, being superior.
I like to sit on the floor with the cats, in the safety of the kitchen, as the magpie comes right up to the glass and with one beady eye, lets them know just how stupid he thinks they are. They are astonished by this show of arrogance and usually creep closer to me for protection, all the while growling at the enemy with brows furrowed and fluffed up tails like feather dusters.
Daft cats! They are such babies. Although they do have a point. I’m rather scared of him myself. I’m sure it’s that magpie that sits on the roof and tells rude jokes down the chimney pot, just to make me jump.
*We still have a switch like that! I’m going to press it when Donald Trump invades North Korea, in the hope that it’s an ejector switch.
In other news, I had my hair chopped!