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Friday, March 24, 2006

Animal behaviour

One day Granny and Beloved owned five brown hens. Next day the five hens had turned, mysteriously into six brown hens. Neighbours have been quizzed... 'te falta una gallina morena?' -have you lost a brown hen? All deny it. The sixth brown hen remains. But since the other brown hens despise and reject her the way females of all species know how, she has had to be put in with Daisy, the speckledy hen, and her fearsome black spouse Damien-Daphne, him of the previously uncertain gender (no longer.) Judging by the marks on new brown hen's neck Damien-Daphne is enjoying his extra wife.

Is that enough for D-D? No, of course not. One day he was shut in his quarters, the next he was to be found in the brown hen's quarters along with their spouse the white cockerel, Colin. The fight between them was not seen. But where one day there were two fine unbloodied, unwounded cockerels down in the separate chicken runs, the next day both were in the same run, covered in blood, their combs somewhat raggedy. Hard to know which came off best/worst. The white cock looked the bloodier but then he would; the blood showed more on him. 'They could have killed each other,' said Mr Handsome in a delighted voice. 'Cocks do kill each other, you know.' Granny and Beloved did know. But this time these cocks didn't. They do continue trying to out-crow each other. That's something cockerels do too.

The walls/fences between the pair have now been reinforced. The hens continue to lay eggs, and the police have not yet been round; they will be round. Because of bird flu they are checking everyone. In due course, probably, the chickens will no longer be allowed to roam the land, terrorising the Tiresome Terrier. (Though the TT has never been known to be frightened of anything, Granny is delighted to see she gives both cockerels a very wide berth. They are the first animals ever to have her measure. GOOD) When the chickens are no longer able to forage for themselves, the stove in Granny's kitchen will be still fuller of large saucepans with mysterious and strange smelling contents; a process known by Beloved as 'generating chicken food.' (If this is such an effort, God knows how he thinks he's going to feed a donkey.)

At least, on that one, Granny now has a male botanist on her side. (And a female, but that's not quite the same when it comes to Mr Handsome.) The horticulturalist said to her last week. 'You' ve got some interesting stuff on your land. You should protect it. Goats/donkeys wouldn't be good for it. Driving a truck on it degrades it fast....' Mr Handsome can't call the horticulturalist 'soft' - the way he did Granny when she remonstrated about the truck. The horticulturalist's a man isn't he..? It's his job isn't it...? He and Beloved both have to take notice of him. Granny is quite happy to get off her feminist high horse on this one, and just be grateful.

She meantime has finished her Spanish course. Can she speak fluent Spanish now? Can she understand every word said to her? Don't ask. Spanish to her is still like sailing in a boat over a sea under which at times she can dimly define shapes of rocks, a bed of sand; sometimes - occasionally -what's down there beneath that sea of language is almost clear. Still more occasionally a whole rock leaps up out of the sea, it's like her own language at last. Then it vanishes. She can't see anything at all; continues to float in an opaque sea of total incomprehension, total silence. No linguist she.

Beloved claims to have had a student once who went off every summer vacation to another country to learn another language; and after two months came back speaking it. LUCKY HIM.

Both her cats are now neutered. (Spanish is quite brutal and open about it: 'castration' is the word used. ) One continues to sneeze. As for Granny herself on Sunday she has to go back to London for a week. Someone, in theory, is trying to buy her London flat. Most likely by the time she gets there the someone will no longer be trying to buy her London flat. That's what selling houses/flats in England is like; cock fights can't generate more blood, more wounds. The most seemingly nice, honourable people turn into fiends of unreliability, slipperiness, venality; claws, beaks showing. A veritable cock pit. Ouch.
(She should have waited to buy her ticket till the matter was certain? Of course. But at this time of year getting off/on the island is more difficult than extracting yourself from Wormwood Scrubs. She had to take her chance of tickets and grab them. On the spot.)

And talking of beasts. Here is one currently disporting himself in Beloved's kitchen rockpool, being fed on green seaweed. For some reason it has to be green. But at least Beloved doesn't feel obliged to cook that.

Meet Mr - or Mrs - or even possibly Mr AND Mrs - Sea Hare.

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