Tawny owls (Strix aluco) often frequent our home for waifs and strays. These adorable creatures are more vocal in autumn when territories are being established by youngsters setting up on their own. Many people think they go ‘twit twoo,’ but, the female calls ‘ke-wick,’ with the male responding ‘hooo-hoo-ooo.’ Well this was spring and the village where we live was extra warm and peaceful due to the glorious weather and lockdown.
We found the first owlet sitting on the floor beneath a large oak tree. It was late afternoon and the foxing hour was closing in. Thankfully, the weather was kind and we placed the young bird on top of a shed and watched for hours, from a distance. Its mother could be heard across the field and the wee owlet responded. We were sure it would be fed so headed indoors.
The owlet was still there the following morning and down on the ground was its sibling. We made enquires and discovered it was quite natural for a young owlet to be out of the nest before it can fly and sure enough, both owlets would climb up the tree at night. Indeed, far wiser than we had thought. We decided to let nature take its course but monitored their safety until one day they could be heard with their parents, across the field. They had found their way home.
Life at our home for waifs and strays is always busy and never ever boring. There is always something to fix or replace. Animals wonder through our garden, stay awhile and leave. Nature is always entertaining, especially around our wildlife pond this time of year. For me, there is nothing better than sitting on the old bench with a cup of sweet tea, watching the world at its best.
Life at our home for waifs and strays has certainly changed during the last few weeks. Covid-19 has seen to that. Of course, our animals are blissfully unaware that life on the outside is a troubled one. However, the garden has had time tenderly spent on it and is now looking like a thriving allotment with enough vegetables planted to keep us until autumn. The hens, bless their souls, are old but still present us with deliciously fresh eggs most days. And down in the pond, a battle has evolved, tadpoles versus newts, with the occasional kestrel watching from above. But, for now, I have a battle of my own.
Whilst my kind and unassuming husband works tirelessly in the attic, I still go to work at the small but perfectly formed hospital near the city. The ward is quiet with cancer patients coming in and out for operations. We are typical nurses, who laugh and cry together as we share in the knowledge, that life will never be the same again. And despite not being on the front line, we are armed as a team with PPE, to fight the enemy we can only see in the fear and sadness on people’s faces. Some of us on the team have had or think we have had the virus but unfortunately, we were not tested. So, it’s onwards and upwards in a battle to help ourselves and others, survive this coronavirus war.
It’s late again and all I want to do is to sit by the fire with a cup of sweet tea. The foxing hours are upon us and the polecat is still on the loose but the hens are safely tucked up in their beds, safe for another night at least. And you are more than welcome to sit in the chair opposite me. It’s old but comfortable and when the embers die down please use the blanket that’s folded on the side. I think tonight, I shall play my guitar and sing a wee song my father taught me a long time ago. It’s called Streets of London. But before that, I shall tell you why I chose this song.
This evening I saw an old woman lying lifeless on the cold, wet road. She had just been hit by a car. I quickly reassured her that help was on the way. She was thin and poorly dressed. Someone nearby said she roams the streets day and night and is always alone. I was heartbroken! Staring down at this woman, some mothers child, I wondered who she was and where she’d come from. Her name she could not tell me. And now, in the comfort of my home, I remembered the song that tells a story about loneliness and people, just like the woman who now lies on a hospital bed, alone!
Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics. Picture the old lady and pray for her if you will.....
Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news
So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.
In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea last an hour
Then he wanders home alone
And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care
Do you know any lonely people? Make one phone call! Write one letter! A few words can make all the difference!
Ok, so this is a love story about two worms that live in the garden at our home for waifs and strays. I guess I might lose some readers, but hang on a minute! Worms have five hearts and breathe in air and breathe out carbon dioxide, just like us. So why not stay a bit longer? It wont take long. Their names are Wilma and Willmott.
‘Do it now!’ Wilma said. ‘While it’s dark!’
‘Why does it always have to be me?’ replied grumpy Willmott. ‘You know I’m afraid of the dark!’
‘You’re a grown worm,’ said Wilma. ‘Worms live in the dark and we need more air down here!’
‘But it’s scary up there. And those chickens bit off uncle Teds head, remember? I want to keep my head Wilma. Why don’t you do it for a change? I'm sure they wouldn't want your head!’
‘Willmott Wormery!’ Wilma shouted and some earth slide down the side of their sitting room, ‘you are a coward and Uncle Ted was a fool!’ she sounded very cross. ‘He went up in the daytime, what did he expect?’
‘Not to lose his head, that’s for certain!’ said Willmott quivering.
‘It’s dark now,’ said Wilma more gently, ‘I can’t go, I can hardly breathe!’
Willmott loved his wife. She was getting old and lucky to have survived as long as she had but that was probably because he had taken such good care of her, he thought. No, he couldn’t possible let her do it. He had to pluck up the courage and go himself.
As Willmott slid up to the top of their burrow, Wilma made the sign of the cross. ‘Don’t let anything happen to him,’ she said silently, ‘he’s a grumpy old so and so but I still love him.’
Willmott shivered as he stuck his head out into the open and breathed in the cool night air. It was good, he thought and almost forgot to check for predators.
‘Be quick!’ shouted Wilma. ‘before you lose your head too!'
Willmott began to drag bits of leaves and straw into the burrow. Wilma helped at this point, by reaching up to get them.
‘Ah that’s better already,’ she said. ‘I can breathe easier now.’
Willmott dragged some tiny stones into the entrance.
‘We’ll soon have lots more air in here Wilma,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Put some supper on! I’ll be down now in a minute!’ (Remember, these are welsh worms!)
Just as Wilma was about to prepare the food, she heard an almighty scream. It was poor Willmott.
‘It’s a chicken!’ he cried, his voice full of terror.
Wilma dropped everything and slid quickly up the burrow after poor Willmott.
‘He’s got me!’ shouted Willmott. ‘Goodbye Wilma!’
Poor Wilma struggled to the top to see that Willmott still had his head on and was smiling.
‘What on earth are you playing at Willmott?’ she said breathlessly.
Willmott turned and wrapped himself around Wilma. ‘I needed to know that you truly loved me,’ he said grinning, ‘and now I know that you do!’ Then he kissed her.
My father and I left home when I was just fifteen years old. My father remarried and I ran away and made a life of my own. By the time I was twenty three, I had travelled many miles and lived a thousand lives. My footprints are embedded in land across the globe. It is no wonder my head is spinning with tales to tell.
For some time, I lived amongst the Makah Indians in the wilds of the Pacific. It was here I fished amongst the great orcas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Bartering with the Indians became a way of life; a life which I knew was totally illegal. I soon began to change and looked at everything in a completely different way. One couldn’t help but to do this, especially as I was so young and already felt I had lived a lifetime.
I played music in mountains more spectacular than those found in Switzerland (though I have been there also and they are indeed magnificent). I have done things perhaps I shouldn’t have done and risked my life a million times. My feet, though small, have worn out many shoes through trekking places less travelled. And my heart is engrained with enough stories to fill a thousand books. It’s no wonder I have little trouble finding tales to write for you on these dark winter's evenings...but I do need to finish my books.
Remember, whatever it is you are longing to do you, writing a book, travelling, a different way of cooking, visiting friends you haven’t seen for ages or painting, you must find a way to fit it into your life picture. It is as simple as that. You see, it is indeed later than you think!