That moment when…

holloway-road-2546-p

I did try, I really did. When I was a teenager. It just didn’t work out.

James Fenimore Cooper’s masterpiece, “The Last of the Mohicans”, failed to thrill my soul. It was dense, old-fashioned language, made all the harder by not being dense, old-fashioned British English. As a witty individual once said of the UK and the US, we are two nations divided by a common language.

As a teenager I tried to read a few classic American novels. “To kill a mockingbird” was the best of them. I understood class and race in my British way, and racism is pretty much racism whatever the language.  I simply did not understand “Catcher in the Rye” as I knew nothing about American colleges or culture. We were not so very Americanised in the 1970s, and teenagers still talked about takeaways, films and wardrobes (with or without magical lands), rather than take-outs, movies and closets. Also we drank tea much more seriously than coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have it in for America. It’s just different. I believe Americans are as bemused by our quaint customs as we are by their tendency to eat with their fingers. To be fair to them, most primates do that. Meanwhile, over this side of the alleged Pond, we not only eschew digitally aided digestion, but have enhanced the gustatory gadgets to such an extent that you can end up with more knives and forks per place setting than there are place settings at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. And apparently using them correctly matters. Well, it may do to some people, but I’m a slob and as long as I start from the outside and work inwards, and can tell a fish knife from a butter knife, I feel I have done my duty to the God-given right and established order.

So there I was, in blissful ignorance of Mohicans, first, last or otherwise. At least, beyond the eponymous punk hairstyle that is, which looked amazing, but my hair would never have allowed it, being all floppy and suchlike. It won’t hold a perm, let alone behave for mere styling gel. It’s a problem alright. Oh the trauma!

Then they invented Daniel Day Lewis and I was made aware of certain key plot elements. One was that he looked awfully pretty running in slow motion. Oh yes. Although I’m not sure if that was in the book.

The other was that I shared a moment of heartbreak with Hawkeye.

If you are unaware of that twist, dear reader, then look away now. It’s the bit at the end, where Chingachgook, the Mohican Chief, mourns the loss of his biological son, and declares that he is now the last of the Mohicans. At which point his adopted son, Hawkeye, breaks his heart; because this is proof that he was never quite a true Mohican even to Chingachgook, no matter how hard he tried. He was alien, outcast, Other.

At least that is my understanding of the story. It may not be true, but bear with me, because this is what I identify with, having had a similar moment in my early childhood.

Let me take you back to the 1960s and the suburbs west of London.

My grandmother was a central figure in my early years. She died when I was 10 but until then she had lived with us and effectively been a mother figure (my own mother being rather ambiguous about motherhood, to put it kindly).  I adored her. I was her special baby. Sometimes she got confused and thought I actually was her little girl, my auntie Win, who had died when she was 7.

Sometimes, if I woke her up during her afternoon nap by breathing too loudly or dropping a teddy, she would stare at me in a confused way.

“Win!” she would say, a little bemused. “Winnie, is that you?”

“No, Grandma,” my heartless little self replied. “I’m EBL. Winnie died.”

“Oh yes,” she would say, and go rather quiet.

“You’ve got me, Grandma,” I would add.

“Oh yes,” she would say again, and give me a hug so I couldn’t see her cry. But I did.

Grandma knew all sorts of things, like how many beans make five and what happened to Don’t Care. She also knew lots of good songs to sing. She had grown up in Holloway, North London, and had a cheery London accent. At Christmas she got tiddly on advocaat, and had to be taken up to bed, singing happily. She taught me all sorts of old songs, probably sung in Music Halls and certainly down the pub if someone would play the tune on the piano, many of them dating back to the 1914-18 war: Little Brown Jug, It’s a long way to Tipperary, Pack up your troubles, the Hokey Cokey, My Old Man, Cockles and Mussels, When father papered the parlour….

She also sang “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner” and I sang along, because it has a nice tune.

“Oh no, poppet,” she said. “You can’t sing that.”

“Why not?” I squeaked, bottom lip starting to jut out.

“Because you aren’t a Londoner,” she said patiently. “You weren’t born in London.”

Well, she had it right. I was born Elsewhere, literally beyond the pale of our great metropolis.

“But I’ve been to London, Grandma.”

She wasn’t swayed. I was not a Londoner, and that was that.

She did still love me, but we were not the same. There was a barrier made of time and place and history.

Seeing that moment in the film (or “movie”, if you will), I felt it again, and was overcome that a writer who lived 250 years ago in a foreign land could describe my heartbreak. We shared a common humanity. I learned we are all the same in other ways, even those of us not born in London.

Have you had that kind of moment, in a story, that made it more real than real life?

To all of you, wherever you were born, we may still share our broken hearts.

Namaste.

Scraping off the rust

rusty chains

That’s how it feels anyway, although it would make me some kind of RoboBagLady, rather than a mere Electronic one. I’m not sure I’d be keen on it, honestly, because I’d probably have to adhere to Asimov’s Laws and I’m not sure I’m that kind of person.

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the First or Second Law.

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics

Still, rejoice, oh gentle reader! I have found my way back to the keyboard and hope to enter into constructive dialogue through the medium of the Blogverse. Let’s go!

Things got a little overwhelming back in the summer, both for good and less good reasons, but now that is over. The thing is I finally had to take a break from normal routine and allow myself a rest. I eventually recognised that I had been struggling to balance work, family and community, and that if I was someone else, I would be telling them to stop. So for once I listened to my wiser self and did indeed stop.

Guess what? It worked and I feel much better so here I am, bothering your eyeballs as you scan my words. In due course I will be scanning and chatting away just like the old days.

Ah, the old days! Things were better then. We were cleverererer, the sun was brighter and policemen were kindly and compassionate adults rather than arsy adolescents with acne and snotty noses. There were fewer television channels but we made our own entertainment and wrote about it in letters to the local paper – the equivalent of the blogging world I suppose.

Right then, I’ll remove the rose-tinted optical devices and get back to reality, but allow me the odd excursion to a fantasy land.

On a slightly related note, I heard that there is a film in the making of the Magic Faraway Tree, by far my favouritest book of all childhood, and I am half desperate with anticipation and half terrified in case of disappointment. It was the same with Lord of the Rings, my favouritest book of post-childhood, but Peter Jackson was in charge of that and talked to the fans so it was all OK. In the case of TMFT, as it will inevitably become known, I doubt the same rigour will apply. Oh woe to the world!

So here is your EBL-homework until we meet again:

  1. How do you feel about your favourite book being “interpreted” by film? Be honest.
  2. Would it/did it work? Be polite.
  3. And really, who is going to play the part of Moon Face? Be creative.

Namaste

Cold Logic in the Cold War

It felt like it was time to write a post about peace, there being so little of that precious commodity available, and it being such a Good Thing generally. Sometimes it feels like Peace is the Giant Panda of Life, vanishingly rare, arguably impractical, but nevertheless illogically desirable to keep around.

What particularly sparked me off though was a reminder that it has been a while since the Cold War fizzled out, and that being so, the paranoia and constant gnawing worry of living under the shadow of the Bomb is now a fading memory. Perhaps, I mused, it is something we should remind ourselves about once in a while and try to explain to the young folk who have not experienced it. This is based on the premise that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, so bear with me and prepare to be reminded or educated.

Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies had its perks, certainly. The music was exciting, there were real astronauts walking on the Moon, and a sense of excitement in the air. There were downsides too, and the testosterone-fuelled face-off across the Iron Curtain was a major issue. This was not because I was incredibly politically aware; I was a child, and my parents were not interested in politics themselves, so I only learned about such things through watching the Man from Uncle on television and seeing posters for the latest James Bond film in the cinema.

It wasn’t something you talked about particularly. It was just there, all the time, at the back of your mind, like what to get for tea, or how long it was until the weekend. It wasn’t even a thing, any more than air or water or the bus being late.

As the Seventies drew to a close and I inched towards the precipice of adulthood it became obvious that things were awry and the world seemed to be edging towards its own brink. This post is about how much it preyed on our teenage minds. This is how it felt.

We had been told that the other side of the Iron Curtain was full of bad guys. People got shot trying to escape, and their deaths peppered the news every now and then as a kind of constant background noise. Just about the time I read 1984 and started to be a little more independent of the official line, the Ayatollah Khomeini lead the overthrow of the Shah of Persia, and took control of Iran. I didn’t understand the background and had barely heard of Iran before then – O-Level geography tended to focus on learning which country exported the most timber and how ox-bow lakes were formed. After that I gave geography up as a bad job and still struggle to work out the difference between the Solway Firth and the Solent.

However, his installation seemed to cause a hysterical fluster in the media and political circles and it looked like the Nuclear Option was suddenly on the table. For real.

We had read about Armageddon and we didn’t fancy it but we were powerless to stop the button being pushed. However, we were not deterred. We were resourceful and modern young people. A few of us had recently passed driving tests and a couple of us even had access to dodgy old cars. So we laid our plans.

This is where the age gap may show. Those of you in my generation will probably nod at what we intended and understand our reasoning, even if you don’t agree with it. My children and younger folks tend to just look bemused or even slightly appalled when I talk about it.

We set up routes and a telephone tree. We agreed pick up points. Cars were to be kept fuelled up for a drive of about 20-25 miles. When the four minute warning was given, we would rendezvous at the agreed locations and drive like hell into the centre of London.

We weren’t going to sign up for a cause.

We weren’t going to protest.

We were aiming to be at the centre of the bomb fallout, because none of us wanted to survive a nuclear war. We hadn’t seen The War Game because the BBC banned it (despite having commissioned it in the first place) until 1985. Nevertheless we had read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and seen pictures.

We intended to die as quickly as possible.

And that, my dears, is what at least one group of teenagers in the late 1970s planned to do in the event of the button being pressed.

War and the means for war mess with your brain. Let’s call it out, shall we?

Namaste.

 

Spring thoughts

199504 Rillington daffodilsDon’t you love Spring? Well, perhaps you don’t but I quite like it, although Autumn is my season of choice. I like the in-between seasons, which are full of possibility. Summer and winter seem so fixed in their ways and I enjoy the bracing winds of change and blue horizons. They offer potential.

Anyway, Spring. Time for some more positive reflections on life, the universe and everything after recent dark and ponderous posts. Spring, the season of cute little baa-lambs, poetic daffodils and inexplicable urges to wash the windows and vacuum the loft. There are lots of birds flapping about with tree trunks in their beaks as they prepare nests for their hard-wrapped offspring. I imagine finding an endless source of nourishment for hungry beaks after the bairns have hatched is a glide in the park after all the construction activity.

The miserable side of my soul mutters in a corner about hay fever and sunburn in my imminent future, but I have her under control. No sunburn for me as I go out very little due to working, and I live in England which doesn’t get enough sun to be dangerous. Plus my hay fever seems to have lessened over recent years so I appear to have grown out of it. Take that, roasting rays and pesky pollen! Who knew working long hours and getting old could be so good?

Another thing to look forward to is the Chocolate Festival. The family are all due home for the weekend, so I am planning menus. The rhubarb is growing nicely in the garden so crumble is on the list. We like our rhubarb crumble in EBL Towers, with thick, sweet custard, the kind you eat with a knife and fork.

The final Spring activity at EBL Towers is Birthday Overload. Four birthdays in 24 days, my dears, put a bit of a strain on the celebratory muscles. With ChocoFest inevitably added into the mix we are the very definition of Party Animals; at least, the kind of Party Animals who might participate in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and end up sleeping in the tea pot.

My father’s birthday was in June, near solstice. He used to say he liked having his birthday then because it was half-way to Christmas so spread the presents out nicely. I, on the other hand, like my April birthday because it was half-way through the school year and didn’t get spoiled by exams or people being away on holiday with Granny in Wales. In those days a week with Granny in Wales was as good as a fortnight in Turkey for today’s young people, and we were grateful for it. My granny lived with us, so a week in her sitting room was the best I got, or a day trip to granddad’s in Croydon.

I didn’t have birthday parties. We tried once and it was a terrible failure because my mother had absolutely no idea how to run one. We had a cake for tea but she didn’t know any games apart from gin rummy and sent us into the garden where it rained on us. After that, I moved on to getting infected with diseases at the local cinema: three birthdays in a row produced measles (Snow White), mumps (Pinocchio) and chicken pox (Dumbo). I am not a Disney fan and now you know why. He ruined my birthdays. Later birthdays were day trips with a best friend, usually to London or Kew Gardens. Even today I associate my birthday with hiding in a den under rhododendrons and pretending we were fighting pirates or cowboys or bank robbers, I forget which. It hardly matters: we were the goodies and we couldn’t lose because of the narrative imperative.

Nowadays I like the end of short, dark days and appreciate the onset of lighter evenings. I don’t mind dark nights. In many ways I quite enjoy them. Again they are more mysterious and secretive, and being out in them or at home feels quite secure and comforting. It’s just that going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark wears thin after a few months. When the first good days in Spring roll in, there’s a sense of desperation in the air as the population surges outside and exposes their pasty, goose-pimpled, northern flesh to the vitamin D enriched goodness of our local star. Even I, encased in layers of crumpled clothing, turn my face up to the sky and soak up the beams of life-enhancing light. Then I sneeze and hide indoors.

We know Spring is really here now because Sigoth is cutting the grass between showers and we are thinking about whether to risk hanging the laundry out. The bluebells are massing to put in an appearance, annoyed that the grape hyacinths have beaten them to it. There is forsythia ablaze in half the gardens along the street, and our lilac tree is shuddering under the weight of orgies of sparrows, getting jiggy in the twiggy.

I still prefer Autumn but rumbustious old Spring is pretty nice. Feel like sharing some seasonal thoughts? Get on, then, I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Namaste.

 

 

B4Peace: Once upon a time in TV land

Welcome once more to the Chronicles of the Young EBL. Today I am responding to the monthly Bloggers for Peace prompt set by Kozo over at everydaygurus.com. Kozo has asked me, personally, to explain what influenced me as a child to become the kind of person who posts for Peace. Feel free to join in. It doesn’t cost anything and contributes to the greater sum of human happiness.

Let’s focus on children. How can we teach children to prioritize peace? How did you experience peace as a child? What in your upbringing made you a Blogger for Peace?

Well, my dears, I have been thinking and thinking about that last sentence for a few days, and now I have thunk I am here to share it with you. Come with me back to the wondrous world of the 1960s.

I was not a particularly pacific child. I got into fights and scrapes more often than a Sixties girl was supposed to; we were all sugar and spice back then, and that meant fighting was for boys. Boys were slugs and snails and puppy dog tails.

I had some friends who were boys, because I am subversive like that. The twins down the road, a son of my mother’s friend, a couple of boys from school who were not too fussy about gender if you genuinely liked Dr Who, and so on. Often we ran about the parks in packs and I had no idea who half the children were. It didn’t matter. We were a gang for the day, catching stickleback in the stream or throwing sticks into the chestnut trees to get the conkers down.

Idyllic, eh? Well, it was pretty sweet. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood apart form minor hurts and crises, and I am thankful for it.

So when a boy did try picking on me in the playground I felt quite entitled to punch him hard and then tell teacher. As I said, not very pacific.

My Dad had served in the army towards the end of the Second World War and in Germany in 1946. He had lots of happy memories of friends and people he met. He even wanted to marry a German girl but that was never going to be allowed. Otherwise I would now be something like Die Elektronischetaschefrau. Actually that sounds quite good…

Leider habe ich zu viel vergessen, auf Deutsch zu schreiben.

Now then, get back to the purpose of this post, EBL. Keep on track!

While I was living the dream paddling in the stony waters of the park, or picking leeches off my legs when I ventured into the mud, or skinning knees and elbows climbing the trees, or breaking my ankle trying to roller skate; while all this was going on other influences were at work for the very possession of my heart and soul. How very sinister that sounds! In fact, it was no more than normal socialisation.

My parents were prone to the casual prejudices of white English people, but also were fair and helpful and kind to individuals they met without being particularity interested in how those other people looked or acted. So I played with the children avoided by others, such as Elizabeth, who was black, or Cindy who had Downs Syndrome, or Nick, who was a very bright boy my age in a baby-sized body, or Lee, who had cerebral palsy. There were quite a few children about who were the survivors of thalidomide, but I didn’t know any personally. So I just thought everyone was a real person.

Then there was Sunday School. Initially my mother sent me to the local High Anglican church where I coloured in and recited the Ten Commandments. At that stage I took things literally, so “thou shalt not kill” meant just that, at least for humans. After I was too old for colouring in, I found the big church too scary on my own, with the high roof and smelly incense and lots of adults I didn’t know. My family didn’t go to church; my mother sent me on my own because she thought it would be good for me.

After I refused to go any more, my friend’s mother took me to their church, a fundamentalist Baptist congregation with a sliding floor over the pool for full immersion baptism. I thought that was very exciting, but eventually was thrown out of that Sunday School because I asked too many questions about science and cosmology. Still, I did learn that God was Love, even if some adults weren’t.

Those early explorations into religion would not be the main foundation for a later commitment to pacifism though, only an initial blueprint. No, the final keystone of the whole edifice came through the miracle of television.

The daily routine in our house was for me to watch children’s television until the Magic Roundabout had finished, and Zebedee had boinged the youngest children off to bed, and then for my parents and grandmother to settle down in front of the evening news. The television was left on for this while we ate tea, so as I chomped my way through cheese sandwiches and a slice of cake, and slurped down a cup of tea, I watched what was happening in the world. Mostly it was boring and incomprehensible. There were men talking in long words, and sometimes shouting, and occasionally there seemed to be a lot of concern about long haired people who liked grass. It was quite confusing.

my_lai_massacre

http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2013/06/when-the-war-criminal-is-one-of-us/
I don’t think it was My Lai that I saw, but it was similar

One day there were bodies.

I’m sure there were bodies other days, but this must have been a particularly traumatic massacre. My mother turned the television off in a hurry but not before I saw rows of people lying in the dirt street somewhere foreign. My grandmother was crying a bit, and my parents were very hushed.

I knew, with a real sense of freezing clarity, that those people were real-dead, not pretend-dead like Cowboys and Indians, or Daleks. They weren’t going to get up and walk away once the cameras stopped. They were never going to get up and walk away. Never. Some other men had come with helicopters or tanks or jeeps, and killed them. They were just people, children like me, old ladies like grandma. Dead.

It was wrong.

And that was it. A moment in time when I simply knew it was wrong to kill people. A black and white, no nonsense, don’t even try to argue moment.

Nowadays I might think about justification for conscientious objection because apparently some people do not see this obvious truth. For me, there is no need for argument. It’s not about who has the best words or most unassailable logic. It’s about not killing people, because there is no way back from that, and dead is dead without distinction of good or bad. You don’t get different kinds of dead. There are no more chances, or room for error, or time to say sorry, or hope for a better tomorrow. One day we will all be dead. There’s no need to rush. I knew it then, in the way a young child can be certain and an adult can’t. I know it now, in the same way.

I don’t even know who those people were, or where, or when, least of all why. It would have been late Sixties, but probably not early Seventies, because I was quite small. I suspect it was Vietnam but can’t be sure.

In my cynical teenage phase I watched M*A*S*H and cemented my resolve. Killing people is wrong.

I conclude, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that television can be the conscience of us all, and now perhaps Face-twit and Tweet-book as well. Even, dare we hope it, blogging. You know what, if we all blogged about why killing people is wrong we could start some kind of Online Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement…..

Why Kozo – you clever, clever man!

Other bloggers who have cottoned on to this idea include:

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/march-b4peace-post-a-peaceful-resolution/

http://peacegarret.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/a-peace-lesson-for-children-from-a-nazi

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/peacemusic

http://janetkwest.com/2014/03/05/dad-the-faithful

and of course, Kozo’s original post

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/03/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-child/

Namaste

When you know it’s time to go.

My dears, I was pointed to this blog recently and wanted to share it with you. I had to give up as School Governor last year, and my experience was not dissimilar to this writer’s – although obviously I was only involved for a shorter time (9 years in fact), and not as a classroom practitioner.
I cannot say how the current national approach to teaching hurts. I prefer not to get very political usually, beyond my bleeding liberal tendencies, but today I am in the mood.
Namaste.

Love Learning....

I’m leaving my job. Not right away – I’d never leave children half way through an academic year – but I’ll be off in July. I think back to the post I wrote on teaching forever and I blush with the charge of hypocrisy, though, to be fair, after 22 years I think I’ve probably earned the right to say I did my bit. And hopefully I will continue to do more bits, but not again, I don’t think as a full time teacher in a school. So why? Well, it’s complicated.

It’s not because of the kids…

But they’re not easy. Last week one pushed me pretty hard and told me to fuck off. He’s vulnerable and floundering. We used restorative justice to talk through the situation and I got one of the most heartfelt apologies I’ve ever had. He beams at me in the corridor now. I’m not…

View original post 807 more words

About a bird

The past couple of nights as I have lain awake listening to the Mouse Clog-Dancing Club in the loft, I have wished for birdsong. In the summer I am woken up, or joined if already awake, by birds just as the sky begins to lighten. This can be very early indeed, but is at least pleasant to listen to. Unless it’s the wood pigeons. They get old very fast.

It’s been a birdy week. Yesterday a friend said she was planning to start keeping chickens. She had a bit of a glint in her eye which seems to afflict those who turn to this hobby. There are people at work who evangelise the benefits of henliness, and keep rescue chickens in order to avoid having to do the gardening. (There’s no point if demented birds are pecking up everything in sight.) They show me pictures on their phones of the feathered ladies. The conversation may run along these lines…

“We lost Bianca last week. She’d been in a moult and very quiet, then she died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Here’s a picture of her. Wasn’t she lovely?”

“Mmm.”

“Poor Beryl misses her terribly so we went to find a new friend for her on Saturday.”

“Uh-huh.”

“But we couldn’t choose, they were all so lovely; so now we have Gladys, Candy and Cherry as well! Isn’t it great? Look, here are some pictures of them settling in!”

“Crikey, is that the time?…”

I don’t understand why so many of the birds get either granny or hooker names, but there you go. They are bedraggled creatures, being rescue chickens, and don’t last long as a result. So the conversation gets repeated quite frequently. The inventor of camera-phones has much to account for. Occasionally people make comments about how you can get knitted jumpers for battery hens that have lost their feathers, and look at me eagerly. I tend to make my excuses. If I gave in to that kind of pressure I’d have to give up the day job.

Regardless of their culinary potential, for eggs or flesh, birds are undoubtedly insane. All birds are. Look into the eyes of a bird and you see a demented dinosaur in feathers, and furious at what it has become. It senses its raptor ancestry deep within its soul, and is demeaned by its feeble modern incarnation. Just as dogs dream of chasing rabbits, sparrows dream of hunting their prey and rending them limb from limb. What they do to insects is unspeakable.

Naturally, birds make excellent pets for small children.

When I was very little my first pet was a goldfish, and later my father became an enthusiast for fish in general. We moved to catfish and then tropical fish. I taught mine to come up to feed when I rang a bell, which was fun. My catfish would bring its head out of the water to take the flake of food from my fingers, and had about as much personality as you can fit into a such a creature. We called him Layabout, because that is what he did best, and he died of whisky poisoning. But that’s another story.

Then we got a budgie. I remember my dad announcing it one evening, as I was eating a slice of Weetabix with butter and jam. Funny how odd details stick. A friend of my dad’s needed a home for a bird that he had in his aviary. For some reason all the other birds kept attacking him, and as a result he had no feathers on the back of his head. With startling clarity of thought, he was named Baldy. So up we jumped and cycled to the man’s house and met Baldy. I brought him home on my bicycle in a little box and I talked to him all the way so he wouldn’t be scared (it didn’t work, but I tried). The next day dad came home with books on how to look after a budgerigar, and we read them together, although I didn’t understand all the words, especially the Latin.

Baldy was a clever little thing, and soon worked out how to unhook the door to his cage. We had to close it up with a bulldog clip if we needed him to stay inside (if the windows were open for example). He learned a few phrases and chatted away to himself. I was horrified when my cousin, who looked after him for a couple of weeks while we were away, taught him to say “Here puss, puss, puss.” While our neighbour’s cat was no Sylvester, it was still a bloodthirsty budgie-killing machine.

I loved that bird as children do. My mother said she knew when I was due home from school because he started chirping madly a couple of minutes before I came in the door. He would sit on my head and slide down my hair, which was long, until he got to my shoulder. Then he would nibble my ear and chirrup at me. He would do this even after, just as a random example, he had walked through my mashed potatoes and gravy, then dried his feet in the bowl of sugar. The scamp.

One day I had to go to the optician for a check up and new glasses (always new glasses), and my mother told me as we came out of the shop into the street that she had found him dead in the cage. I have to say in retrospect it wasn’t the best place to break the news. Dad had buried him in the garden in a small box at lunchtime and left a little marker so I could see where he was under the honeysuckle.

We got another bird after that but she was not too bright and just squawked. She never learned to come and sit on a finger, and panicked if we let her out of the cage so she hurt herself flying into things. After Baldy I really didn’t take to her anyway, poor thing. She was a classic rebound.

One of the local gardening centres nearby sells canaries and budgies; lots of people keep them around here, mostly outside which is incredible given how cold it can be. I always go over and chirrup at them a bit, but, as I said, they are all insane. They chirp back sometimes, but it doesn’t mean anything,

First love always leaves a mark and it’s hard to measure up.

Care to tell me about your first pets? Do you remember them still?

Namaste