Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ostrich - Sand



I shall be doing this for a few days. I will be careful to avoid rising tides, and tall men in robes with litanies.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Drunk Baboons, Tripping Leopards

I found this account of baboon behaviour describing their splendidly drunken antics.

Here in Southern Africa we have many kinds of indigenous trees bearing edible fruit. Unfortunately, we also have many kinds of insects loving these fruit too. Fortunately, the fruit of one tree species called the Marula (Sclerocarya caffra) is so thick skinned that few insects can penetrate them.

Each fruit is about the size of a large apricot. Inside is a large seed kernel. The fleshy part is thus relatively thin, but thick enough to have fun. In February the female Marual tree will begin to shed her fruits. An old madam can bear up to 20,000 fruit. Humans use the fruit to make a refreshing beer.

Sometimes three to four layers of fruit will lay under a tree. That is when they begin to ferment. That is when the baboons also have their fun. They cleverly smell the potent among the fresher fruit. The potent goes to the mouth. Slowly, but surely, they become intoxicated. They begin to behave just like intoxicated humans. Some will swear, others will fight and some will even cry like baby baboons. Some get so drunk that they have to sleep under the tree, dead to the world.

That is when also the leopards have their fun. Leopards like baboon flesh most. But leopards are extremely cautious since baboons can easily kill a leopard with their own vicious fangs.

Those baboons who are fortunate enough to wake up the next morning have clearly a splitting headache and the bad temper that goes with it.
Many years ago I saw a wonderful film which showed drunk baboons, and I remember not just the screaming and crying, but the fights and the inappropriate sex (baboon society is strictly heirarchical) followed by the awful hangovers.

The fact that many other creatures as well as humans self-intoxicate without regard for the consequences interests me greatly, at 7.30am over my morning tea as much as it does at 10.30pm over a cognac, because it seems to indicate that it is indissolubly part of our biological nature. My theory is that it is not merely drunkenness we seek, but expanded consciousness, and that we share this innate drive to find routes out of here with other creatures.

Shamanistic use of psychedelic mushrooms and plants in "primitive" cultures is well documented, but less widely known is early Christian use of chemically-loaded foodstuffs to attain religious ecstasy. One of my favourite quotes from recent years is from R. Gordon Wasson, a Wall Street banker, who experimented with mushrooms in the 1950s:

'There are no apt words ... to characterize your state when you are, shall we say, 'bemushroomed.' ... How do you tell a man born blind what seeing is like? In the present case, this is especially true because superficially the bemushroomed man shows few of the objective symptoms of one intoxicated, drunk ... [the mushroom] permits you to see, more clearly than our pershing mortal eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of this life, to travel backwards and forwards in time, even (as the Indians say) to know God. It is hardly surprising that your emotions are profoundly affected, and you feel that an indissoluble bond unites you with the others who have shared with you in the sacred agape ... All that you see during this night has a pristine quality: the landscape, the edifices, the carvings, the animals - they look as though they had come straight from the Maker's workshop. This newness of everything - it is as though the world had just dawned - overwhelms you and melts you with its beauty. Not unnaturally, what is happening to you seems to you freighted with significance, beside which the humdrum events of everyday are trivial ... What you are seeing and what you are hearing appear as one: the music assumes harmonious shape, giving visual form to its harmonies, and what you are seeing takes on the modalities of music - the music of the spheres ... All your senses are similarly affected: the cigarette with which you occasionally break the tension of the night smells as no cigarette before had ever smelled ; the glass of simple water is infinitely better than champagne.'


The idea that the highly intelligent baboon, so like us in many ways - socially organised, clever, adaptable, and aggressive - is achieving states of mind which expand and develop its species makes sense to me. Somehow, to be alive is to be drawn, sometimes fatally, to experience life outside and beyond the normal.

Have you ever looked into a sheep's eye and wondered what is going on in there? It is well known that in the wet, green, mushroom-growing places in Britain, birds, sheep, cows eagerly munch away on mushrooms as soon as they appear.

If a leopard suprised and ate a couple of spaced-out baboons with life-changing chemicals coursing around their bodies, would it similarly leave the normal plane of existence, return enlightened to the other leopards and announce that, from now on, meat-eating was a thing of the past - or perhaps purring in a skewed, nonsensical way, tell them that the shroom-eating baboons had a wicked kick on them, and that they really ought to try a couple.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

All Of The Koalas In This Show Are Over 18



Me and GGF went for a long walk today, along the canal from Islington to Victoria Park, Hackney. We walked for the best part of four hours, and got a bus back. Before that we had walked down to Indian Veg in Chapel Market for the best £3 curry in London. My feet are sore but my soul is happy.

I am watching BBC Four, a wildlife program about Australia, which has just told me that eucalyptus trees are so indigestible that the koala has to sniff each leaf it eats to assess its chemical make-up and see whether it is too poisonous; and even then, the koala chews 16,000 times a day which will eventually wear its teeth out and has a long, specialised gut to get anything out of the enterprise; and that extracting the toxins takes up so much energy that it has to sleep 20 hours a day; and that the baby koala eats it's mother's shit, and that doing this populates the baby koala gut with the bacteria it needs to live on eucalyptus leaves. Cue shot of baby koala emerging from pouch to eat shit emerging from mother's arse.

The property TV programs we get a lot of these days has been described as "property porn" because of the way the houses are fetishised. And thus do wildlife channels make wildlife porn.

Wildlife porn corrupts our view of the creatures around us. Which isn't to say I don't enjoy it. But, like sex porn, it is essentially exploitative.

The soundtrack builds around a scenic wow moment as the narrator's Shakespeare voice tells us all is good with the beautiful complex world we live in.

But this is, just like sex porn, a load of old bollocks.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

The Worm

First, how do you know you have it? Unfortunately, Sasser shares several behaviors common with other recent viruses. The most common sign is that your machine will indicate that there is a problem and will reboot in 60 seconds. The message caused by Sasser should indicate that the problem is in LSASS.EXE.

You should be able to abort the shutdown within those first 60 seconds by doing the following:

Press the Start button and then the Run menu item.
Type shutdown -a. That's the "shutdown" command, with the "-a" option, which stands for
>>>"abort the pending shutdown".<<<


Press OK.

This doesn't fix anything, it just lets you get on with the business of disinfecting your computer.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nine Hang On For Fun

Part two of a two-part story - please read "Ferrets" first.

It was summer 1977, a turning point in the island's history, the moment punk banged the final nail into progressive rock's coffin, the year of the Queen's silver jubilee and Kerry Packer's Great Cricket Rebellion.

For me, this was the last period of needing to study so hard that I sweated blood, and I was not particularly relishing the experience. I was nine short months away from making the transition from compulsory to elective education and graduating to the sixth form, where we boys could discard certain of the more humiliating parts of the uniform, and share a common room, a library, and crucially, bodily fluids with girls our own age.

In anticipation of this, I ignored the temptations of CYTO (Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation, or as it was popularly known among the male attendees in typical teenage slang, Cream Your Tight Orifice) and I stayed home studying Maths, in which I had been apallingly educated up until then, and needed to catch up and pass the exam or else I would not get to college. Aside from schoolwork, I read science fiction, sunbathed in the garden, watched TV, and drank beer, when I could get it, which was not often. I chiefly remember being incredibly sexually frustrated, and being the cause of inflated phone bills, which were blamed upon my older brother, who had a girlfriend.

I didn't know it at the time but these were the final moments of my bizarrely disordered, disjointed, disassociated childhood.

After years of my stubborn resistance, the family had long given up trying to include me in outings and family holidays, which was a great relief to me, as during these periods the scant personal space I possessed shrank into total non-existence. So, being left alone in the usually overcrowded family residence for two weeks was akin to being given the keys to a luxurious mansion, except that it was my responsibility to take care of one dog, two tortoises, two ponds of goldfish, and eleven ferrets in a two foul-smelling cages.

It was hot, I was wearing shorts, sandals, and a tshirt. I donned leather gardening gloves, and, frozen rat in hand, attempted to open the cage door enough to get the rat in. The ferret babies were no longer babies, they were hungry, sharp-toothed and very fast. As soon as I came near the front of the cage, nine smaller animals and Smokey their mother appeared in a furry riot of manic anticipation, arrow-shaped heads pushing to get at the food, and before I could prevent them, like a living flood of wriggling fanged muscle, they were through the opening and plopping one by one onto the ground. Fuck! I shut the door and ran around grabbing bewildered and highly excited ferrets before they started to explore nether regions and eat the neighbours.

It took me ten minutes of holding, shoving, and pushing to return them to their cage without releasing the rest of them, picking up a couple of bites in the process. Meanwhile, the rat was defrosting and the smell of food was making them even madder and more likely to escape. This wasn't going to work. How was I going to feed these fuckers? I retired to the kitchen to clean the bites and considered my options.

Wearing a long-sleeved parka which made me instantly gush with sweat, I returned to the cage with the tall kitchen swing bin, empty of rubbish sack, and angled it so that as soon as I opened the door, the ferrets' dash for freedom lead them one way, down a long, blue plastic aeroplane emergency chute, where their sharp nails clattered and their warm bodies thumped, as they hit the bottom. The bin was too tall for them. Perfect. Leaning a couple of stout garden chairs against the bin so that their attempts to escape would not topple it, I started the entirely revolting business of cleaning the cage, attempting not to gag, and keeping my mouth firmly shut so that the many fat bluebottles buzzing around didn't climb into it. Small Bro had clearly been in dereliction of his duties, and my resentment knew no bounds, as I scraped weeks-old detritus from the first of the stinking two-level cages, which may have been suitable for one ferret, but was clearly not meant for ten.

Cage cleaned, new straw in place, I made a dias for the dead rat in the lower chamber and considered how on earth I was going to get the ferrets out of the bin and back into the cage. I reached my gloved hand down, and watched as hungry mouths jumped up like little vicious fish. That would be a fight worth seeing, ferret vs. pirhana, I amused myself with the thought, teasing the ferrets with my gloves, until one of them caught a proffered finger and hung on. I lifted my hand, and the teeth were so strong, that he stayed. Astonishing, I thought, what a grip. The others below became even more frantic, seeing their brother rising up from amongst them, clinging to the Hand of God, so I lowered a hand down, and watched as they jumped and bit, until every one of my five gloved fingers had a ferret upon it, hanging grimly on by it's teeth, determined to get first bite at the rat, and two of the ferrets had ferrets hanging from them, until I felt the glove start to slip off with their combined weight.

I shook them off, but realised that this was the best way to return them to the cage. One by one, they jumped and bit and I lifted them back into their newly-laundered palace of stink, finally and very carefully returning Smokey, who cast a baleful eye upon proceedings all along, but refused to be drawn into the antics of her juniors, who went crazy over the rat, committing a frenzied demolition and devouring of the carcass in 3 minutes flat, then spent 30 minutes more running around the cage at full pelt playing a hilarious joyful game of "chase the ferret with the tail".

I managed to keep my side of the deal and attended to their ferrety needs for the two weeks necessary, even growing fond of the manic creatures who seemed as permanently hungry as they were foul smelling. I constructed them a run on the lawn one sunny afternoon, hid various dead treats along the passageways and crannies, and delighted in their instinctual hunting abilities. It took my mind off equations, french vocabulary, the double circulation of blood.

Small Bro on his return was adamant that he had cleaned them properly prior to his expedition, but one look underneath his bed at the old tea cups and dinner plates growing fungus would tell you that he had little idea of cleanliness being next to godliness, or even basic hygene, and he was broadly disbelieved, much to his annoyance. Homes were found for the ferrets as promptly as was possible, and the pet population returned to manageable levels. Woody and Smokey never again consummated ther ferret love, and thank fuck for that we all breathed inwardly, and also outwardly, now that our noses could handle the garden once again.

[End]

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ferrets

I have an ambiguous relationship with creatures, as much as with my own animality. I am definitely not a cooing, fawning type when it comes to anything small, wriggling and hairy - I merely allow for existence, and co-existence; but critters seem to like me, oh yes they do. If I could have a meat-topped pizza for the every time some doting pet owner has said me to me, of their cat/dog/rabbit/horse, once even of a pig, "Oooh, he/she likes you!" I would start a pizza chain and become very rich indeed.

I put it down to my being physically relaxed and relatively unscared, with a total lack of anthropomorphism, (also referred to as personification or prosopopoeia), plus the fact that my diet does not rely upon large regular portions of dead creature. I think they can tell I am not looking at their lovely, preened flanks with any degree of hunger in mind. But keep me away from the fishtank.

This ambiguity possibly stems from the great variety and number of animals, fish, birds and reptiles that were introduced into the childhood family residence, many of which required a lot of care but received the bare minimum, as is the way of the fickle whims of children desiring pets [now there's a novel guaranteed to sell on title alone]. I did my best to be honourable about my duties, being aware that these beings were essentially captive, but I cannot say that this astonishing moral awareness extended to the rest of the family. Even my mother's dog received all its training and the majority of exercise from yours truly, not because I had any special love for this demented canine, of which more later, but simply because if I didn't do it, nobody else would, and I couldn't live with that on my sprouting conscience.

I don't think reading My Family And Other Animals at a tender age helped - we weren't living in the unspoiled Greek island of Corfu, population 5,000, we were living in bombed-and-reconstructed Croydon, suburb of London, population 333,000. The long and the short of it was that, aside from my sister's requests for a pony, and a house ban on cats because of asthma, most of the animals we wanted, we got.

Then my younger brother decided he wanted a ferret. He got one, he put it in a cage in the garden, and fed it dead rats. Woody was his name, and he grew huge. He was mostly friendly, though with the teeth of a predator. Woody would run around jumping sideways making an excited barking noise - "Huff! Huff!" He would promptly explore anything resembling a rabbit hole - which included drainpipes, cardboard tubes, and of course, trouser legs. But the really remarkable thing about Woody, and ferrets in general, was his reek. Rank. Sharp. Strong. He stank, and so would you, living on a diet of rats.

Small Bro decided shortly thereafter that Woody needed company, so he built another cage, and along came Smokey. She was actually half Polecat, smaller, darker, and definitely wilder. Woody you could actually take out and onto the green in front of the house. Smokey would dart so swiftly towards anything resembling freedom, that she was very carefully kept back from the chance of escape, and spent the majority of her days in a very smelly, dirty cage, which was cleaned far too rarely and offended the neighbours on a warm day.

Smokey was a lithe, sultry animal who would bite your finger proffered or not with a vicious nip and hold on, taking part of you with her if you didn't shake her off immediately. The longer she held onto something with her jaws, her needle teeth claimed whatever morsel as her own, and she would be visibly pissed off by its removal, and require compensation with a dead rat.

She was wild, that woman. Woody thought so too. One day she gave birth to eleven baby ferrets. A few weeks later, Small Bro left to go camping, the rest of the family went somewhere else, and I was left a freezer full of dead rats and instructions on cleaning.

[End Part One}

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Coyotes, Dentists and Fish

I've been enjoying writing about creatures so far, though anyone looking for an intellectual treatise on the subject will be sadly disappointed, as always I write from the inside out, from the centre of my experience and memories. Before the month is out though, I may yet attempt to write discursively upon such lofty symbols as the Eagle or the Snake.. or perhaps I will just listen to Joni Mitchell, who has done that so very well - I recommend Coyote as a start point for those unfamiliar with her work.

Meanwhile, damn it, my own animal nature is revealing itself, and that is partly the reason for my choice of monthly subject.

Our heads may be in the clouds but our feet are of clay. I only wish my feet were of Cassius Clay, and then I would have five-times champion of the world boxing feet. My head is very shortly (less than one hour's time) to be not in the clouds but in a dentist's chair - another thing I am phobic about, along with certain bugs, and food-poisoning. Hello Mr Root Canal Specialist, I won't say, please be gentle with me, I am 43, with the charm of a fully grown mentalist, but the sensibility of a minnow.

Wish me well, I need it, for this may prove to be not just utterly loathesome and painful, but fucking expensive to boot.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

The Tale Of The Constipated Aardvark

The stress of puberty is the most intense natural cataclysm that a growing child has to undergo. Modern educationalists exacerbate this appalling phase of teenage life by insisting on training the mind beyond all recognition, until it aches, filled to bursting with acres of nonsensical learning that will be forgotten within a year or two, unless it happens to become key to some specialist area of our future earnings, and all this at a time when hormones and growing awareness of the limitations of our prospects are really hitting home.

The most intense year is 15-16, after which time, you can leave compulsory education if you like and join civilian life. In that year, the once-smart school uniform is shabby and exhausted, rules are for spurning, homework is now revision, and the things you could and should have learned will not help you now that exams are upon you. The hope is that you have suffered enough of the iniquities of teaching and the mindless abuse of frustrated teachers that you will exit the process gilded with certificates that will propell you towards A Better Job, or even, A Real Qualification.

Meanwhile, myself and A.G., my friend since aged 12, were busy writing a book. It probably helped us deal with the stress, though doubtless teachers and parents alike would have been alarmed at the time we were not putting into to buffing up our shiny new knowledge; but we knew that we wanted this more than "O" level English grade A, which in any case, we promptly acquired. The book was a spoof children's story, inspired by Spike Milligan and Mad Magazine and Bored of the Rings, and it was a gloriously easy and natural collaboration.

Thus The Tale of the Constipated Aardvark came into being, the story of Willy and his search for healing. In the harried, too-swift mornings, we would pass each other the blue-ruled school exercise book, eager to see what the other had contributed. The book was taken home, continued and returned, and over the weeks of stress, which lead some boys to fight, others to lethargy, and deep depression, A.G. was churning the story out with a degree of relish and wit, and I was illustrating the pages as they came. As we progressed, the book took on a life of its own, and became a thing of beauty, a moral tale full of teenage jokes with surprisingly astute social commentary about racism, cross-dressing, homophobia, stereotyping, beer, and the search for lasting wisdom.

Willy's quest for healing took him a journey from the Somalia to South Africa. My quest for healing took me into my first sexual relationship and thence to a life of romantic disappointment, glandular fever and social chaos. A.G., ever desperate, semi-apologised to me a few months later as he confessed he had moved in upon my ex, in order to provide not just a shoulder to cry on, but also his penis to suck. And so, this tale of not-much-innocence was not to be repeated, eaten up as it was by the onset of adult life with its cares and concerns and selfishness.

I learned two decades later that A.G., having had a long-lasting career at the heart of government, went AWOL one time for a few weeks, and his family and colleagues were seriously worried about him.

He returned, of course, and had they asked me, I would have explained to them that he was simply on a mission to find the Wisest Aardvark Of Them All, and be cured of his constipation.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Billy The Budgie

It was that funny time after the divorce and re-marriage. One dad out, one dad in, and we were supposed to carry on as normal. Dad #1, upon his exit, did encourage the union between Mum and Dad #2 - which despite resentment, grudges and unresolved tensions in the psyche of Mum, Dad #1 was always given credit for so doing.

It has taken me most of the rest of my life to work out how I was supposed to feel about this switch. The man out was loud, charismatic, and more than a little crazy by all accounts. The man in was quiet, hard working, and at that time, emotionally repressed. He didn't say much, he just joined in with the adult instructions: do that, do this, don't be rude. I don't remember Dad #2 ever initiating play with me. He was just the male extension of Mum, she used him as support to reinforce her errant brand of family discipline.

I don't remember ever asking for a budgerigar - in fact, the very first thing I ever asked for was a dragon, because of the cat that used to sleep on my feet in the pram. I think the budgie was another family addition designed to lift my mood and prove my viability as a functioning human. At nights, I was doped up with adult-strength barbiturates. By day, I was teaching the budgie to talk.

Billy didn't ever talk, though, he just went "Cheep! Cheep!" and banged his blue beak on the mirror. The cage was criminally small and hung in the kitchen. Between me and the meaningful relationship I yearned to have with anything that would reciprocate were thin, tarnished metal bars. If Billy was feeling particularly friendly, he would cling to the cage wall and bite your finger.

It was much more fun letting him out of the cage and watching him fly into walls and flap about the place. Unused to flight, he was at once thrilled and terrified by his freedom, and one day in a panic, he flew out of the kitchen window.

We chased him as he went, a flash of blue and white, up over the gardens, nothing between them except thin wire fences demarking the line of thin council strips, scuffed grass, swings and coal bunkers, up to the garages at the top of the gentle incline, where some mature trees and shrubs, elder and untrimmed Edwardian privet, offered him sanctuary behind a tall brick wall.

I was convinced that he would not return and would meet the fate of all exotic birds, ending his life pecked to death by suspicious native species for sporting his outrageous blue feather costume.

Dad #2 climbed up onto the wobbly garage roof and perched on top of a wall, offering his finger to Billy, making little tempting noises with his lips, slowly getting closer to him. Every time he got close, the traumatised bird would hop further away. So he would retreat, and entreat from further away, calling and cajoling Billy back into grab range.

He spent more than two hours on that wall. When everyone had given up on the chance of success, watched by a decent-sized audience of children and spotty youths, to everyone's amazement, Billy made the leap of faith into Dad's hand. In fact, he hopped meekly onto his finger, and Dad carefully enclosed him and climbed down.

I was astonished, as was everyone. There were cheers. I remember the line of children that accompanied Dad and Billy down the street to our front gate. He was taken back to the kitchen and incarcerated once again to his obvious satisfaction.

Thus at age five dawned the realisation in me that in some people, love and kindness is demonstrated by such deeds, and that heroics can be very subtle, quiet affairs, requiring patience, persistence, and gentleness.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Persistent Flies

I hate flies, I really hate them, particularly persistent ones that hang in a room and make the air feel bad to breathe. I hate the way they rise from bins, making a hum, and the way they loiter with intent around food. I hate the way they well up like thick black rain from hot faeces. I hate "The Fly" particularly when played by Goldblum. I hate the sight of maggots. I loathe those horrible hanging around hovering flies waiting to land. I detest the ones that start to move when they think you aren't looking. I really hate the ones that land on you when you have your eyes closed.

Flies our corpses consume.

Flies are a reason I love winter.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Keirkegaard

I always wanted a hamster ever since my first ever TV must-see, which was called "Tales of the Riverbank". This charming children's TV series was filmed with live animals close up doing human things, like sail a boat down a stream, which image would have young Deek screaming "LITTLE BOAT! LITTLE BOAT!" Basically it was child-friendly, with Wind in the Willows-style characters pottering along in Johnny Morris's beautiful country tones to a very simple plot that wouldn't tax a miniscule budget.

Keirkegaard on the other hand was a spunky, virile, male character with good size balls. He was very much a vertical hamster, as I discovered when he took off at high speed up the fold of the curtain, and spent 5 minutes on the top rail sniffing around. He was probably getting a good tobacco fix. I was at first petrified that he would fall and die, and grabbing a chair, reached up to reclaim him. But having got myself to the same ceiling height, I could see how happy he was up there.

So I trained him mainly to drop safely. He really knew his stuff, always landing spreadeagled on the cushions I put out for him around the bottom of the curtains, With a quick shake of his head, whiskers twitching, he would scurry straight back up to the top.

I got worried at first thinking he'd be mashing his insides, falling 3 metres or more. But he lived to a very great age for a hamster, so I guess it did neither of us any harm.

Keirkegaard was a very cool hamster. I got him from the legendary Percy Parslow himself, went all the way down to Great Bookham and picked him out. Aged 12 I knew that you could train hamsters, and I had every intention of having a happy relationship with my new pet. I even wrote a book about hamster care, cribbed from various publications in the library and something I had picked up in a jumble sale, to prove my knowledge, and therefore future trustworthiness for his care. I kept his water fresh, cleaned his cage regularly, gave him cardboard and paper to shred, and even took him on holiday, where we played burrowing games in a hill of damp sawdust.

At night, left to his own devices this small Syrian émigré would do his routines: round and round on the wheel, chew the bars on the cage (this looked desperate but in fact was probably good for keeping the ever-growing teeth down) stuff the face-pouches with sunflower seeds. Then it would be back to round and round on the wheel, chew the bars on the cage. Pretty monotonous. I would fall asleep to the various sounds of rattling and chewing and rustling, and sometimes wake up to them if Keirkegaard really got going in the middle of the night. I learned to wax the axle of the wheel so that it wouldn't squeak.

Keirkegaard escaped once, and we found him behind the chest of drawers. He hadn't gone far, and seemed pleased to be returned to his metal cage.

I kind of wished he didn't have to live in a cage, but neighbourhood cats would have eaten him for sure, so, as I explained, it was for his own protection. He was resident King Hamster, and I even made him a fur-trimmed red-and-blue-bejeweled silver crown which he looked quite good in, but left with him, it would have become part of his greater bedding empire, so I kept it safe, for formal occasions.

Poor Keirkegaard ended his days in a veterinary surgery, his mortal remains committed not to his burial plot, which I had prepared for him at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by his favourite weeds, but to an industrial plastic container. The plans I had for a state funeral with full honours and a long cortège of tortoises and newts (who were available and up for the task) were thwarted by an unsentimental animal doctor, who when asked for his opinion on the elderly, by then moribund animal, declared him geriatric to the point of imminent death, and disposed of him forthwith. My harried parents did not understand why I was so upset that they had not even returned his body to me for proper salutation and farewell.

Farewell, Keirkegaard. You were a true furry friend, and like several humans since, you bit me from time to time and kept me awake at nights.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Woodlice

Don't ask me why I have decided to write about creatures, I couldn't tell you. I just found them there in my words and a hamster, a beaver and a snake ganged up on me and made me do it.

Creatures. Crawling walking swimming flying climbing sliding jumping wriggling burrowing biting stinging swinging hungry howling screeching caterwauling cousin critters.

Jesus there are so many of them. God the endless variations.

Do we really need so many? I seriously doubt it. Nothing the next mass extinction won't sort out.

Woodlice. I was fascinated by them. Little tanks that roll themselves up into an armoured ball, they are part of the forest floor, expert bin men. Few other creatures will eat something so completely indigestible.

You can find a hell of a lot of them under a damp piece of wood. They don't move very fast, more of a multi-legged trundle, but then neither do they have many accidents. They hang around in bars, drinking average-strength beer in moderate amounts, teaching the waitress slang she doesn't need or care about or understand. They always come home but they might take a wrong turning heading back with the shopping sometimes.

Woodlice: 5/10 for elegance, 7/10 for curling up into a ball, 9/10 for ubiquity.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Canadian Beavers Rule

I've always had a thing for beavers.

I could never wear a beaver-skinned anything - unless I was reincarnated back in time as a Canadian Indian, living in the vast untamed northern woods. I honour this amazing creature as I honour the part of the body that is named after it. I wouldn't eat one. Whereas...

Why does this poor efficiently-fanged creature provoke sniggers in grown men and women alike? Is it vagina dentata in totem animal form? I think not, I think it is a modern reference owing much to outdated Judaeo-Christian morality and phobias about sexuality.

How anyone could mistake female pudenda (I presume the origin of the reference is to pubic hair) for this flat-tailed tree-felling river-damming swimming creature beats me.

Simon and Garfunkel never sang, "I'd rather be a beaver than a snake" did they? If they did, I would have heard it. I listen to everything.

I can hear beavers eating trees, nib-nib-nib nibbling by the foresty bank - crash - splash!

I can hear snakes hisss-sssss-ssssing slithering almost silently... crossing water, grass, leaves...

Watch out, beaver! - (I'm on your side by the way)

Just don't give me those big sad eyes, I can't take that, not with the big sad teeth.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

I Dream Of Hamsters

I dreamed that I was going to have to share my living quarters with hamsters. They seemed very large to me at first, but that was I realised because I was VERY CLOSE UP. Do you ever dream in close up? I sometimes do.

[I wonder how much films have shaped our dreams. I remember that when I was young with a black and white TV, I dreamed in black and white. I can distinctly remember my first "colour" dream.]

As I was calmly, unrealistically considering a life alongside dozens of caged hamsters, I turned around and said to whoever [someone with whom I was intimately connected. I can't recall who they were - it was my significant other, a friend or some close family member]

"Thank God I like hamsters."

In that dream-like not-quite corpereal way in which you THINK the words and without jaw movement, the words seemed to resonate in the space... in the room I was in, which was a biggish Edwardian house... full of cages... they were heard by the people I was with - although it was not exactly EARS that were hearing, me being asleep, it was more a sense of minds, hearts... a sense of other personalities which exist outside of waking consciousness being with me... it was a very dreamlike dream, if you know what I mean...

I can't say that I really do like hamsters, though I possibly could put up with them if I had to. I used to have a pet hamster called Keirkegaard when I was twelve years old. Don't get me wrong though, I can't say I was blessed with the most classical education - I learned about Keirkegaard from Monty Python records.

From the same Cambridge Footlights-style sketch I also learned a drinking song about philosophers which has the final couplet,

"There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach yer 'bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates himself was permanently pissed."


I think it was written by Eric Idle, the lovely Rutle.

Can you see the resemblance?

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The End Of Questions

I return, in a slightly sad mood, not depressed, but reflective. Eighty seven days ago I met this man, Robin Cook, in the middle of my election coverage, who suddenly died yesterday. He was the man who persuaded me to vote Labour one more time. I remember distinctly his post-resignation tale where he told a woman that he may have resigned from government (in 2003 over the decision to go to war in Iraq) but he would go to his grave a card-carrying Labour Party member.

I guess in a few days he will be interred and I hope they do as he wished and bury him with his card. My ex-GF A's father died at 62, a horrible death from liver cancer. When he was buried, they dressed him in his best suit, and her brother put most of her credit and store cards, which this kind man had paid off before he departed, in his pockets. I have always cherished that image. I long for the resurrection and the end of expiry dates.

So here we go another month, another wippet. There he goes... damn, he's fast. What would I do without a regular succession of thin, fast dogs? Well, I would raise a family of coots, of course, start a drugs rehabilitation drop-in centre and perhaps teach an art class once a week on a Wednesday evening.

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