My favourite television as a small boy was, Animal Magic. I was so in awe of the presenter Johnny Morris, who was able to talk to the animals: I was around eight years old before I’d worked out it was Johnny that was doing the voices of the beasts. So taken with the show, I begged my parents for every animal book that was published, convinced I would be a zoo keeper they pandered to my every animal related whim. I grew up with an assortment of mice, pigeons, cats etc. but didn’t manage to become a zoo keeper. As I grew older my fondness for animals has never waned and I still privileged when I see something in its natural environment,
So you can understand my happiness as this week has been filled with animal sightings. Monday I was walking the dogs in the lane when we stopped to watch a huge black snake slither across the newly laid tarmac, the black of its scales shimmering like marcasite in the early morning sunshine. I do like to see these grass snakes, they’re timid and as soon as they spot a human they’re off through the grass at alarming speed. Today’s snake hasn’t seen us and we stand watching as it moves slowly off the road where it has lain warming its blood and into the olives. The oppressive August heat hasn’t crept up on us yet, so we enjoy the stroll, the fields are awash with butterflies; blue ones, white ones, multi-coloured admirals all flutter from one flower to another, sharing their space with the wild bees.
Tuesday has been very hot and in the evening, the inside of the house is like a sauna. As the temperature outside falls, inside it seems to rise. I imagine its the roof tiles and stones retaining the heat from the daytime. I sit outside with a glass of wine and allow the slight breeze to tickle me. There’s a rustle in the undergrowth, the dogs ears prick up, but it’s been too hot today and they don’t budge from the patio. Two eyes flash and it’s the fox that seems to pay us a visit most nights. Keeping a safe distance from the dogs and human, it silently creeps through the tall grass, barely a blade moves until there’s a squeal and it moves away quickly with something small and furry in its mouth.
Wednesday morning arrives, the iPod is in its dock in the living room, playing In Mysterious Ways, by John Foxx: Two foxes in one week I remember that I haven’t put my neighbours recycling box out so nip up the lane and do so. My neighbours house is in an elevated position and as I descend the steps leading down to the road, I see three hares in the field opposite, they’re running and leaping about and occasionally boxing with each other.
Thursday afternoon gave me my best animal encounter of the week. I’m driving back from the bank and as I come around a bend I spot three deer. They gingerly step out from an olive grove and look up and down the road, I slow right down and they cross right in front of me. The deer in front looks like a mature doe and behind her is two yearlings. They enter the grove opposite and then dissolve into the landscape, perfectly hidden from human eyes.
What a week it’s been for animal magic.
(Italian fox image courtesy of 123rf.com. Royalty free images)