Animal Magic

Animal Magic

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 Smile 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 Royalty free images)

The Birds and the Bees

Hands up, who clicked today’s blog post thinking or hoping it was about sex?

I was driving along the road through San Tommaso with the iPod switched on as usual, as I was sat behind a tractor cutting the hedges at the side of the road and travelling at around 8kmph, it was apt that Kate Bush was singing the largely unknown B.side, You Want Alchemy. The song about bees and honey ambles along beautifully, much like I was doing as the large industrial strimmer took off the excess grow at the strada’s edge. Suddenly the car was engulfed by a flock of swallows, eager I guess for the insects released by the machines blades. Feeling like Tipi Hedren in a cinematic promo for The Birds, I watch as they dart dangerously close to my windscreen, I’m worrying they may be harmed, but my worry is needless, these little blue/black birds are travelling faster than I am. Up ahead is the speed camera and the flower shop, the strimmer stops and is hydraulically lifted up and away from the edge of the road and the swallows disperse. We come to a straight stretch of road and I take the opportunity to pass the tractor, as he reaches the hedges again, the strimmer once more is deployed, and as the whirring blades chop at the greenery, the swallows once again return to feast.

You Want Alchemy

I undertake the task which was the reason for my journey, drop into the bakers and buy a panino morbido, to accompany the salad I’ll be having for lunch and make my way back home. I’m sliding along passing the yellow coloured house on the bend when the slipstream caused by my driving sucks several bees into the car. I look into my rear view mirror and see just a scooter and a small Fiat behind me. Three bees have landed on the back window and are puzzled by this see-through hard thing preventing them from flying, another two are buzzing around inside and one has alighted upon the steering wheel. I slow down and let the scooter overtake, the Fiat turned off a few metres back. As soon as the car is motionless the two flying bees escape through the open passenger-side window, I get out and the bee on my steering wheel leaves through the open door, I open the rear door and two bees instantly sense freedom and take to flight, leaving one behind. The remaining bee buzzes down onto the headrest of the back seat and paces back and forth. As I’m stopped in a somewhat silly place on a main road,, there’s nothing for it but to coax her out. I lay my hand down and she walks up to it, waggles her head a little and them walk onto my index finger, carefully I withdraw my hand and once she feels the warm sunshine, with a buzz she’s gone.

I climb back into that car, and before I drive away, I backtrack on the iPod and listen to Kate Bush again as I make my way home.