Thursday, September 04, 2008

The blue bird of haplessness


Suicidal Fairy Wren by Pants


I am crawling out from under a deep murky fog, both literally and figuratively. As spring teases frozen Victoria with frost-resistant daffodils that are no doubt some sort of insidious agri-mutant, we the demented optimistically rip ourselves from our cocoons of gloom into a consciousness of sorts. At least that’s how I like to see the seasonal behaviour of this fairy wren whose disturbing daily head-banging ritual is doing nothing for my tenuous adhesion to the tentacles of reality.

Every morning I shuffle into the drawing room, hair dryer trailing a long extension cord and blasting the icicles from my eyebrows. I open the fridge to savour a gust of warm air, (any port in a storm), before stoking up the sad excuse for a fire for one more valiant but ultimately futile battle with the cruel elements and non-existent roof insulation. And when is this country going to wake up to the virtues of heated towel rails pray? Oh, and did I mention the bog’s out on the back verandah? It might as well be in Newfoundland.

So, while I’m pointlessly sacrificing logs, da liddle boid bowls up and starts battering its funny fauny self against the defiantly un-double-glazed windows as sure as night is followed by something that looks very like night but is not quite as dark and a little more wet. What’s this all about nature lovers? Maybe he thinks we’re the only two beings left alive. Of course there’s Barney but surprisingly few natural creatures regard him as a living entity. Most of them are pretty sure they’ve seen things that look like Barney in the bargain bins of The Reject Shop.

Unlike my old Nikon, the Kodak doesn’t have motor drive so it took more effort than four seasons of Bill Oddie stalking badgers on Springwatch for me to get this shot. Then again, the Kodak doesn’t use up half my baggage allowance on budget airlines which is why the Nikon is parked in a storage shed in Laverton North and the Kodak is parked in my jeans. Is it certifiable to admit you miss Springwatch? Good Goddie I hope so. I also intuited that the people I’m house-sitting for in the wildest wests of Victoria may not appreciate me building a twitcher’s bunker in their drawing room. Although they might have been pleasantly surprised at how warm they can be and I naturally would have kitted it out with a Baby Belling, a Teasmade and four tonnes of recently killed whale’s blubber for which I would even prostitute myself to Japanese enviro-vandals. Yes I have been that cold.

I have never before experienced a requirement for a long-sleeved woollen vest. Now I have four of them and I wear them all at once. Electric blanket? Haven’t seen one since I was a child growing up in Sydney, a city so in denial of its appalling climate it should have its own support group. Now I break down weeping uncontrollably if I find an unelectrified bed. Staying in Melbourne with friends who had inexpensive and efficient gas heating that they reluctantly switched on and set to 15 degrees only after one of them contracted pneumonia was instructive. I was roundly pilloried for not having enough warm clothing. In my own defence I submit that this is the very same clothing that survived a London winter without me even having to wear more than a couple of pieces of it at any one time. Then again, I wasn’t sitting at a bus stop 24/7. In Melbourne, I might as well have been.

Tempting as it was, I have not yet been reduced to re-configuring the repatriated Barnster into a stole. Barney arrived back from Britain disguised as my long awaited e-Bay purchase of a 1970s special edition Bay City Rollers Tartan Bagpuss Deluxe still in its box. I couldn’t resist the cheerful thought that a child had received this for Christmas, was immediately told to register it as a pensionable investment and promptly decided to liquidate. Barney knows me too well. I have to say I admire him for knitting those duds himself and I know for a certain fact that he fooled at least two acknowledged experts from the Antiques Roadshow.

Reunited, we headed off to survey innocent and unsuspecting towns along the length of the Victorian coastline for possible locations in which to launch our joint initiative aimed at influencing civic well-being that we have dubbed Lowering The Tone. It’s early days but we think we may have found the perfect victim for our future activities. I can’t say anything yet as we don’t want to alert the law although the temptation to spook the market with our interest is enormous. Hackney has never recovered from our prolonged occupation. We could make a killing if only our homicidal knowledge extended beyond how to kill each other, which even we are smart enough to realise is counter-productive.

The Subaroo, which for some reason Barney has taken to smoking pot with and speaking gangsta to late at night, has conveyed us across the country with suspicious calm. It is disquieting to have a car select your music for you, particularly if it constantly reheats Coldplay which must be very unhealthy. I suspect a conspiracy. I’ve seen I Robot - more than once. Barney has at least made an effort to mingle, insisting that we stop to congratulate a wombat who made it across the Princess Highway intact. We had certainly seen many of the fallen so even we knew that this was a feat for the somewhat less than fleet wombat. All was going well until Barney asked the exhausted marsupial how he managed to keep his hat on while sleeping hanging upside down. It's a long story and one that involves an ill-conceived economy with the truth on my part. Will I never learn? I was grateful for the Subaroo’s central locking system and custom Barney cage at that point.

I know the bible talks about there being a purpose to every season yadda, yadda, yadda but that was before this whole global warming palaver thing happened and all bets are obviously off. I’m more inclined towards the sentiments of the great jazz lyricist Fran Landesman who said spring can really hang you up the most...

27 comments:

Andrew said...

Not sure which is worse, overheated houses, or underheated but I hate people being cheap with heating and cooling. In spite of telling people in England that our winter was like their summer, it is not really. Keep yourself warm Pants and bugger the expense.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Andrew

Your solidarity (not to mention uncommon sanity) is much appreciated. The environmental consequences of having to wash your clothes four times as often because you are wearing four times as many of them at any one time surely neutralises any benefit.

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

Pants, I think the problem comes when one gets used to central heating - I didn't have that until I had kids and remember how completely normal it was to freeze one's bum off in the loo and have bath water that simply filled the bathroom up with fog and one didn't linger there. Now it seems unthinkable and when my daughter's central heating was out of action for a week or so in winter she experienced it as a full-on emergency. My sympathies. At least Barney has a permanent covering of fur. I suppose the warmth generated by his companionship isn't quite enough in the circs. I would say come back, but we are about to move from the most miserable summer on record to an freezing cold winter. Let a touch of Schadenfreude at least be a glowing ember while easing the spring.

The photo is fabulous.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signsie (sorry, Aussie thing)

Thanks for the photo plaudit - it took me a LONG time to get this shot. You're right of course about the freezing buns thing. The first three places I lived in London were squats - one had an outside loo. It was the winter of 82 - not nice. I do think that gas central on 19 degrees with good insulation and double glazing is economical for the environment as well as the private and public purse. When I think of the time I've wasted over the last four months on working to get warm and worrying about not being warm, I could shatter into a million icy pieces.

xxx

Pants

Brian Hughes said...

Are you sure that's a bird? It looks more like a mutated bluebottle to me. Incidentally, if you want it to stop divebombing the window like that, try untying the bungee rope from its ankle.

trousers said...

I was thinking less I, Robot and more Legend - the thought of you and Barney trawling along in the Subaru trying to find evidence of other living beings (I'm sure the reality is far better than the CGI-laden film at any rate).

That's So Pants said...

Brian

As ever, I salute your ingenuity.

Hi Trews

With Barney - as the saying goes - the truth is far stranger than any fiction you could conjure. Any population observation done by us would necessarily be flawed as anything with half a brain knows to run for cover at the mere sniff of Barney and, believe me, that travels.

xxx

Pants

phil said...

That's an excellent piccie.

Coast of Victoria? You are a masochist, aren't you?

cheers

Phil

That's So Pants said...

Hi Phil

Yup - what a person will do for a view eh? Barney, will you S the F up!

xxx

Pants

Lunar Brogue said...

Hi Pants,

the wren may be ill - in which case, a morning's worth of ritualistic pounding is probably only half the story. (Especially now that the chicks have flown.)

You could knit a mohair bonnet for the little fella. Something in sky blue.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Lunie

At last - someone who knows less about wildlife than I do. You're always welcome dear.

xxx

Pants

Lunar Brogue said...

I'm offended but I'm laughing. How do you do that?

That's So Pants said...

Hi Lunie

Years of trial and error - Barney, for the last time... Sorry lunie.


xxx

Pants

Wisewebwoman said...

It looks to me like the courtship of Barney has begun.
The progeny should be, well, interesting.
You've gone soft on us, Pants. Or should I say Hackneyed?
What's a little winter chill?
And a bog on the verandah? Too much Merlot, methinks.
XO
WWW

That's So Pants said...

Hi WWW

If only it were true - all of it. Fortunately for the world, Barney is sterile. Even the synthetic pet industry has SOME principles. I thought I'd left the outdoor toilet thing behind in the eighties. It seems somehow a rite of passage to be venturing out in the snow in your beaver lamb coat after a night on the Bulls Blood. I have been exercising enormous restraint with the wine - anything to avoid having to get out of bed in the middle of the night. I need a crane to extract me from under the four duvets in any case and that takes a bit of organisation. The ex House of Pants was a fur-lined hive of regulated comfort with its dinky little central heating stoking up while I slumbered in order to deliver me into a warm and dry bathroom. The towels never seem to dry here. Still I know what I'm not looking for in a new Seat of Pants, that's for sure.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

I don't know why you're saying all this, are you suggesting Melbourne is colder than London, for goodness sake? To get any snow in Australia at all you'd have to be up in a small alpine area where they pray for it every "ski-season" and sometimes have to use snow-making machines.
Any Londoner coming to Melbourne would melt, in Summer we get 40C plus several days running, Darwin is 30C every day of the year. Melbourne's climate is erratic, in Spring it can be 35C one day and 15C the next, which in my opinion is unhealthy, but to give the idea Winter is colder here than in London is total nonsense.

That's So Pants said...

Hi RH

I believe the point I'm making, some might even say labouring, is that there is a general and annoyingly persistent shortfall in the adequacy of artificial domestic warming apparatus consistent with a denial that the weather is, in fact, decidely parky. Ya get me mon?

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

oh aye.

(stop that ticklin' Jock)

BlissHill said...

You can get heated towel rails, Pants.

Re; the itty bitty bird, they seem to come and go. Last year I had a thrush at my studio door, and before that, we had a blue wren on the side vision mirror on the car. I put a photo of a hawk's head on the glass to dissuade the thrush, which made him angrier and more determined. This year, they must all have brain damage and there is nothing (so far). Now I have parrots eating ALL my apricot blossoms, and have had to hang curtains at the dog kennel doors to keep the barn swallow babies from pooping all over the dogs while they sleep. They're building under the veranda now..........

Nature? Bah, humbug!

That's So Pants said...

Hi Blissie

Believe me, heated towel rails are going to be the first purchase for the new Seat of Pants. In fact I might start queuing at Mitre 10 now just to make sure I've got them for next year.

The Subaroo has already discovered the hazards of sharing sleeping accommodations with swallows. Easier to wash than dogs though.

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

Heated towel rails? I'll come and move in with you and Barney, Pants. I'm fed up with all this rain and need a change, forget what I said about autumn. I'd quite like a swimming pool too.

That's So Pants said...

Hello Signs

Barney, as you know, has rather exacting domestic tastes, most of which are against the law. Heated towel rails, along with Broadband that responds faster than it takes to make a cup of coffee from beans you roast yourself and a political system it's possible to ignore without too bigger dent on the conscience, are the marks of a civilised society in my view.

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

I'm with you, Pants - even more today than yesterday on account of continuing rain and no end in sight. Don't worry, I'd take Barney as a necessary incidental.

I have just had a cold bath due to son getting there before me, and am sitting wrapped in cold towels watching the needles come down outside. Broadband here takes forever. Just wanted you to know that.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

Your efforts, as always, are plainly well-meaning. For some reason, miserable weather does nothing for me, no matter who's experiencing it. I don't like the sound of a cold bath though. Please disinherit son immediately. That's one thing I do have here, abundant water - no drought in Victoria no matter what anyone tells you. The problem, I think is that the lakes all have holes in them and no one knows how to fix them.

xxx

Pants

Ann O'Dyne said...

the dear little Battering Wren is proving Fran's refrain "spring can really hang you up the most"

thanks for the fab foto

herman said...

you want something to read try albert facey
tie me kangaroo down, sport!

That's So Pants said...

Hello Herman

Clearly, fortune is an immoveable beast.

xxx

Pants