So you’re moving to the country for some …. (Part One)


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 ….. peace and quiet?

 

Ah. Well. Now there’s a thing.  Peace and quiet.

And far be it for me to burst anyone’s aspirational bubble but – oh dear, where do I start?

Well, if I may I think I’ll begin with the birds.

Now I appreciate many might think of the tweet-tweeting of our little feathered friends as infinitely preferable to, say, the sound of a road drill outside your urban bedroom window at sparrow fart on a Monday morning.  But believe you me, that is entirely dependent on –

  1. the size and direct proximity of bird-filled trees to your bedroom window and
  2. the length of time that irritating road drill is going to be there. As most road drills are done their drilling roughly within a week to ten days you can generally look forward to going back to sleeping past 6.30am relatively quickly.

Birds, on the other hand, do not have an off button.  At all.  And they are particularly vocal and opinionated around 4.30-6am.

They don’t recognise weekends or bank holidays, and at migration times of the year they gather in what we fondly call ‘flocks’, but which are actually quite terrifying hoards of over excited feathery little critters, all yelling about their impending journey to warmer climes.  And if you’re unlucky enough – (us, herrumph) – to have an unholy amount of large demonic crows living loudly in the branches around you then expect the noise of three or four harrier jets as they come in for landing on your roof to scratch around noisily, talons like meat hooks. They ‘CAW-caw-CACK!’ without the slightest regard for who’s in the room below trying to get some much needed shuteye. And don’t bother getting out of bed to open the window and scare them off. They’ll be back.  They’re the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the bird world.

And don’t even get me started on cockerels.  Ever lived next door to a resident, randy, strutting cockerel?

My friend V – who’s also a very glamourous witch (#nettlegarden.com) says her ‘boy’ – she won’t name him in case a fox gets him, apparently the heart break is worse if they’ve got a name, I think it’s a ‘Chicken-Run-The-Movie’ sort of thing (#dawnofthenugget) – starts somewhere around five. Or four. Can be three.  That’s A.M!  Today he was apparently replying loudly to an owl, or something.  I ask you.

Which brings me tidily round to owls.

Ah yes owls.  The soft, immersing haunting sound of a majestic owl.  Many’s the evening I’ve escorted The Incorrigible Lab outside to complete his late-night peeing ritual and have been arrested by the melodramatic sound of the night owl patrolling the skies above.  A shadowy sight and a haunting ‘ta-whit-ta-whoo-hooo’ floating on the wind …..

‘How romantic,’ you’re probably thinking.

And you may have a point.

Then – AAAAAGHHH!!  EEEEEEEEEHHHH!!! EEEEAAAAAAHHHWWKKKK!!! – as some poor, sweet, unsuspecting baby rabbit or similar is grabbed unmercifully in giant owl talons – up, kicking and screaming all the way back to its murderous forest lair!  Yes it’s very romantic in the country.

There are also plenty of other critters that anyone even thinking of up-sticking to The Country really should take properly into consideration. I actually feel quite tired just thinking about where to begin.

Ok, well, mice for starters.  And spiders. (Of which there are a lot.)

But let’s start with the mice which, en masse, can be quite noisy, too.  Even if you don’t mind mice – (which I really don’t – Tom and Jerry and all that, I always rooted for Jerry) – they do scratch loudly at night.  I suppose it depends on whether you’re a light sleeper or not.  Unfortunately The Egg is, (see a previous rumination #Our Layabout 15 Year Old Teen Wretch…) – which can be particularly annoying in the dawn light when he’s scrabbling under the bed for his air rifle, moaning loudly about a mouse farting in the loft overhead.  I mean it – he can be disturbed by the merest sound that is inconsistent with sleep, and there are many, MANY of those in The Country.

At which point I should probably also mention rutting stags.

Which is a term I feel a bit red-faced using. It just sounds so graphically rude!  You have to be a bit on your toes explaining that one to small children.

But explain it you will need to, as the stags and bucks do it very noisily and mainly at twilight, which is roughly ‘putting small children to bed’ time, so you may get one or two ‘why?’ questions from September to November.  And boy, can that sound travel!  We live a good quarter mile across the valley from local herds of wild deer, but that noise fills the air with a deep throated grunt – ‘nature’s trombone’ which has even The Incorrigible Lab blushing, his paws clamped firmly over unusually moist eyes. He keeps his back to the wall when he hears that rampant bellow I can tell you!

Whilst we’re on the subject of large, rampant wild animals (and I’m leaving The Egg out of this) another friend, Actress Anna lives audibly close to one.  Murphy, according to Anna, is quite a character. ‘Horny’ is putting it mildly – apparently he’ll shag anything that moves and is extremely vocal in his quest to satiate his sexual appetite. You can hear him from miles away.  I suppose it would be irresponsible of me at this point not to divulge that Murphy is in fact a donkey – in case you are already dialing social services. And I know that donkeys are not normally considered wild animals but, according to Anna when he’s on one of his ‘passion rampages’ he seems pretty bloody furious – boom boom! – (sorry, weak even for Basil Brush!)

Anyway, it seems Murphy, God bless his horny little soul, is quite a force.  And it’s very visibly apparent when he’s in the mood to get his leg over.  And having four to choose from I think he’s quite fast on his feet.  Donkeys can be very, very noisy. It’s the excited bray, you see. So it’s an idea to check before you ‘complete’ that you’re not moving next door to one.

Free of charge and complimentary to the above, here’s a short list of one or two other noisy country things that might threaten to drive you to the edge of sanity or at the very least put a shiver into your bones –

Sheep en masse at lambing time – those baby lambs are just so damn glad to be alive and considering their size are surprisingly loud about it.

Next door’s dogs – everyone has dogs in the country – barking repeatedly at anything that moves, might be a fly, could be a leaf fluttering by, you name it.

Foxes screaming in the garden at dead of night sounding, disturbingly, not unlike a baby being murdered.  This is true, they do.

Cows having a strop – when one starts they all do, and if there are bullocks involved it can get a bit feisty….. in fact police sirens, screeching brakes, honking horns and the relentless roar of the North Circular have nothing on rural Britain.

(Digression alert! – Interesting fact:  Cows at large can be much more threatening than you might imagine.  And Daisy with a young calf can get really quite cross.

Case in point: A few years ago The Incorrigible Lab and I were minding our own business ambling through a local field, him happily sniffing huge dollops of fresh cow pat and me chatting loudly to myself.  A herd of cows grazed contentedly in the distance. But – they had calves.  RED ALERT! RED ALERT!! If you take nothing else from this rambling tome remember this – cows do not like dogs!  They like them even less if they have just calved.

Unfortunately for The I.L and me, one of the skittish young calves decided to take a closer look at us and brazenly began trotting across the field in our direction.  Mrs. Cow immediately lifted her head and gave an angry bellow – I’m not sure if she was shouting at her naughty juvenile or us, but she was clearly having none of it. In less than twenty seconds she had covered the 150metres between us like an Olympic athlete – all half tonne of her – and was oncoming faster than a freight train! There was simply no option other than to get back to the fence some way behind us and eject ourselves rapidly.

I quickly summed up the situ – no way could The I.L get over that fence on his own, but I also surmised that he was less likely to cope with being mashed by a huge bovine head at such impressive velocity than I was. I realised (with some regret – having heroics forced upon you when you’re least expecting it can be very discombobulating) – that I must save The I.L at all costs. If I lost a limb or suffered a crushed pelvis in the process it was simply a fait accompli.

I scooped up The I.L, all 30kg of him in Herculean record time – (surprising really – the Teen Wretches make no bones about the fact they think I’m a pathetic weakling with the muscle mass of a sparrow) – and hurled him over the fence to safety, then turned back to confront my fate.

By now, Madam Cow was less than four thundering metres from me, and I panicked. It’s amazing how huge a cow’s head is actually, at close quarters. Cows seems pretty much in proportion in photographs or from a safe distance.  But now this cow’s head suddenly seemed at least three feet long, two feet wide and very, very solid.   I had no time to straddle the fence myself or think of a strategy, so I took a deep breath and prepared to meet my maker.

Suddenly – and I have no idea where it came from but survival instinct must have kicked in – with an enthusiastic balletic energy I don’t normally possess I leapt high into the air with a sort of ninja meets kung-fu leg-chopping motion, emitting a high-pitched karate scream.  Landing somewhat unexpectedly in a full leg-splayed Haka position, I squatted with waggling hands, tongue hanging out demonically and bellowed “Bllllaaaaaaaaggghhhhh” at her impending bulk!

I could feel her breath on my face she was so close.  I wondered briefly what to do if she continued her quest but my unusual act appeared to have confused her momentarily and she veered off to the left with, I swear, an expression of “What the actual….?” etched across her temporarily retreating muzzle.

I now had a few precious seconds to allow me to navigate the fence which was unfortunately for me not only barbed but enshrouded in holly foliage, pointy and sharp. Sharp enough to fiercely stab halfway to death any idiot stupid enough to attempt it but I was, of course, that idiot. And it was preferable to being mashed to death by half a tonne of really angry bovine!

Catapulting myself to safety I lay there, gasping, next to a dispassionate I.L who was giving me one of his eye-rolling “For God’s sake woman!” looks.

If there is to be even one small nugget of wisdom I can proffer from this story, it is to suggest you seriously have a think around the possibility of taking up international rugby or, at the very least learning a few Jiu-Jitsu moves, if ever you get the chance. You never know when you just might need them…. End of digression) ….

 

—-//—-

 

But back to wild animals.  Well, spiders to be precise.  Because you have to mention spiders when talking about The Country.

And I hate ‘em.

I know it’s irrational.  I know they can’t harm me – (we don’t have black widows or plate spiders in the country, just in case that’s a deal breaker for you) – but there are a lot of spiders.  And I tried so hard for years to pretend to the (little) Boy Wretches that I didn’t mind them. But I bloody well do! And now they’re big Teen Wretches, they don’t like them either.  So monumental parenting failure right there then.

What’s more, they’ve got attitude!  Spiders with attitude are a lot worse than you might think.

Take Horace, the resident spider in our utility room.  He lived just under the pull-out dry food cupboard so I was afraid to pull the cupboard out. Which sort of negated the purpose of it and was really annoying.  I hadn’t seen the baked beans for weeks.  He appeared, much to my dismay around last October and took up residence under my PULL-OUT BLOODY CUPBOARD.  (Deep breaths.)  He was one of those medium sized but quite hairy ones and although I wasn’t completely pushed to screaming mode, I did have to scale the edges of the room, clambering up on top of the sink to get to the door through to the garage, which was really inconvenient.

So, I had to come up with a cunning plan.

Now, I’ve heard that spiders don’t like conkers – apparently it’s something to do with the smell, although to be fair I haven’t actually confirmed this with a spider.  So, I raced out and gathered as many fallen conkers as I could carry, placing them at strategic points around the utility room and close to all the doors in the house that lead outside.  I also (rather callously I admit) placed a large (and hopefully right minging, conkery smelling) one on the floor, just at the edge of the pull-out cupboard where I’d spotted the little bugger nipping in and out, goading me whenever he felt like it.

Thereafter, I didn’t see him at all, and felt a rush of relief.  Normal activity resumed and VICTORY WAS MINE!

But not so fast!

A few days later I burst energetically into the utility on some mission or other and – THERE – WAS – HORACE!  One of his eight spindly, cocky little legs resting nonchalantly atop my conker, eye-balling me with a smirk that said “Read it and weep, bitch!”

Rage? – Well, let’s just say that, er, Horace is no more. I shan’t go further into detail – and I do feel a modicum of guilt but – let’s just leave it there, shall we?

 

End of Part One…..

—-//—-

Ruminations Of A Mad Cow

 

Part Two coming soon ….

 

 

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February 27, 2024