Squirrel Frenzy

This isn’t my usual style but I thought I’d have a go at flash fiction!

She shooed away the squirrels for the hundredth time, picked up the empty peanut bag and settled to watch her birds have their feast. One by one they returned, scrambled up to the bird table and lunged at the new squirrel proof feeder. Each time they failed and squealed irritably while the finches, nuthatches and woodpecker pecked away at the fresh supply.
They got angry. They squealed louder. She clapped loudly as she moved towards the feeder and as she turned back to the bench a large buck ran at her feet and she nearly fell trying to avoid it. It screeched an almost human sound and sat returning her stare. It moved closer and was joined by another two. They moved closer as they were joined by another three. By another five. By another nine. Who scratched their way up her body. Squealing. Nibbling. Gnawing.
She thrashed and screamed. Another dozen. Fifty. Nibbling. Gnawing.
Her veins.

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On foot with elephants

I missed the elephant in the swimming pool by one week – in Mole national park, northern Ghana. It had strolled up the hill for a chlorinated swim by way of a change. But it was okay because I got closer to them than I was comfortable with, in a jeep, with my friend and two rangers. One of these guys was smaller than we were, and I am sure that an angry elephant would have been no more frightened of him, than of one of the baboons that were as populous as sparrows in my garden. The second warden came complete with a safari suit and a rifle. Or maybe a replica rifle. I don’t think I’ve ever been very close to a real gun, but it didn’t look like it could shoot a bullet big enough to even graze the hide of these healthy, well fed  pachyderms. I could only hope that the plan would be to scare them away with a little bang.

We were bullied, no ahem, persuaded into exiting the jeep, which was tied together with string anyway, to take photos of each other with three of the giants in the background.

‘We need to drive around that way, a bit closer’ said small warden without safari suit.

‘Closer, why closer?’ ‘I don’t want to get any closer thanks’. We were perhaps thirty feet away.

‘Please, speak in whispers and if they smell us they may charge, we have to be behind the wind’ he said. Now, I hadn’t felt any wind, it was as hot as well …Africa, as still as a graveyard before a thunderstorm, and my adrenaline was telling me to run back to the jeep pdq. These guys are probably used to re-assuring wussy travellers who like the idea of a gentle stroll, to see some cute wildlife just like Attenborough, but then turn chicken in the end.

‘Don’t you want to show your friends how close you were to elephants?’

No actually I want to throw up but I suppose that would be too noisy.

‘Okay, I guess I probably should do this.’ They led us closer and I snapped the two of them with my friend. Then I realised that I had to turn MY back on them, no more than twenty feet away. Needless to say my face tells all in that photo. I’m glad I did it; I still love elephants – from a distance!

We only stayed in Mole for two nights. It was a brilliant experience, a lot more rugged than a safari I did in Botswana a few years earlier, where the lodge was the height of luxury. In Mole, the water and electricity in our chalet was only on for a couple of hours a day and there were creepy crawly things that I’d rather forget. The atmosphere was great though and the view was about as good as it gets. Just before sunset herds of elephants of all sizes come to bathe in the waterhole down below the veranda. A much more relaxed way to see them!

It could be you one day

I met an elderly man today. He had come to out-patients for one of years of appointments in cardiology, nephrology and the eye unit. He had a sparkle in his eye, stains on his shirt and his trouser fastenings were quite suspect, but I liked him. He chatted to me about his ailments and I helped him to sort through his paperwork amongst which was a poem. I tried to peep at it but couldn’t quite see, and after a while he offered it to me, saying that it was about the ageing process and he had ‘adapted’ it to include bits about his health. You can Google the original, it’s called ‘The shape I’m in’and each stanza ends with those words.

I could see behind him that someone was shifting from foot to foot, a young medic who probably hadn’t yet been on a geriatric ward. Now, whenever someone gets impatient like that it makes me slow down even more (one day I will regret it because I do it when driving with some idiot on my bumper) so I made the paper shuffling look more professional for a few minutes. Once I’d had my game, I asked Mr so ‘n’ so if he minded holding on while I dealt with the next person. He didn’t of course; and when I’d finished with Dr Shifty, he was thrilled to have a captive audience.

We talked about poetry, pills, the country bus service and that although he had been to most departments for treatment over the years, he still had most of his brain cells. I told him he was doing well as most of mine seem to taken the low road when I took the high. It was good timing, I had a quiet spell and could indulge him, but confess I had to pinch myself a couple of times when I realised I was losing focus.

His conversation with me was possibly the longest he’d had for a while but it cost me nothing and do you know what? He was good fun and I really hope that I get to see him again. I can’t help wondering how my life will be when I’m his age in I don’t know, twenty or twenty five years. Will I be lonely? Invisible? Will my toe nails be unkempt because I can’t reach them? Will I have stains on my clothes because my vision isn’t sharp enough to tell? At the moment I plan to be outrageously eccentric, but will I be able to make that choice or will it just happen to me?

Thirty Years and One Day

Thirty years and one day ago I was sitting in the garden with a friend watching our toddling daughters playing in a sand pit. It was a July day just as it should be, scorching with a silent air, waiting for a thunder storm that didn’t come. The girls played happily with the sand between their toes and fingers sticky with ice cream. I was waiting as well, for the discomfort I was feeling to turn into something tangible instead of the crampy, twingey, shovey feeling in my abdomen. I wriggled in the deck- chair for the umpteenth time and caught my friend’s anxious sideways look.

‘Are you all right? Nothing’s happening is it? You’re very fidgety.’

‘Just a bit uncomfortable, maybe things are getting ready and it will come on Saturday when it’s due.’

‘I’m not sure you will last that long,’ she laughed as I rolled to my knees on the grass, the only way I could extract myself from the deck-chair, and then gradually shifted from quadruped to upright.

‘It can’t come soon enough for me but I think it’s another lazy girl, just hope she doesn’t give me such a hard time as Nina.’

Natural delivery had eluded me when my daughter had arrived nineteen months earlier, I had a dose of pre-eclampsia and they decided to induce me. And so, in the way of much of what happens to me in my life, I really wasn’t certain what I was feeling. Husband came home from work, dinner was eaten, toddler was bathed, tucked up and TV was watched.

‘I don’t think I’ll go to bed’ I said at around eleven, ‘something is definitely going on and I don’t want to have any panics.’ The vision of my waters breaking in the style of a tidal wave, ruining the mattress, was second only to it happening in the supermarket, where I had already entertained them by fainting a couple of times.

‘Shall I call mum and dad?’ we didn’t have a car in those days and his parents were pre-booked to be taxi and to look after Nina in the event of any night time journeys.

‘Let’s wait a bit, I can’t tell if I’m having regular contractions.’ He intermittently dozed on the sofa and watched while I paced around for a couple of hours. I knew that I was in labour then, but still couldn’t time my contractions accurately; they would come at ten minute intervals and then seem to be up to half an hour. I just knew it hurt; I’d had a bit of what may have been a show, so we called the hospital.

‘Come in if you think they are ten minutes apart, it’s your second it could happen very quickly.’ With the complications I’d had the first time they weren’t taking any chances. Half an hour later we arrived at the hospital in my father-in-laws orange Saab and I waddled in. All of my so called contractions stopped.

We waited. Regular checks were done and it was agreed that I was in labour but only three centimetres dilated and they said I could go home for a few hours if I wanted. There was absolutely no way I was budging, once I was there that’s where the mess was going to be! They punished me for staying – with an enema!

M went home wondering why he and his parents had been up all night and I fell asleep for a few hours until I was woken by pain. Because I was so medicated for my first birth I had been to National Childbirth groups this time around, I was determined to be present and that my baby wouldn’t be having any drugs.  The day drifted on through with all well; I was constantly monitored, they fully expected that I would need a Caesarean and so wasn’t allowed even a drink. Thank the Goddess for my tiny and expensive NCT natural sponge to suck on. With my legs in stirrups my nether regions were frequently explored by an assortment of midwives and doctors, one of whom I could have slapped for catheterizing me and reaching in to stick something on the baby’s head leaving me pinned to the bed.

Towards mid afternoon when I’d been huffing, puffing and making strange shapes with my mouth for what seemed an eternity, I was finally taken to the delivery room with nearly my ten centimetres. I was crying with pain and ready to give up and have some nice drugs. The bitches said it was too late, it wouldn’t make any difference now, and baby was on its way. I felt really panicky- this hurt big time. They gave me Entonox, but I was trying to breathe, pant and inhale all at once, just too confusing for my tired, addled brain.

My precious son arrived at 4.50pm weighing a whopping nine pound one ounce, incredibly long and skinny. I was proud of myself for the drug free arrival I gave him and totally shocked and happy to have one of each. He’s still tall and skinny now, very handsome and intelligent, and a loving parent himself. I’m very proud of him and my beautiful daughter; being a mother is a gift that I give thanks for every day.