Monday, 4 April 2011

Ja, ik adopteer een oehoe

So, where were we? I am not dead. I went somewhere for the weekend that slightly made me wish I was at times but I Cannot Talk About That. No, not a pyschiatric institution.

Oh yes, I think I have a problem. My problem is this: I am in love with an owl, a female owl, living at an unspecified location in the Netherlands. It's bordering on a dangerous obsession. I can watch her sleep for hours, indeed I have just this evening sat motionless for twenty minutes as she plumped up her feathers and shifted around slightly. I have watched the clip where she gets all excited when Mr Owl brings her a rat (described with admirable economy on the log of events as: 'man brengt rat', which should surely be a film title) then she swallows it whole in the manner of the Bronx Zoo Python coming across an abandoned Big Mac at least 12 times. I get an indescribable thrill when she looks straight at the camera with her gigantic, scathing owl eyes, as if to say 'what the fuck are you looking at?'. I'm not too concerned about the effect on my productivity, partly because I could arse about pointlessly for hours without bird webcams, and partly because I find them enormously soothing. I can watch the storks' feathers blowing gently in the wind and feel my pulse slowing (well, until some bastard knocked the webcam. Now I can just stare at a close up of some twigs).

Anyway. I am in love with an owl. Earlier today, returned from my entirely unnatural weekend I turned on the webcam, greedy for some soothing owl action, and watched her dismember some creature (a bird, I think), dispassionately, efficiently, with long breaks for little sleeps next to a pile of feather and gut. It was perfect. It's oddly moving watching birds nesting. Seriously though, I feel extraordinarily privileged to be alive at a time when such a thing is possible, as opposed to sitting in some damp corner of the northern hemisphere with binoculars, a wet arse and a clammy slab of Kendal Mint Cake, all for the occasional distant glimpse of a wingtip of some hard to identify brown bird, as the previous generation (including my own mother and father, freaks) was required to do. I am turning into my parents, but with better technology.

On the basis of my lengthy observations, I am very taken with the owl approach to child rearing. There are supposedly two chicks in the nest now, but she seems utterly unmoved by their presence; they have not put her off her intensive programme of sleeping, occasional grooming, and extra hard staring. For one terrifying moment last week, I thought she was eating one of them, but it was only an empty egg. Not that I would put it past her. So far, however, her approach is entirely constructed around ignoring the chicks 23 hours a day, and occasionally flying off for a snack. She is sometimes gone quite a while, and you can just make out their wobbly, fuzzy heads, staggering around the nest in atavistic panic. I read an article in French Grazia on the train this weekend about parents who abandon their children for the evening to go to the pub, or out clubbing and leave them at home, or locked in the car. Being French Grazia, there was a lot of philosophising about the nature of the pressures of modern motherhood, and the mental tipping point where something culturally aberrant becomes imaginable, as opposed to UK Grazia, where I imagine they would have:

1. Made the offending mothers stand in a field somewhere overcast, their hair blowing in the wind and their hands in their coat pockets looking soulful;

2. Taken them for a special 'feel more like yourself and get back the old you' makeover, probably featuring a new hair colour and finally:

3 Put them on a special 'gain maternal instinct on the three eggs a day!' diet.


Anyway. I am telling you right now, there would be none of this soulsearching with owls. If she was caught snogging a bouncer after 23 blue WKDs whilst her chicks woke the neighbours with their panicked crying, Mrs Owl would not be all shame and contrition. No. She would barely pause to claw your face off before heading off for vole and chips and a lock-in somewhere.

I need to come over a bit more Owl with my own children, who have just reached that delightful age where absolutely nothing is more fun than beating the shit out of each other. I am ill-equipped to deal with this stage (which kindly observers tell me is likely to last "their whole lives"). Not only did I never have a sibling of an appropriate age on whom to enact hideous acts of mental and physical cruelty (I blame the parents), but worse than that, I was educated by Quakers. Pacifists. Basically, we were taught to sublimate our angry and frustrated impulses into (a) candle dipping (b) egg cup painting (c) Scottish country dancing; and (d) Singing the legendary Quaker anthem 'Old leather breeches, Shaggy shaggy locks (OH WOW THAT LINK JUST BLEW MY MIND. It launches straight into the audio and then goes round and round for ever. Quite loud on my computer, which is set to 'loud enough to hear the faintest rustle of an owl)'*. You had to see that of god in everyone, which, at least theoretically, precluded calling them an imb├ęcile and hitting them over the head with a giant plastic iguana.

As a result, I am wholly unprepared for the repetitive, loud, amazingly annoying phenomenon that is small boy conflict. It makes me by turn panicky and furious. What would Mrs Owl do, do you think? I am tending towards 'ignore them completely', but also wondering about 'peck them to buggery'. Either way, I know it would be swift, low impact, and fiendishly effective. I really need to work on my owl parenting. I think I need to watch a few hours more, just to make sure I've got it...




*Strictly inaccurate picture of Quaker life for comic purposes, though I did do all of those things repeatedly in the company of Quakers at various points. I love the Quakers and have nothing but gratitude and affection for them. They are lovely. Including George Fox, and not just because of his leather breeches and shaggy shaggy locks. His implacable opposition to maypole dancing endears him to me greatly, and I bet he'd have had no truck with Morris dancing either.


15 comments:

WrathofDawn said...

FIRST!!!

Sorry. I got all overcome with excitement at being first.

Years ago, I knew two young single mothers who would leave their young (i.e. 4 or 5 years old) children at home alone in the evening so they could go to the pub. It used to horrify me then and I wish I'd called Social Services on them now.

Perhaps they're just more owlish than I?

Also: wv = bries

Mmmm.... bries cheeses

Em said...

I have SO MUCH work to do. SO MUCH. And now I am looking at an owl. Thank you very much.
At 14 you're allowed to leave your child at home alone (here) and sometimes I ask my daughter if she wants to go for a coffee so we can bond and, of course, she quickly finds she has homework to do so I 'have' to go by myself. Bliss.

Xtreme English said...

Teenagers HATE bonding with parents. Good strategy, blogger Em!!

That's Not My Age said...

I like the idea of turning into your parents but with better technology. Mr TNMA inherited his dad's binoculars and he just uses them to look at birds (magpies, blackbirds and the occasional sparrow hawk) in the tree opposite our flat.

Fat Controller said...

Vole and chips sounds good. Instead of trying to stand between our two who are both now ADULT but still LIVING AT HOME FOR PITY'S SAKE, I will take your advice and equip them both with a plastic iguana before bowing out gracefully and letting them sort out their differences.

WV is 'chestrin'. Sounds like it ought to be some sort of cough linctus.

frau antje said...

It has now been a week of circadian rhythm hell, 23/7. Much of the time has been spent watching someone drag half a rabbit into the living quarters. At one point I had to ask myself, "How long can we live on Subway sandwiches?" The answer, apparently, is forever.

Saw Man Brengt Rat on the plane, it was okay. My favorite part was the line, "Bring it, Dude! I fuckin' dare ya!"

Maybe your kids will reach the age where they respond to a letter from their mother with a work of art. If so, enjoy it, as my guess is that after another couple of decades, they will be at each other's throats again.

Pat (in Belgium) said...

I'm so excited that I can finally SEE the owl and not some frozen image which refuses to respond to any number of clicks on various keys or nasty and nastier name-calling from me. At first I thought this owl was frozen too then saw the feathers around the nest fluttering in the breeze and then she(?) turned, blinked and "smacked" her beak. (Don't know the correct word...)

So now, between "Turbo Solitaire", facebook and a few blogs and this owl, I will be permanently ONline.

wv "dessess"...is that a bastardized version of distress or desist?
Back to the owl....

Anonymous said...

Oscar is clearly not doing his job. Our kids stopped hitting each other when we got an Alsatian. She gets furious when someone attacks someone else, especially with a weapon. The only problem is that she thinks that the lawn-mower and the vacuum-cleaner are weapons too.

Tilia

Miss Underscore said...

I think men could learn a lesson from Mr Owl. I love how he flies in, bringing Mrs Owl and lovely juicy rat, gives her a quick, affectionate peck and then buggers off again. Mrs Owl can then enjoy her rat in peace.

Let us compare this with the modus operandi of a human man of the male gender. He comes home (looking unspeakably pleased with himself) bearing a box of Black Magic from the BP garage. Bloke then opens box, scoffs all the chocolate brazils, expects payment in kind on the sofa and then falls asleep on the remote control.

Alienne said...

Mine still indulge in (occasional) violence (aged 19 and 17) though I can assure you that my sisters and I (all in our 50's) have definitely outgrown it now. Mama Owl has the right idea - I personally favour the ignore school of thought. Unless they get so loud you cannot hear i-tunes/owl noises anymore in which case you will have to bellow to them to shut the f*** up of course. NB I have had 2 glasses of wine and 2 more of cointreau (and I still have to proof read some AS English coursework!)

sabina said...

Oh, my occasional bout of marestaring looks positively action-packed compared to this! Once I watched this mini mare for about two weeks solid. She was so rotund she looked like a pygmy hippo. She tortured me with several fake labours and of course, she chose to pop when I went to the loo or something. Or this mini goat - she was full of babies trying to get out so she just stood there, changing shape quite dramatically (imagine six cats in a sack) as the babies jumped out from her rear end.

Alison Cross said...

Small boy conflict - hit them square in the face with a bit of projectile-bowel evacuation and enjoy the stunned silence.

Am very taken with Edinburgh Zoo's squirrel monkeys.

Ali x

amanda said...

BW, as mother to three of little boy blighters, well actually they are not so little now, eye contact now involves me looking up, not a good power position at all, I'd advise leaving well alone. Just let 'em get on with it. They wont do it forever, it's just what little boys do to use up their energy and testosterone stuff. A very long walk around Richmond Park always worked a treat when things got too much. Ax

BDM said...

Not to regress too far, but sorry Scottish country dancing didn't do it for you in the first place. Must have been ecumenical Quakers? Egad. Do work on getting over this owl shit. What about the holes on the street?
- Brenda in Toronto

bonnie-ann black said...

ah, you are not alone in your obsessions with beautiful animals -- here in NYC, we spent a week with the whole city obsessed with the fictional doings of an escaped 19 inch female egyptian cobra from the reptile house of the bronx zoo (it actually did escape, but the twitter account adventures, we suspect, was fictional). now, it seems the entire nation is watching the raising of three eagle hatchlings on a streaming video. my fish, stan and lois, and my cat, nualla, are enough wildlife to keep me busy.