Settling in

The Merry Month of May is at an end, and what a fabulous Month it has been here at Ladybirch Cottage. The transition from Spring to Summer is almost complete, only the Spotted Flycatcher is yet to return from its wintering grounds. It is so easy to understand why children dance with joy around the Maypole. It is this image of the vibrancy of color: red, blue, yellow and white, together with the sound of joyful laughter that one associates with this Folk Ritual that dominates my imagination at this time of the Year.
For us Humans, it is a time to think of holidays and long lazy days sipping Pims, watching tennis, or, cremating food to within an inch of its life on the Barby; some may think of skin cancer and hosepipe bans. How times change, aye.
For all living things around us, Summer is a window of opportunity, a time of plenty. A time to make Hay while the Sun is shining. We Humans can afford the luxury of being casual observers, so, don’t miss out, get out there and use your senses; even the most mundane of species has the ability to astound you. 

On Friday 24th May, I received a what’s Ap message from a friend, alerting me to the fact that a Marsh-Harrier (Bird Of Prey) had just flown over his location two miles South West of Ladybirch, and it was heading in my general direction.
My Garden List of birds stands at 128 species, Marsh Harrier would make it 129, so you can imagine how keen I was to see it. With my bins hanging around my neck, and, my senses tingling with excited anticipation, I watched and waited. Life around me carried on as normal, everything was where it should be, doing what it should be, unaware of the approaching Raptor. I scanned every part of the southern panorama not wanting to miss a trick; my every sense was on full alert. I had a disappointing false alarm – a Larus species (Gull) drifted East-West approx one and a half mile away. Dismayed, I exhaled heavily and let my Bins (Binoculars) rest on my chest, but then, in the blink of an eye, only 2oo yards to my left, and gliding just above the height of the Oaks; causing me to panic and fumble for my Bins – was a male 2nd Summer Marsh Harrier. For the short time, it took for it to drift through my location, my World stood still.

Male Marsh Harrier

I shall remember May 2019 for many reasons, but the most significant reason is that I became a Bee Keeper. For the past ten years I have wished for this; each year I have provided for and encouraged wild bees into my garden – one year there were five different bee species, with hives in anything from nest boxes to plant pots. Wasps and Brown Hornets are regular visitors, making their homes in the thatch. I’ve had mock hives, purely for decorative purposes, but never the real thing. Wild Bees have tolerated my presence, allowing me to observe their coming and going, but never letting me see the engine room, the central hub of their existence. As soon as they crawl through the small entrance hole, I am left to wonder at what goes on inside. Until now!
It’s quite nerve-racking approaching one’s new Hive for the first time, knowing there are a potential 40.000 stings in it. I suppose our conception of Bees is a swarm chasing a frantic, arm waving individual, before landing, smothering, then stinging them to death. The reality is different, it’s very calming and relaxing. I look forward to my weekly checks of the Hive; this is to ensure the health and well-being of its occupants, not only for my personal pleasure.

So it’s into Flaming June we go: shorts, flip-flops, and a long cold drink are the order of the day. Cheers everyone.

The Viper

Hampton Chodwick: the quintessential English village; with its sleepy streets lined with thatched cottages; their manicured gardens full of blooms that were dripping with the colors of Spring. The whole chocolate box image surrounded by neat white picket fences, nestled peacefully in the leafy heart of the Somerset Levels.
The bar in the Village Pub (The Bulhaggle) was busy with rosy-cheeked dinnertime drinkers.
“Ooooargh Sally wench, geez a cider, ooooargh.” Said old Bert as he passed his empty tankard over the top of the pulls.
“So Bert! Who do you think committed the murders?” Asked Sally as she passed Bert his pint of cloudy scrumpy.
Bert nodded his appreciation to Sal, slurped the top off his brew then smacked his lips before answering. “It’s that bloody German fella – what’s his name? Bloddy – that’s it Bloddy. – It’s got to be. – I mean – the killings only started when he turned up.”
“Ere ere.” Piped up, Ted. The other six men around the table chuntered and nodded their agreement.
Sally picked up a towel and wiped a glass. “Surely not. Bloddy’s a darling. – He wouldn’t harm a fly.”

“Third one this month Guv, and were only halfway through it, such a pretty lass n’all. Who’d do such a thing?” Asked Sgt Jarvis as he pointed to the two holes in Emily’s neck, before turning his head to look up at Det Crake. “And what’s this?”
Det Crake snapped from his daydream. “What’s what.”
“This!” The Sgt pointed to a business card laying on Emily’s pale, bare chest. In bold print lettering, it read: THE VIPER.
“And what in God’s name is a yellow sponge doing here?”
Emily’s wide, blank, staring eyes, and her face frozen in a silent scream remained expressionless, oblivious to the busy Bees as they buzzed in the morning Sun, moving from one Bramble Blossom to another. The brambles that only hours earlier had scratched and drawn blood from her body, as she struggled for her life at the hands of THE VIPER. A Song-thrush sang, leading a choir of Birdsong that filled the May morning. A small black fly landed on dead Emily’s face and danced the dance of death and decay.
“What’s that scribbled on the back Sgt?”
Sgt Jarvis carefully picked up the card so as not to destroy any evidence and turned it over to read the biro written reverse. He straightened up, then read the card aloud.
“DBB gleis 16. – What’s that all about then Guv?”
“Jarvis! – You never cease to amaze me. Didn’t you learn anything at school you plank?”
“S’cuze us Sir’s if you will. We’ll just cordon off the area then we’ll be out of your way.” It was PC Mcgrew, rolling out blue and white Police Stop tape.

It was late Afternoon; The Bulhaggle was still busy with inquisitive cider swigging locals. Their tongues loosened and their ego’s emboldened by the amber scrumpy.
“Oi tellz you – it’s that bloody German fella!”
It was old Bert, bumping his gums, rabble-rousing again.
Nods of agreement and a chorus of arghs came from his companions.
Just then – the bar door opened; and who should walk in, but, none other than Baron Von Schuttlehausen. The Bar fell silent, as everyone watched the tall, athletic, Arian Baron (AKA Bloddy) dressed in his Tanzanian safari suit walk towards the Bar. He stopped at the Bar and Supported himself with both clenched fists to the fore and a foot raised on the brass foot-rail, then removed his monocle.
“Hello, Sally, you look radiant. I vill have a pint of ze Badgers please.” Turning at the waist to face the other customers, Bloddy gestured with a sweep of the hand.
“And a pint for each of zeez good fellows please.”
The harsh grating sound made by Bert’s chair on the tiled floor as he swiftly rose to his feet attracted everyone’s attention.
“We don’t want your bloody beer, nor your bloody charity, now bog-off home!”
“Bert – Bert. Come now, vy the hostility?”
“You know bloody well why you murdering git.”
“I’m afraid I don’t, and I vould be very happy if you’d keep a civil tongue in your head.”
For the next few hours, much to the annoyance of Bert and his gang of Wurzels, Bloddy flirted with Sally. As darkness fell, Bloddy left.

“TIME – GENTLEMEN PLEASE!” Shouted Sally. “Ain’t you got no homes to go to? DRINK UP!”
Sally wiped the table tops with a damp cloth and straightened up any empty chairs. Men emptied their glasses in gulps, some helped each other don coats and one by one they said goodnight and left. Sally was alone. All the coziness left with the last goodnight, shadows appeared, a sense of menace prevailed.

Sally poised with her finger on the light switch as she glanced around one last time. What’s that? She thought.
A yellow sponge lay on the floor under the table where Bert had been sitting. The cleaners will sort that out. And on that note, she flicked the switch, pulled the door shut and left.

Apart from herself and a Fox that crossed the road ahead of her (or was it a Cat), the street was empty. With only the sound of her own footfalls for company, she headed home. She continually checked left and right, expecting something shockingly horrible to pounce from the shadows. Get a grip now Sally girl, there’s nothing to be afraid of. She quickened her step and soon reached her front gate. Before she could open the gate a noise stopped her in her tracks, sending shivers down her spine and turning her blood to ice. It was the sound of water, splashing water, the sound of a sponge being rung into a bucket. Quickly, panicky, she pushed open the small picket gate, but before she could continue through a gloved hand reached from the shadows and seized her throat. A dark figure emerged from the shadow into the streetlight.
“Bloddy – it’s you!” Sally gasped. “But why the bucket and a sponge?”
Bloddy tossed his head and tightened the grip on Sally’s throat making her choke and cough. He pulled her towards him until they were almost kissing, then he said the words that stopped her heart.
“I’m The Viper! – And I’ve come to vipe your vindows!”