Magpie as Metaphor

A week ago I decided I had to investigate the noises in the chimney-breast.

Some years before I moved into this house, builders removed the fireplaces, blocked up the hearths, and plastered and papered over the area. There used to be a hideously gaudy electric fire in front of the chimney-breast, but I managed to dump that in a skip when we moved office in the early part of this decade.

Anyway, from Thursday 17th I had heard the occasional scratching and tapping sounds from behind the wall.  They weren't constant or desperate, and I decided they were probably just a mouse that had found another new and exciting brick-strewn route from one bit of wainscotting to another. If I knocked back, the noises stopped as if I had scared off a rodent. But what if they were a bird or something that had got trapped in there? I resolved that if I kept hearing the sounds, I would have to do something about it.

So, Sunday morning came and with it a bit of scratching and knocking. So I peeled off the wallpaper, applied a chisel to the side of where the hearth would have been, and hammered away at the plaster.  I broke through and shone a torch in. After a while, there was movement.

A crack in the wall

I was unsure what type of bird it was. Perhaps a pigeon or a crow?  It ate some bread it was offered, and showed itself to be a magpie.

I tried many things to encourage it to come out of the hole in the wall. I tried shining the torch in, put a mirror opposite to grab its attention, opened the doors to get a draught through the house... but the hole I had made was not big enough.  More masonry work was called for.

Eventually it stuck its head through the larger hole, pulled back, then tried again and stalked out...

Free at last!

[pause while I install new batteries in my keyboard and restart my computer, several times...]

The young magpie flew onto one of my bookcases, where it preened away some of the dust and took a little more food. It was then lured though a window into the passage covered by my new plastic roofing...

Rake's progress

It tried to fly up but hit the plastic roof. It tried again, attempting to squeeze under one of the wooden supports. I pointed out the open back door with its easy access to the outside world, but the magpie was feeling frantic and in no mood to pay any attention. I had to climb up on a chair and grab hold of it. As I stepped into the garden the magpie got the idea and flew out of my hands.

That evening the magpies in the area were very vocal and excited, with a bit of formation flying. A couple of days later I saw this magpie with a parent.  It's a bit raggedy but free to fly. Not ready for an independent life yet.

I feel bad that I left it imprisoned for several days, but I honestly thought a bird would make more continuous noise and tweet (or rattle, in a magpie's case).

A similar story: the winter before last, I was walking alongside the Thames near where I live. I heard a very quiet tap-tap-brush sound. I thought it was probably the river pushing a floating can against some plants, but I was intrigued and wanted to know for sure.  It turned out the noise was coming from a beer can stuck in a bush, not visible from the path. I picked the can up and looked inside, but couldn't see anything except some leftover beer. I brought it close to the ground and poured out... a bank vole. It had climbed in through the hole at the top, fallen in, and then been unable to climb the steep sides of the upright beer can to get out again. Freed, the bank vole looked at me and then sauntered unsteadily into the undergrowth.

In both cases those creatures were in an impossible situation, but they struggled anyway. They struggled to get out, even though each attempt at escape was fruitless. But the act of trying to escape created noise, and the noise led to actions from someone else that achieved what they wanted.

Perhaps a magpie stuck in a sealed-off fireplace is just that. Releasing it, though, maybe that can mean something. I wonder what?

Systems Of Romance

Romantic Gesture

"Oh, darling, you shouldn't have. No, you really shouldn't have."

I can't even begin to imagine what was going through the copywriter's mind.

Omitting three apostrophes! Saints preserve us.

In which I am insulted by Corel

Got this from Corel today. I mean, really. Thanks a bunch.

No Value

Perhaps owing to another glitch they have e-mailed somebody else saying "Dear Valued customer, as a woman of easy virtue..." I do hope so.

Not that Corel's worldview is necessarily one to be shared, as I discovered when they e-mailed me back in December:

Corel overkill

Naturally I took the phrase "best Christmas ever" to imply that The Corel Team would create World Peace and happy times for everybody. Instead, it turned out that Corel believed that offering a 5% discount off its product range for a day would represent my "best Christmas ever". Yours excitedly indeed. Maybe "yours rather too excitably for comfort" would be more appropriate.


Waiting for another gutter to fall

It's been a bit chilly here recently. And in the absence of anything humorous occurring to me, I thought I'd keep my pretence of journal-keeping alive by whinging and showing some of my photographs. As this may not be to the taste of all three of my regular readers, I'm going to use my first ever LiveJournal cut. Get the full story after the break!!!!!!!!! 

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Is this thing on?

Right then, before Christmas. 21st December. I tend to feel a bit hard done by if my journey back from work in the evening takes three quarters of an hour. But there was a bit of snow, and that caused gridlock. The bit of the journey that normally takes 20-25 minutes took two and three quarter hours of sitting in stationary traffic or creeping forward a few yards. This is what it felt like:


Once I was off the motorway, I imagined that the rest of my journey might take another hour as it's normally less than 15 minutes. Instead it took four hours. Total journey time six hours forty-five minutes.  In Reading you can't get anywhere without going up or down a hill. As none of the hills had been gritted, nobody could get to anywhere.

The following day I took the train.

From the train 1

From the train 2

After a Christmas break during which I worked on marketing a company's software licensing options rather more than I might have wished, all the snow was gone.  Then more arrived.


It stayed cold. Ideal weather for icicles.

Icicles 1

Icicles 2

Here are the icicles at sunset. Or maybe the gutter is bleeding.

Icicles at sunset

Where icicles drip...

Ice 1

Ice 2

What icicles neglect to tell you as they're hanging down all pretty-like is that they are really very heavy and like nothing better than taking down guttering. And so it was that when I returned to my house last Saturday, the icicles and snow had slumped onto the pavement, leaving the gutter and the fascia  hanging precariously on three telephone wires.

Front of house

I spent some entertaining time leaning out of my window and slowly sliding the fascia/gutter combination sideways off the wires and then manoeuvring it to ground level. Not entirely sure how I managed that now. I punctured my thumb with a nail, possibly as predicted by the icicles in a Snow White Tribute / Sign Or Portent.

Then a couple of days ago one of the gutters at the back of the house was brought down, smashing the plastic roof underneath in 5 places. Since when the melting snow has been dripping through in large volumes.

Hole in roof

I've been taking the train into work this week... not keen on driving in snow these days.  From the train in the snow I have seen two pheasants by a frozen lake, a rabbit huddled by an embankment, and a deer looking up as it rested in a wooded area, possibly just waking up.

The snow is melting away. I have two gutters left, one of which was twisted out of shape by the first snow. I wonder if they'll stay up...

In which I lose patience...

...with a survey that keeps asking me what I think about aspects of Strictly Come Dancing, even though I've told it several times already that I've never watched the programme.


And they are still not done with me yet.

More dancing

It looks downright sinister to me. The central character, popular entertainer Bruce Forsyth, appears to have been the victim of a horrific Transporter accident and now has a woman going right through his sides. Either that or he is a Vampyr slowly materialising out of the night. But surely no Vampyr would be seen (un)dead dressed like a waiter? Meanwhile there's a bunch of crazy people strutting around under the baleful influence of an exploding Moon.

There were plenty more pictures like that. It is shocking what I will do for the vague chance of a £5 Amazon voucher.


Hollywood glamour

Saw this a couple of days ago. How the town celebrated the Oscars success of Reading-born Kate Winslet...

Winslet Wild

Truly, local life will never be the same again.

Going for the Singular

I received this from a stock photo library recently:

single life

I think these guys must have my house under surveillance, I really do. I mean, there is nothing I like doing more than lying on a sun lounger, indoors, with my shades, T-shirt and shorts on, gesturing wildly at a blank monitor and about to topple face-first into my conveniently positioned paddling pool. It's all part of my vibrant, purposeful, and highly individualistic approach to the single life.

Luckily I have yet another handy error message for situations such as this.

Skippy's trying to tell us something

Season's Bleatings

The post of 2nd August brought with it an RSPB catalogue. And what was the first thing the RSPB offered me?

xmas presence

Guys, Christmas is over four and a half months away. More proof of seasonal change. How soon before Winter in July becomes a reality?

Bah! Humbug!