Charlie the Carrion Crow

Ok, picture the scene, I’m just getting out of the bath (alright, you don’t need to picture that bit if you’re particularly squeamish). The bath was hot, too hot, and I’m in more of a lather getting out that I was when I was in there.

I head to the window in search of a bit of autumnal cool air to revive myself, and what do I see in the garden? A cat. Oh yes, my garden gets visited by lots of cats, but this one is hunched down in the grass waiting to pounce on a big black bird that shows absolutely no alarm whatsoever, and no inclination to fly away.

It’s a carrion crow, some vague memory tells me. Now carrion crows are pretty big, with a wicked looking beak, but not big and tough enough to take that cat on. I swear it was licking it’s lips and imagining a crow supper.

Just lately there has been a spate of foul murders (horrible pun intended) in my garden and, still glowering out the window, I think I’ve found the culprit. This huge, tortoiseshell moggie has the blood of a half a dozen pigeons, at least one blackbird and a pair of collared doves on its claws.

Well, it wasn’t going to add a carrion crow to its meal list, not while I was watching. I legged it down the stairs (ohh, deliberate change in tense), yanked open the back door and the cat vanished like a streak of tangerine and smoke, across the lawn and through the back hedge. The crow should have flown off too, but it didn’t.

Instead it took a few hops away from me as I crossed the lawn toward it, intent on chasing it off before it became cat food the moment my back was turned, then it hopped back again and just stood there staring at me. Then it came even closer, until it was just down at my feet looking up at me.

My daughter came out, wondering what Dad was doing in just his dressing gown, squatting down on the lawn, bare feet turning blue on the cold wet grass. She trained in animal care at college for a few years and has a caring nature towards animals. I was brought up by my grandfather, a game keeper. We could both see that something was wrong with the poor bird, but were confused as to why it wasn’t trying to escape. It didn’t look injured, but experience with the chickens has taught me that means nothing.

In the end I put a tub of birdseed in front of it and, while it was busy eating, my daughter took hold of it. It turned out it had deformed feet. They were twisted upside down so that the talons were pointing upwards.

Anyway, we put it in a cardboard box and called the R.S.P.C.A. It took me three attempts to navigate their phone system. It reminded me of a particularly bad customer service department, fully set up to make you give up and go away. When I did get through to someone I was told to take it to a vet.

Luckily our local vet stays open pretty late and so I rang them. It was about 7pm by then and they couldn’t see it until morning, so I put food and water in the box and then fretted about the poor thing all night. My daughter kept getting up during the night to check on it.

Ordinarily I would have let nature take it’s course, but there was something about this bird. It actually came to me when I first went outside to it, like it wanted to be helped. It was also very beautiful up close, almost shining.

So, this morning, I took it to the vets and waited outside in the covid queue (that’s covid, not corvid, they don’t have a special queue just for crows), masked up and half asleep. They took all my details and I left the bird with them. On the walk there it had become a bit agitated but all I did was talk to it and it calmed down immediately, wich was odd.

It got odder when I got home. My daughter had fired up FaceBook and was surprised to find on her timeline a picture of a carrion crow and a message about a missing pet.

It turned out that this carrion crow is called Charlie and she (I have no idea how you tell) was found three and half years ago after having fallen out of its nest and being used as a football by a bunch of kids (for kids read evil little shits). Anyway, it was rescued by a man who lives just down the road from me, hand reared and kept as a pet. All of which explains why it seemed to take to me and wasn’t at all phased by the cat.

Pet and kind hearted rescuer have been reunited.

Now for a cute photo of a carrion crow in a vinegar box.

So much for karma. Not long after getting home from the vets I was informed that I wont be going back to work properly now for at least three months (new rules about furlough), my dental appointment had been postponed for six weeks (I sneezed a filling out, you couldn’t make it up), and I got a story rejection from Clarkesworld. All within half an hour.

I have however still got my hopes pinned on the Wednesday night Lotto.

Decorating, submissions and teeth

Things have been a bit busy just lately. I’ve had a little bit of day job work to do, but not much. Last week I took as holiday and decorated the living room, which sent my fitbit mental. Apperently I did three hours of aerobics (stripping wallpaper) and a session of swimming (sanding down the walls).

Anyway, the living room is much lighter and brighter now, and I’ve lost a kilo or so off my belly, so all good.

On the writing front, not much has happened. I’ve revisted a couple of old stories, one of which won an honourable mention from Writers of the Future, and submitted them. So I have done a bit of writting, though nothing fresh.

I have five stories out doing the submission rounds now and a couple rattling around in my head, one of which is shouting to be written so loud that the final bits just fell into place while I was soaking in the bath.

Unfortunately I have a bit of a tooth problem at the moment. I sneezed quite violently last night and blew out a filling. It’s not painful at the moment, but it’s starting to nag at me and I keep catching my lip in the gap. Hopefully my dentist is open again for appointments. I’ll find out in the morning.

*really not sure about this new WordPress editor, why so many bells and whistles?

Decorating and a FitBit

Since I last posted I’ve written about a quarter of a short story. I’ve got my excuses in order though. I keep getting interrupted (and thus thrown right out of the mood) by the day job, even though I never seem to have much to do, and I’ve started decorating the living room.

The decorating is probably the main culprit and will take me most of next week to complete. I’m on holiday next week, not going anywhere, but not getting interrupted by work either, so I may fit some writing in.

On another note I am now the owner of a FitBit HR. All I know so far is that I walk as much as I always have and that I actually have a heart beat, So I’m alive then.

And I’m still waiting on a response on that short story. I notice that a lot of others (according to Diabolical Plots Grinder) submitted around the same time have been dealt with. My fingers are still crossed.

A good old moan.

Another week goes by and it seems that I’ve not done much of anything at all. I’ve managed to do about one and a half hours of actual day job work (which is all there was), I’ve done the housework, harvested all sorts from the plot and garden and cooked a good, healthy meal every single day, mostly with home grown produce. I’ve even donned a surgical face mask (which combined with the recent heat seemed almost as dangerous as the thing it was supposed to be keeping at bay) and been shopping. I’ve plotted out a couple of short stories and got my head in gear to get started on writing one. I’ve done a bit more world building on the novel that is waiting for me to start it and I’ve read a couple of books. Yet it feels like I’ve done nothing.

I’d like to put it down to the heat, it’s been miserably hot for the past few days and I really don’t function all that well in the heat. I’ve not been sleeping well either, which is also down to the heat. So as soon as I’m about to write something my brain switches off.

I’ve also lost a chook, to old age this time. I think she went blind in the end and couldn’t see to eat. I found her bobbing about in the pond not looking so good. I assume she fell in as chooks are not noted for their swimming prowess. Anyway,  I made her comfortable and let her slip away. She was a good age for a chicken, just over six.

And I’m still waiting on that submission that is now well overdue.

Whinge over. Back to writing.

Writing, work, diets, fake alcohol, real alcohol, and the distant sound of wedding bells.

I’ve had a week off from writing, but I have a story in my head that wants to be written. The only problem I have is that with this odd flexible furlough thing going on I’m never sure when I’ll be disturbed and have to unscrew my writing head and put on the working one.

My boss has told me not to worry about doing stuff straight away, that I’m supposed to be given plenty of notice, and I must say that they do stick to that. Most stuff that comes my way has the tag “no rush for it” stuck on the end of the email. But that’s not how I work. I tend to see what needs doing and then do it as soon as I can. I’ve been caught out before with the “it can wait until tomorrow” thing. That’s just a way to allow work to build up until you end up buried in the stuff.

Oddly enough, for the last week I’ve had no work at all, yet done no writing to speak of. I’m going to have to set a time, outside of work hours, for writing now and try to stick to it. I have already said that I’ll only be available for work during my normal hours anyway, though I have being doing bits outside those hours if it suits me. Work seem to be fine with that.

Anyway, enough (or not enough) of work. I bought a book on Ebay the other week. Actually I bought quite a few books on Ebay last week, but this one, Scene and Structure, from the Elements of Fiction Writing books, came all the way from America. I saw a price sticker on the back, in dollars, and thought to myself, in one of those odd wondering moments, wouldn’t it be nice to know just who in America had this book before me. I have quite a lot of old books, Victorian and earlier, and many have names and even addresses written inside, something I don’t tend to see often in modern books. I find it a fascinating little bit of social history. Anyway, lo and behold, I opened up the book and there it was, a name and address. So O. Bermander of Dutton’s, Hollywood, I hope you had a good read back there in 1997 (all assuming I’m reading your handwriting properly). I’ve not read it yet, I’ve started Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar books again for the umpteenth time and I’m only on the second one (Silverthorn), there are another 27 to go if my collection is as complete as I think it is (and my finger and toe counting).

One last word, a general warning to all you red wine drinkers out there. I’m on a diet-ish-kind-of-thing, whereby, if I concentrate really hard and pinch myself, stub my toe and scream a few times, I actually put the chocolate bar down again. Anyway, whilst in a state of euphoria over losing a couple of pounds and a couple of inches off my rather portly physique (thanks to some insane 7 minute exercise routine that I downloaded to my mobile phone and which is slowly, by 7 minute degrees, trying to kill me), I decided to go all health conscious and try a bottle of low alcohol wine, and to go the whole metaphorical hog (which did not get eaten), I also bought a bottle of low alcohol Old Speckled Hen ale. The wine tasted and smelled like someone had taken a rather sweet fruit juice, possibly with plums in it, and mixed it with balsamic vinegar. It was disgusting, utterly horrible, but it did make a nice gurgle as it went down the sink. The beer was worse, it actually made me feel sick. It was an acrid taste that clung to the throat and remained there for hours. It also made a rather satisfying gurgle as it joined the wine in the water board’s subterranean domain.

So tonight, as my daughter has just informed me that her boyfriend is at long last her fiance (he asked permission on Christmas Day, so it was no surprise to me and I can only presume Covid had something to do with the delay), I’m going to have some proper red wine, and perhaps some chocolate, though my daughter is working so her brother who, unfortunately, is not old enough for me to marry off, will eat chocolate on her behalf.

Oh yes, and one of my submissions is really late coming back to me. It could be a sign but we won’t dwell on it. We won’t. No we won’t. We will not keep refreshing the email browser. We will not. Oh no we won’t.

Submitting, at last.

I’ve finally submitted my story to Writers of the Future, though not the one I wrote through the workshop. That will go next month, unless I find somewhere else to submit it to.

I’ve got two stories out doing the rounds now, the most I’ve written and submitted in years.

In the meanwhile I’m on with another and still world building for a novel.

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I’d like to sit and write out on the decking, but the chooks seem to have other ideas. Can you spot all five?

 

(Incidentally, that messy mesh at the bottom is to stop them destroying those young plants I’ve just planted out)

Finished novel and short, writer’s workshop, fences and brassicas

I’ve just heard from work that I’ll be furloughed for the whole of June so I should have plenty of time for writing. So much so that I’m having to plan things out a bit more than usual.

I finished off that novel I’ve being talking about. I’ll let it sit and stew for a bit while I work on the next big thing, though I’m still world building and doing character studies for that.

I’ve just finished another short that I think is just right for Writers of the Future, and that is now going to sit and stew too.

Once I think they’ve both stewed enough I’ll start editing them. In the case of the short that’ll be a few days, the novel will be a few months, maybe not until I have a first draft of the next one.

I have also signed up for a free writer’s workshop that WotF are doing online, so that should last me the month out. Hopefully by then I’ll have my world built and will have started writing the thing at last.

I’ve also been pretty busy in the garden and on the allotment. My neighbours put up a new fence so I took down my old panel thing. The panels, much to my surprise, were still in good condition, so I sliced and diced things and made a compost and pot store out of them as well as repairing the old fence at the bottom of the garden. It all looks quite tidy now.

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On the allotment, just about everything is in and growing reasonably well, though a bit of rain would help (anyone know any chants?).

I put up the brassica cage, which is huge this year (about 24ft by 12ft) and filled it with all sorts of brassicas. The beans and squashes are also in, the onions and garlic are all doing well and the carrots have mostly germinated.

An overnight frost managed to nip the potatoes and a few brassicas but the potatoes will recover and I have a tray of spare brassicas to fill in the gaps. I’m not fussy about everything in a row being the same thing, so I’ll end up with a hotchpotch of cabbages, kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and sprouts.

Wordcount, lockdown and clean fridges

Well, we’re in our ninth week of lockdown I think, though I keep losing track of time, so I might be wrong. I hardly know what day of the week it is sometimes, but it is doing wonders for my writing, my garden and allotment, and the state of my fridge.

I’ve been averaging a couple of thousand words a day, plus doing a bit of world building and plotting for the next masterpiece.

The allotment is clean as a whistle with hardly a weed in sight, as is the garden. My fridge has never been cleaner.

But it’s the writing that I’m most pleased with. After quite a long hiatus and a stressful few years, I seem to be finally getting back into the swing of it.

I just need to stop playing Elder Scrolls, then I might double my word count.

Back Again.

It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back again. I vanished for a while after the WW1 Project finished. I found myself wandering, inside my head anyway (anyone who knows me will know why this happens now and then), stuck on the genealogy and thoroughly blocked in the writing department. On the gardening side, well, I live in England and it’s rained almost solid for close to half a year now, so there’s not been much tell.

And, well, now this horrible Covid 19 thing has come along to muck things up, I find I have an awful lot of time on my hands. Though not for long, I hope.

Anyway, while I’m furloughed, I’ve caught up with the gardening, parked the genealogy (I really have hit so many walls that I think I’ve done as much as I can), and decided to try to get the writing back on track. I’m going to try to get two things going at once, perhaps three. I have two ongoing novels, both of which have stalled, and a plot and a lot of world building in progress. I’ll need to decide which one to put the effort into, and I’ll do that while I’m trying to put together an entry for Writers of The Future.

Along with that I intend to write up what I found in my genealogical exploits. I actually made a start on that a while ago but, like a lot of other things, it’s been sat bubbling away on the back burner.

So, in the coming days, expect some posts about gardening, writing and perhaps the odd, stir-crazy rant along with whatever practical notions I come up with whilst cooped up like one of my own chickens (at least they get to run around outside all day).

Nice to be back.

Chickens

I’ve been keeping chickens for a few years now. They used to get a regular mention on my old blog and, as I’m between research projects at the moment (I’ll be starting something new next week), they’re going to show their faces here too.

I’ve six at the moment. Three are about four years old and the other three have only been with me for a couple of weeks now are just at the point of laying and have, finally, settled in.

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Settling In

Settling in new chickens can be a noisy and violent affair. Chickens are pretty nasty, vicious things at the end of the day, to each other anyway. It’s always best to add at least three to a flock, one on it’s own is going to get badly beaten as the pecking order is re-established. Always make sure you’re there to step in if things get too nasty and keep some anti-peck spray and gentian violet spray to hand. The first to stop any really bad pecking and the second to treat any wounds. I know it sounds a bit wild and cruel, but it’s in their nature and it’s what they do.

In this case all six chickens piled in for a fight that lasted mere seconds until only one of the old birds and one of the new ones were left battling it out. I kept an eye on them until one had run off in submission then left them too it. With the exception of the odd noisy reminder now and then, things calmed down almost immediately and they have now all settled in. The old bird who was in charge before still is.

One took a little longer than the others to realise that the big box with the perches was where she was supposed to sleep, not on the top of a gate in the main run. After a couple of nights of picking her off her preferred perch and putting her to bed properly, she finally got the idea. It’s normally best to introduce them at night to avoid this problem by putting them straight to bed but, by necessity, I had to put these new birds into the run first thing in the morning.
Infirmary

Chickens always get ill and mine are no exception. You can always tell when one is under the weather. They kind of hunch up and tuck their heads in. I call it assuming the position. If they are still enough and not eating it’s usually a sure sign they’re about to fall off the perch altogether (chickens have a habit of dying at the drop of a hat).

I noticed one of the new birds looking a bit slow and fed up, her breath a bit raspy. She was still eating and I had to put effort into catching her, so she wasn’t about to drop dead, but her breathing sounded awful, a kind of bubbling rasp, and her eyes were filled with foam. I’d never seen this before so looked up the symptoms. It turned out it could have been either Gape Worm or a simple respiratory problem (ie: a cold). Either way, a sick chook needs to be isolated from the rest of the flock. So into the polytunnel she went, in a makeshift cage (which wasn’t as spartan as it looks in the picture). I checked her throat for worms and she was clear, so I cleaned her eyes with antiseptic wipes and gave her food and water with chicken spice and poultry tonic and left her to it.

The next day she looked and sounded a lot better. The day after she laid an egg and tried to break out of the cage. Her raspy breath was back to normal and her eyes were clear. I just wish I could shake of a cold so easily. Anyway she went back in with the rest of the birds, all better, and then another came down with the same symptoms. This second bird was one of the older ones and shook off the cold overnight. In fact she did break out of the cage and I had to chase her around the polytunnel, though I forgot to close the door so she put herself back in with the rest of the flock. I guess she was feeling better.

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Next post will probably be the last life I researched, or perhaps something Grow Your Own related, or maybe both.