Saturday evening 13 July in the year of grace, 2013
That is a very old-fashioned way of dating a letter. If you care to look at some writings from around the 18th century, it’s not so uncommon. In fact I have an idea some of R.L. Stevenson’s works contain that sort of introduction.
I can hear you ask: Why do you do it? Well, I don’t do it very often. Our children, and friends, may have observed it in a letter from time to time and put it down either to an affectation, or slight eccentricity or whatever, but the truth is, I like it.
The week that is almost past has had nothing major to report.
One sadness was the death of Zena, a dear old German Shepherd who belonged to friends of ours. Her passing caused a deal of grieving amongst the children in the family, for they loved Zena and she loved them. Whenever I hear of a death of a dearly loved pet, I think back on one of the chapters of my book, The Ness Fireside Book of God Ghosts Ghouls and other true stories. The chapter in question looks at the question “Do Animals have souls?” If you want my considered opinion, backed by scripture, then you may care to read it. I’ve always believed they do, and that opinion is confirmed in scripture. I know we’ll miss Zena too.
We are so fortunate to live here by the shores of Lake Macquarie, believed to be the largest saltwater lake in Australia. Sydney Harbour will fit into it four times, but on the other hand, the lake is not very deep.
There is a fountain in the garden, which is a favourite watering hole for the local birds; especially when it’s been dry for a while. Two kookaburras are inclined to treat it as their own, but not exclusively. They sit there, one either side, chatting away quietly, making intimate little clucking sounds, every now and then taking a sip from the water bubbling out of the top. Occasionally, one must tell a hugely funny joke, for suddenly they burst out laughing in that wild, rather uninhibited fashion peculiar to kookaburras.
On other occasions through the study window I can hear the squabbling chatter of the rainbow lorikeets, all seated around the bowl of the fountain like seasoned old drinkers. They, and the Australian miners, are the noisy ones who always seem to have something to squabble about, or if not squabbling they engage in noisy, excited chatter. They are the social ones with big, noisy families. Then there are occasional magpies and galahs, the odd sulphur-crested cockatoo, shy top-knot pigeons with their little red eyes and their little red legs and feet, and every now and then, a couple of wild ducks. The garden rather reflects the lines of T.E. Brown’s pretty poem, ‘My Garden,’ which commences, A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot.. It’s true – “Puddleby” is such a restful place, and I love it.
Let me admit at once that it’s Janet’s. I have the pleasure of it, but Janet is the one who tends it with patience and love.
Tonkie, our Tonkinese cat, likes to sit on the window-sill in the study, staring out at the birds on the fountain, making noises that suggest he would like to go out to play with them, but he is a totally indoor cat, so we don’t think that’s a very good idea. He would probably fall in the fountain, which I am sure would greatly amuse our feathered visitors.
“Puddleby,” so close to the lake is a popular place for walking, and Jock our border collie likes to go for ambles along the shore, sniffing around the rocks, hoping to find a bit of rotting bait to eat, which is one of his more vulgar habits. Jock has yet to learn that if he is a naughty boy and rolls in something smelly and unpleasant, it inevitably means yet another (unscheduled) bath!
I took Jock for a walk late this afternoon. We meandered along the shore where a chilly breeze drove wavelets onto the rocks and into my old walking shoes. Jock sniffed every single rock, hoping to find some bait left by a fisherman – the smellier the better. There is a rough and ready boat ramp, with a fish-cleaning table nearby, and as we were passing I heard the unmistakable honking sound of a pelican. It seemed to be quite close, but, much as I looked, I could not see it, even when it honked again. At one stage the sound seemed to come from one of two ‘wheelie’ (rubbish) bins situated there, so I lifted the lid to peer in, on the unlikely chance that someone had put a pelican inside – I couldn’t think where else it could be. I was almost overwhelmed by the stench of rotting fish, prawns and so on, but no outraged pelican stared back at me. In fact all I could make out that resembled anything at all was a fish-head, its long-dead eye staring up accusingly at me. “Don’t look at me like that!” I told it; “I’m a vegetarian!” Then I heard the honk again, but again could find no pelican to attach to it. Deeply puzzled, I turned to leave, and had taken no more than a single step when, glancing back, I observed a stream of pelican excrement, the length of my forearm and practically as thick, tumbling from the sky. It landed with an impressive splash and went everywhere, for pelicans are large birds. I looked up – and sure enough, there he was, sitting on top of the light pole by the bins. He stared down on me with that world-weary indifference that appears to be the perpetual expression on the countenance of any pelican you’re likely to meet. I mean, the pelican is not the cheeriest of souls. Anyway, at last I knew where the sound had come from, and in fact I’m puzzled by my failure to look up, for pelicans are fond of sitting on light poles. That fact, to my mind, gives some insight into the nature of the bird. What other fowl would choose a parking place more suited to a seagull than a pelican? It’s like trying to park a Rolls Royce in a spot reserved for a Mini-Cooper.
We had meandered on no more than a dozen paces when a sudden thought struck me: Had I remained where I was, directly below the light pole, I would have had the contents of that cunning fowl’s bowels on my head! That honk – I now suspect it was the result of straining to offload the contents of his lower intestine before I managed to move away. Thank heavens I did move away! Thank heavens I hadn’t looked up at the crucial moment! Maybe it wasn’t like at all. Maybe it was simply a genuine call of nature, with no thought in the pelican’s mind of what was below. Janet tells me I incline to paranoia occasionally…
Oh well, enough of idle thoughts. This time next week I’ll be nervously going over sermon notes and things. That will occur just about every Saturday night until the end of the year at least.