Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Friday, 22 April 2005

Door-to-door house blessings

The late Pope John Paul II was so loved, by so many, including a great number of non-Catholics around the world. The day after Pope John Paul II's funeral, there was a knock at the door and opened it to find our new Pastor, two assistants and a Virgin (I mean Icon) standing outside.

(There was me still unwashed at lunchtime and the next-door neighbour there with his video camera. He is the local mayor's "trusted aide" and the town hall do edit various cultural films. So there goes their reputation!)

Anyway, they were doing door-to-door house blessings and would I like one?

Well, I didn't like to say that this house DESPERATELY needs one, well I did want to say it, but it was probably not the right thing, however, I said they were most welcome, but that I was not a Catholic and did this matter? Apparently not and so ensued a short ceremony where the blessing was said and I crowned the Icon and placed her Rosary in her hands (whilst feeling a right prat), but apparently I did this 'most artistically.' Afterwards the Pastor chatted with me (partly in English) and told me this very Icon had been blessed by Pope John Paul II himself.

They also left me with a card with a photo of the Icon and some photos of Pope John Paul II and, never mind what this means to me religiously (nothing at all), I DO feel honoured, or "blessed". It is certainly a memory I shall treasure.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Welcome to Rabbit Rescue

A handful of bun
"Good Afternoon and welcome to Rabbit Rescue". 

Well, the human has taken a slight lead, by liberating another baby bunny from the clutches of three marauding tigers last night. The other day, I had locked the cats OUT to prevent them coming in with their catches. Boy, do they know how to play me at my own game! Bring it in and keep quiet about it, until they can surprise me, once we are all shut on the inside and I'm lulled into a false sense of security, because you think they can't come in with anything else then.

Yesterday was sunny and dry, so I opened all the windows to give the house a dose of fresh air. I'd gone to the utility room at one point to find three of the cats in there, when they should have been outside enjoying the weather. Another was lying on the floor of the back room, looking like he was watching a mousehole, so I suspected they were up to something, but if it had hidden itself and they couldn't find it, well, nor would I. I left them to it and promptly forgot about it.

After dinner at 6 p.m. (yes, they are creatures of habit), the cats are kept in for the night and they'd all settled nicely in the back room. This is normal, so I thought nothing of it. Until around 10.30 p.m.

There I was quietly minding my own business, when a screech erupts. When I go out back to investigate, sure enough, three of them had cornered the tiny rabbit out in the utility room. Obviously he'd hidden under something earlier and finally decided to venture out. And they were still waiting! Bullies! It takes three of them to torment the poor little thing. They should be ashamed.

No, I don't know if they're capable of doing this deliberately, but coincidence or not, it was pretty ironic in a "That'll teach her to lock us outside", kind of way.

Of course they didn't reckon on the fact that they also couldn't escape with it, so I was able to rescue it from them with ease. My mother is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. The rabbit had actually hidden in what will be her bedroom while she's here and I can't wait to see her face if they repeat this process and she's suddenly woken up, surrounded by wild animals! *Grin*

Monday, 18 April 2005

Bad Business In Bunny Land

Stock image of a Wascally Wabbit
It's all rabbits round here lately, but then it is Spring, so this is probably not surprising, but alas, this isn't only about cute, fluffy burrowers, because some *bad bunnies* have made people hopping mad. The BBC themselves kindly point us in the direction of a wonderfully witty blog, which is poking fun at the BEEB site's special talent for (mis)use of stock photos after a "headless zombie rabbit" incident - where, apparently, the "same" (stock photo) bunny loses his head one day, then gets a parking ticket slapped on his hutch the next. But that it would scare all the little kiddies (not to mention the big kiddy whose job it was to dispose of the remains), last week I could have provided the perfect graphic illustration for the former of the above stories, courtesy of the cats.

Then this morning, I discovered Balu and Betty growling at each other over another specimen out in the utility room. This discovery was a little accidental, so Balu picked up the rabbit and ran through the house and out the front door. I managed to follow and catch up with him, despite an obstacle course of furniture, rocks and vines. For some reason, I can't run under everything like they can!

But, upon grabbing the offending cat by the neck, he let go of the rabbit - who foolishly, ran straight towards Betty. I couldn't get there in time and, even if I had, you'd have more chance getting a side of beef away from a full-grown lion than of getting near her. My vet calls her "la pantera" (the panther) for a reason!

Whilst I did try, unfortunately, this was the wrong move. She made a quick decision, which resulted in me being inches away and, unfortunately, looking straight at the bloodthirsty scene when she went in for the kill. All I can say is, at least it was swift. So, the current score appears to be: Cats 2 - Human 2

(Not counting the ones I don't know about, of course.)

Cats are killers. I accept that. And I am more than happy that they are able to live "normal cat" lives, but it still takes a bit of getting used to. You get a very strong stomach after a few years of er, "country living with pets".  

On the other hand, I probably should just accept that my cats are providing a useful service, because the rabbit population here has been escalating out of all proportion over the last few years. Indeed, just this morning while I was walking the vine terraces with the dog (accompanied by two cats, naturally), we stopped and chatted with the workers tending the vines. It seems that even the ingenious water trick (containers under the vines) hasn't prevented the numerous rabbits from eating the newly forming fruit this year, destroying both crop and livelihood. Naturally, the man is hopping mad (sorry, irresistible pun), saying *they* should do something to completely wipe out the rabbit populations in cultivated areas. I agree, something needs doing, but I doubt that would be the right solution.

The chance of getting all of the rabbits has to be slim and those remaining would merely reproduce at a faster rate to refill the territory available. The hunting season in August - November will reduce them and, it is probably better to continue with that rhythm. (Much as I personally dislike the idea of hunting, I accept it is a better solution than some alternatives - such as traps or poisons - both of which would also present greater risks for other animals.)

Last year there seemed to be so many rabbits, we were almost tripping over them every time we went out walking. In fact, one morning, Kitty was with us and there she was walking along (possibly daydreaming), when she suddenly came nose to nose with a fully-grown buck rabbit. Both took a moment's pause, taken aback, then went on their respective ways.

This we hadn't seen before and it led me to start wondering why.

Recently, I discovered the answer. Tourists!

If they call it tourist season, why can't we shoot 'em?

As usual, man is the author of his own folly. It also shows you, in one small cycle, how everything in nature is connected and why balances must be maintained. What worries me even more is that man in his infinite wisdom (cough) may well take to more environmentally damaging *remedies* (like poisons) in order to *cure* the environmental damage he has already done.

Anyway, it seems that the growing numbers of tourists visiting areas near where birds of prey nest are disturbing the peace of said birds, so they are not breeding in sufficient numbers to cope with the quantity of rabbits that are their normal prey. Hence, the rabbits are multiplying at the rate rabbits do, unhindered.

We do frequently see two to three pairs of these birds hovering over the valley, but the numbers have reduced. What really needs to be done is to control tourism more closely and create more nature reserves that they are not permitted to disturb, restoring the balance of nature so that the birds can reproduce, catch more rabbits and put money back into farmers' pockets.

These islands rely on tourism for their main economy, but this is not just at the cost of the environment, but creates a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario, where those in tourism prosper at the expense of their kinsmen in agriculture. Both are important. It would never be good business to have all our eggs in one basket and this just isn't a sustainable option. These same tourists are disturbing the peace of the whales and dolphins that they go to view on boat safaris and they create daily traffic jams on our mountain roads through precious pine and "laurasilva" forest. And I just can't help wondering what they will come to look at, once all of this beautiful nature has been totally destroyed for their pleasure.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Doing that which you fear most

It's a LOT steeper than it looks here!

We whine over petty things, but most of us live much more comfortable lives than we admit: We're often reminded what wimps we are for staying tucked up inside our cozy comfort zones: Hardly any of us have to face decisions that affect our survival and, even less will willingly face the things we fear, unless extreme circumstances force it. The unprepared certainly shouldn't do it! 

Yeah, of course this is the idiot thing I did yesterday, but it was a "character building" experience and I did come out of it alive and feeling pretty chuffed with myself for the small achievement. I, like many people, have a fear of heights. Well, no, it would be more accurate to say that I have a fear of falling arse over tit, which really translates to a basic fear of (or wish to avoid) PAIN.

Behind a rail at the top of the Empire State, I wasn't afraid. In the helicopter hanging about over the top of it, I was exhilarated. Put me at the top of an ordinary staircase or a shallow slope with no handrail or safety net and my heart races, while my legs freeze in sheer panic. To be fair, this isn't totally irrational: I did seriously hurt myself when I slipped on a slope outside the house in the rain - much to the indignation of the two cats I was carrying in baskets at the time - and I did once break my tail bone falling down open stairs.

So, there I was walking the dog on a fine Sunday afternoon yesterday. We took the dirt track up the valley and normally, at about the half way stage, we cut across the fields and come back down the paved track that leads to the house. We had never been to the top of the track, because it doesn't go anywhere. It ends about 50 yards from the road at the top and those last 50 yards look (to me) totally vertical. Even before the track ends, is a "point of no return" for me, because it becomes too steep for me to be able to look, let alone walk, back down. So in the six years I've lived here, I've never, previously, ventured past that point.

Well, yesterday, about 200 yards in front of us was an old couple. I'd estimate in their 70's. Old guy in a cap, with whom I shall assume was the Missus: a plump "mumsy" lady in an old fashioned blue frock and cardigan. Locals, not tourists. Certainly not equipped for mountaineering and, they walked up effortlessly. 

Awe, well, what have I been worried about? Follow them! And, stupidly, I did. Despite the fact that I was perfectly conscious that Canarians, even ones in their 70's and beyond, are actually mountain goats on two legs.

Where it was usually un-trodden, there would be fresh tracks to follow, I figured. I tried to remember which ways they had turned relative to landmark bushes, etc. When it was clear that the track was going nowhere, I spotted some recently disturbed grass on the 10 foot incline, which, I kid you not, was no more than 2 degrees off the vertical! So, I sent the dog up first to pull me and scrambled on my hands and knees behind her. The old couple had effortlessly WALKED up this!

At the top, was a flat area, but it was surrounded by a high wall. It was overgrown and I could see no evidence to suggest anyone had disturbed it recently anywhere. I could truly see no way out to begin with, I couldn't see where to go up, I couldn't get back down and my heart began racing in sheer panic.

OK, time to calm down, look around and figure this out methodically.

Probably the worst that could have happened if I'd been stuck in that mess was that I'd have spent a couple of hours (or a night) on a ledge, until someone eventually heard my pathetic whimpering. This would have been more painful to my dignity than anything else, although the five cats sitting outside the house waiting for their tea might have been pretty pissed off. (And all five of them were out by the side of the road waiting for us when we did get home.)

Eventually, I found some flattened grass above, to the left of the 10 foot vertical I'd scrambled up earlier. This was up the side of a 4 foot bank that was completely vertical and led onto a severe slope above it. You have to be kidding. So I sent the dog up first, again and virtually climbed up her lead! After that, we had a tiny bit of flat area with some vines, a terrace wall to climb and finally a dog-leg of path that led to the road. That was maybe 5 degrees off the vertical too, no more and I am not exaggerating. Dog went first, I did it on all fours.

Thank goodness for the dog. She certainly saved the last shreds of my sanity and what tiny bit of dignity I had left after this expedition.

Although, Holly couldn't see what all the fuss was about. A couple of times, I swear she looked at me in disbelief, thinking what a wimp, but she was excellent following all my instructions of *up*, *wait* and *pull*. She got extra hugs and treats, because I really couldn't have done this without her.

How did we get back down to the house? Round the very gradually sloping main road - on the other side of the road from the drop. It was a LONG walk. So, I've got grazed and bruised knees, I ache everywhere and it wasn't exactly elegantly executed, but I did it! I feel bloody stupid, but still justly proud. :)

Saturday, 2 April 2005

My Funny Valentine

Balu at the horse trough

Walking home with the dog Wednesday morning, through the vines and past the "secret location" where I return captured rabbits to the wild (far beyond the hunting grounds of my pack of marauding tigers), I couldn't help thinking back to the events of February 14th ... 

It was a Monday morning and Holly and I had walked up the road, accompanied (as you do) by the two female cats, Kitty and Betty. We arrived at the horse trough, just in time to meet a third cat, Balu, who was looking down at something in a small patch of grass. I was just about to bend to look more closely myself, when it took off, a baby bunny, with Balu in lazy pursuit. So lazy that the rabbit easily made it to safety into a hole between some nearby rocks and I hoped it would have the sense to stay there, especially with three cats poised above it.

Nah, of course not. I'd barely had time to walk five paces, before I turned to see now FOUR of my cats (where did the other one, Mico, appear from so suddenly?) running in a pack down the road towards the house, Balu in front, carrying the poor little bunny by the neck, kitten style.

So, picture it if you will (although I can hardly blame you if you don't wish to) ... A "grown woman" and a dog haring (pun intended) down the road to catch up with them. Besides, running may not be the appropriate term, because I was on the other end of the dog lead, remember, and can't rightfully say if my feet touched the ground or not. Well, in a performance worthy of an Olympic Gold (for ridiculousness, perhaps), we overtook three of the cats somewhere between the bridge and the house. Balu rushed indoors and under a bed and I was able to persuade him out (with a broom) and relieve him of his catch.

Yes, of course the cats were only doing what cats do naturally, but cannot stand by and knowingly allow them tear living things to sheds for sport. I do the same with mice & lizards they bring in. The poor little bunny did have a nasty graze on it's head, which (I'm not defending them) I think it must have had before the cats found it, but it didn't seem stunned or otherwise hurt. Surprised, maybe!

Wouldn't you be, under the circumstances?

The baby rabbit was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, but it was a feisty little bugger and tried to bite me. I therefore reckoned it had all the right skills for survival, so it was off to the bathroom to make sure the wound on his head was clean and treat it with iodine. My cats get all edgy every time I go to the bathroom cabinet, because they think I'm going to treat them with the horrid tasting yellow stuff again, but the problem is, it works!

Anyway, the little bunny didn't seem to mind at all and, indeed, after a few minutes of this TLC, he was putty in my hands and snuggling in as though he was getting ready for a nap. There is no way, that I know of - without access to proper rabbit hutches and some high-class security - that one can keep a rabbit safely in a house with a dog and five cats! So, if he was going to have to grow up and cope in the wild, then better he should get on with it and I left with him (alone) to go and find a suitable place that he could call his new home.

Way up amongst the terraces of vines is an unkempt area of long grass, with a bank of earth, some bushes and even a small fig tree that I know already has a population of resident rabbits. It even has a water supply laid on: To stop the rabbits from eating the grapes for their water content, people put down plastic containers with some rocks in to hold them in place and these fill up with rain water for the rabbits to drink. Ingenious, simple solution.

We found a patch of fresh grass there and I put the rabbit down.

Well, he didn't fancy that and immediately came hopping back onto my foot. "Oh, no! I can't have you falling in love with me.", I thought.

I picked him up again and we walked a little further. This time, seeing the dense undergrowth to hide in, he was almost off before I put him down and hopped away into its relative security. I silently wished him a long and happy life.

Well, what do you know?

There I was recalling all this and as I got back to the house with the dog, there, laying on the back step like the "king of the jungle", is Balu. Sitting neatly beside him is his sister Kitty and, huddled between them into the corner of the step ...

Is another baby bunny. Completely unhurt (except psychologically maybe). Neither cat stirred nor made any attempt to stop me, so I picked him up and cuddled him. He rewarded me by biting my finger. Then, of course, we went off to the the "secret location" where I return captured rabbits to the wild. I've a feeling there will be quite an extended family there by the time we get finished!