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The autumn of the Egyptian Geese

In August we spotted what we first thought were a couple of obscure ducks.  It was at the weir close to Wolverton Mill, betwixt Stony Stratford and Wolverton, on one of our regular walks along the Ouse .  First sighting was actually the male seeing off the heron that had initially caught our eye, but they were obviously not your common or garden Anglo water bird.  Our books didn’t help; we were baffled, even with the rich brown of those eyes and the colours at the rear.  Next time we went back there were goslings.  Eight at first,we were later told, seven when we first saw them, and down to six the last time, but you have to say … result!

It became a regular jaunt for me, checking on the family’s progress, an important part of my autumn, and occasionally one met others who were doing the same.  It was from one such couple I learned that they were Egyptian geese, almost certainly strays from a collection of decorative exotics.  Under the protective eyes of their parents the goslings prospered and grew, even going native, picking up on the feeding habits of the local ducks and swans and readily showing an interest in potential bread benefactors.

At a certain stage I noticed the male had difficulty walking and though the next time I saw him he seemed a bit steadier on his legs, that was the last time I saw him.  Did he become a victim or – one asks with an element of wishful thinking – do the males just leave the mums to it at this stage in the breeding cycle?  It saddened me.  But the goslings continued to grow.  They even started coming up onto the river bank, by which time they were almost the same size as their mum; it was only the lack of marking around the eyes that gave them away.

I was surprised by the intensity I found in the relationship.  And then they were gone, migrating (presumably) to where?  I do hope they’ll be back next year.

And here’s a thing or two I’ve meant to mention
the past few months but somehow never quite got round to them. 

I love this photo, found on the web, and I’d like to be able to credit it (if indeed, there aren’t any objections to its being here).  It’s Jackie Leven, sitting somewhere entirely appropriate.  I still feel hollow at the thought that I’m not going to be able to see him sing and talk and play again, a unique experience.  A true troubadour, he was special in many ways, not least in his championing poetry, his confidence that enough of us would get it.   We’re fortunate that there is so much music out there to keep returning to.  Today I am floored by his setting of Robert Frost‘s Stopped by woods on a snowy evening, on the Creatures of light and darkness album.  Is there anything more lovely and at peace (though he knows he must move on) than that voice crooning, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”

In a previous post I mentioned how Jackie eschewed encores, but I could only précis his words.  This is what he said performing at ‘A Cornish pub in Germany‘ in November, 2005, quoted from an official bootleg of the gig.

I think we’re coming towards the end of our time together. So we won’t be doing an encore; it’s a load of bullshit. I know that, you know that. What is the point of us going and standing through there, while you’ve got to go: “More! More! More! More!” and then we come back. It’s fucking ridiculous. We’re not going to go through that … So this is our last song, and we look forward to seeing you again next year.

A slight return to another JL gone too soon.  Tim Riley’s recent John Lennon bio, reviewed here earlier this year, contains a tale or two about his life with Yoko in the apartment in New York and her reliance on a “coterie of astrologists, psychics and numerologists” – leaving a rather obvious question, which I’ll let lie – up to and beyond choosing a label for the release of Double fantasy, their return to recording.   Label head David Geffen was invited over, after, Riley cites Geffen himself, “she ran “his numbers” (a combination of his birthday, address, phone number, and ‘who knows what’)“.  On the album they used a couple of musicians from the band Cheap Trick, and – I really like this story, which reassures me somewhat – Carlos, one of those musicians, reports of the sessions:

“Yoko’d be in the booth and say, ‘Does anyone want some granola?’ or whatever she had, and it looked like animal feed. And John would be like down the hall with the roadies, you know, sneaking a slice of pizza.”

After reading Riley’s book I hunted out a copy of Double fantasy from my local library and was underwhelmed; any more is best left unsaid, so I’ll leave it at that, I think.

And now for something completely different.  After some additions to the list of words that barely exist outside of a 15×15 crossword square, a few more faves from the Guardian cryptic.   When was the last time you saw or heard used in everyday speech or print the words ague, alack, tarry, litotes or stevedore?  Thought so.  And so to some clues that gave pleasure.  As you’ll see, I tend towards the simple life:

  • from Tramp the awesome: Ulterior motive of Haagen-Dazs? (6,6)
  • from Rufus the beautifully simple: It became you (4)
  • and the classic: Lover of Bess in musical heading off for wild party (4)
  • from anon Everyman in the Observer: A motoring offence in Shepperton (6-7)
  • zen from Orlando: Al most (6,3)
  • and the elegant: Effie is in Sheffield but he is in Manchester (4,6)
  • a cringing pun from Araucaria: Don Quixote’s horse, say? (6)
  • and a couple more from Rufus: More than one rock group (6)
  • Metal detector (6)
  • redeemed by: Treatment for refusal to play guitar (7)
  • and the simplicity of:  A round game, perhaps (3.3)
  • the sweet punning of Arachne gives us: Dames popular with sailors (6)
  • but weep at the sheer majesty of Auracaria: Complaint that one could hear Forsyth greeting relative? (11) (which I would never have got without a Warren Zevon song)

Answers at the end of this post …
underneath evidence (well, you’ll have to take my word for it) of one of my great achievements in 2011.  You know how you say of something, That is just fucking im-poss-ible?  I speak of Advanced Heading in the Balance category of WiiFit exercises.  Never mind that it’s told me on occasion I’ve got the body of a 20-year-old and that my movements are full of grace, after months of doing Advanced Heading on WiiFit I managed to avoid all the boots and pandas it could throw at me and successfully made contact with all the footballs and racked up a Perfect Score.  More than once.  Hell of a buzz.

So after all that excitement I leave you with the Crossword answers:

  • from Tramp the awesome: Ulterior motive of Haagen-Dazs? (6,6)
  • from Rufus the beautifully simple: It became you (4) THOU
  • and the classic: Lover of Bess in musical heading off for wild party (4) (P)ORGY
  • from anon Everyman in the Observer: A motoring offence in Shepperton (6-7) Double parking
  • zen from Orlando: Al most (6,3) Nearly all
  • and the elegant: Effie is in Sheffield but he is in Manchester (4,6) City centre
  • a cringing pun from Araucaria: Don Quixote’s horse, say? (6) DONKEY
  • and a couple more from Rufus: More than one rock group (6) STONES
  • Metal detector (6) COPPER
  • redeemed by: Treatment for refusal to play guitar (7) NOSTRUM
  • and the simplicity of:  A round game, perhaps (3.3) CUP TIE
  • the sweet punning of Arachne gives us: Dames popular with sailors (6)  (Norfolk) BROADS
  • but weep at the sheer majesty of Auracaria: Complaint that one could hear Forsyth greeting relative? (11)  BRUCE-(E)LLOSIS !!! (it’s a lung disease of cattle, mentioned in Play it all night long, Warren Zevon’s paen to the farming life, his comment on the getting back to the land hippie fallout movement after the gold-rush, so to speak)

New Year’s wishes to each and all.

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