Sunday, 17 January 2010

Bored, Bored, Bored, or Napoleon's Downfall

I’ve been so bored.

Thank Goodness, we are freed from the icy embrace. Now come the floods, the slush, the mud, the endless rain and wind.

Okay, enough with the moaning about the weather already, anybody would think I was born to it, I’m that good at it.

 On the whole, I’m quite a busy type, finding lots to do, indoors as well as outdoors; I’m boringly practical and sensible, boring and unexciting qualities which keep me well balanced and nicely occupied in my advancing years. (I promise this was the last ‘Boring’ in this post and no jokes about senility, if you please, if I forget.)

It’s winter, the world turned a beautiful shade of white and virginal and became as inaccessible as a properly determined virgin. Shrubs and small trees, paths and hedgerows, lanes and fields, all formed a gently undulating landscape with no end and no beginning. A panorama for stroking, with sinuous flanks and secretive hollows, not to be despoiled. (hey, I’m still with the virginal, what fun! – The things one can get away with in a blog!)

So Benno and I found ourselves for long periods of time with noses pressed against the glass, staring at nature’s bounty.  And birds. Garden birds. Benno got bored after a while and went to sleep; dreaming of all the rabbits he’s chased in his lifetime and discussing the ones that got away (all the live ones, labrador retrievers are fast, but not that fast), twitching and shaking and snuffling and barking under his breath, a sort of strangulated bark. If you have a dog you know what I mean.

I digress, back to the birds, most garden birds in general and blackbirds in particular. Especially one very belligerent adult male who declared the feeding territory to be entirely under his jurisdiction and therefore declared war on all other aspirants, including a dozen or so other blackbirds, many of them his own family. I’ve known politicians, world leaders, behave less arrogantly!
This male, let’s call him Napoleon, hardly had time to feed he was so busy head-swivelling,  repelling all  comers, large and small,  chattering loudly and rushing them, wing and tail feathers flapping like coat tails, half-flying at them. One magical thrush was determined not to give in, she retreated, came back from another direction, retreated again, perched in the lowest branch of the shrub, hopped down, hopped up, etc. You get the picture. Napoleon wore himself out. I swear I saw him stuffing three berries into his beak at the same time, that’s how pressed he was for time.
(Notice how I’ve made the bully male and the wily bird female?)

Anyway, how many hours can one person watch birds scrabbling over bird food?
Without interfering?

After two days of this I decided to do something about Napoleon; true, the other birds always got a chance to feed in the end, he backed off eventually, but I wanted to see what would happen if the feeding territory was enlarged.

I put out three additional, large, plastic plant pot saucers, filling them with berries, oats, nuts and seeds, apples and kitchen scraps, drenching the whole mess in cooking oil.

Next morning Napoleon came back to the original area, all fluffed up against the cold, ready to strut his stuff. He was soon joined by the usual throng and the dance of claim and counter claim began. It was the little birds which first noticed the new food filled saucers; a busy scrum developed around them.

When Napoleon realized that he was no longer ruling over the entire kingdom something very funny happened. The saucers sat about a meter and half apart, all lined up in a row on the edge of the terrace. Napoleon literally ran from one saucer to the next along the row, including the original feeding place, and back again. Over and over, wings akimbo, head down, working himself into a frenzy but to very little avail. As soon as his back was turned, the other birds, who had briefly fluttered up, landed again, instantly pecking away.

In the end I felt quite sorry for Napoleon  -  well, a bit anyway  -  He’ll be in bird therapy for the rest of his life.

And the moral of the tale? 

Boredom is much underrated,
don't enlarge your territory unless you have the might to defend it,
don't bite off more than you can chew,
 keep all your eggs in one basket if your fledglings come home to roost.


  1. Terrific post. Loved the words, the imagery, and yes, even the virginal analogy. I also love the wildlife observations. Perhaps the greedy are the ones that will die!

  2. Napoleon will probably be off to join AA (Avian Assertiveness).

  3. I really enjoyed this tale of avian power struggles. Your writing brought it all to life for me. There's aren't too many birds around here for us to watch, sadly, as we have a huge cat population which I think keeps them to a minimum.

  4. Friko - beautifully written description of wildlife inside and out. I must admit after your admission of delight in the virginal metaphors, I got quite caught up in the sub-text and started to note all the sensual (cough, cough)okay, sexual references. Bare, I mean bear with me as I make a list from my stimulated right brain:

    * embrace
    * moaning
    * inaccessible
    * undulating
    * stroking
    * sinuous flanks
    * secretive hollows
    * not to be despoiled
    * ones that got away
    * all the live ones
    * twitching
    * shaking
    * snuffling under his breath
    * strangulated
    * rushing
    * retreating
    * bully male
    * wily female
    * strut his stuff
    * dance of claim
    * working self into frenzy to little avail...... it me? (yes) OR is it you....? Okay -I got carried away but I had fun giggling away here all by my lonesome. Guess I better go find my husband before company arrives!

    I'm ready to be chastized. Go ahead, I can take it!

  5. Thank you for the post - you do have a way with words - I can just see Napoleon doing his stuff.

  6. I do love reading your blogs, Friko. You look to have had your fair share of flood like us. The brook that runs along our access road was right up to the top yesterday, but we had to do a food shop so that was that! Luckily it hadn't got any worse by the time we got home. I love your picture of 'Napolean' - have encountered one or two of the unfeathered, two legged kind meself. Reading your blogs, I find you practical - yes. Balanced - yes. Nicely occupied in your advancing years ( like me) But boring - NEVER - not on your nelly are you ever boring. Keep writing!

  7. I got up this morning feeling uncharacteristically bored. Your post has cured me. Life, bird life included, is really interesting and lots of fun. Thanks for reminding me.

  8. Wonderful post! I enjoy your wordplay! And the picture of Napoleon is excellent.

    In the summer we have a male humming bird who attempts to monopolize humming bird feeders on opposite sides of the house. I fear sometimes that he'll drop dead of exhaustion because he rarely has time to take a sip.

  9. Tabor - thanks for that fulsome praise. I enjoy observing all sorts of creatures, incl. humans.

    MartinH - does he need to? Very funny!

    Argent - I love cats too, but they are a menace. Luckily I've been able to teach Benno to chase cats from the garden.

    Bonnie - tut tut! go and wash your mouth out now!

    CarlaHR - thank you Carla, Napoleon was a fun character to watch.

    mollygolver - thank you mollygolver, praise indeed. keep your feet dry.
    We're off to the shops tomorrow, it's high time I replenished the larder before the next bout of bad weather. Funny how soon we become fed up with picturesque snow.

    20th Century woman - glad to be of service. Just observing can be fun too.

    Vicki lane - apparently it is in the nature of some bird species (just bird species?) to try and stop others from access to limited supplies.

  10. Terrific, Friko! My nose was pressed against the window pane too.
    Scientific observors of wildlife have that problem of wanting to interfere too but unable to - good thing the rest of us aren't bound by such rules. Napoleon might be bulemic.

  11. Bored? Maybe - Boring? Never!
    There are many ways in which you could have passed a boring afternoon - you could have done laundry, cleaned out a closet or two, read the instruction manuel on your latest electronic acquisition or de-scaled the electric tea kettle. Instead you watched the birds and then wrote us an uplifting story, a fable-like morality tale, a sensuous little bit of a get-away.
    Good lord - what would you write fully charged?

  12. Oh - and no gratuitous praise here, as in 'I'll praise yours if you praise mine'. This was very entertaining.

  13. Enjoyed your bored, bolistic bird blog Friko. I wonder if we were aquaintances would you have shared this experience of Napoleon with me. I wonder if blogs offer the chance to say things that we might not take the opportunity to share otherwise. Glad that you took the time to share.

  14. glorious GLORIOUS post!!!

    Your words, your world, your pictures!
    I read this one aloud to my sports-watching husband and he even pretended to enjoy it!
    Excellent stuff; now come see our cathedral:

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  15. Napoleon needs to fly into one of my Anti-Bullying session that I have with students! LOL Poor bird!

  16. Rain can also be seen as liquide sunshine.

    How much would I like to be bored again, yet have to step outside into lessons filled with students who don't do homework and even make fun of me.

    A wonderful start into the new week for you.

  17. Well that was entertaining. And here we have the hateful Blue Jays. They take all the room on the bird feeder, make it swing so the little ones can,
    t stay on. I think someone here is looking for a BB gun. They are beautiful to look at, in all their blue majesty, but oh I hate em too.

  18. I think we mistake peace for boredom sometimes.

  19. I love watching birds, and can do it for long periods of time. I should probably be doing something else...

    We also have a black lab - Lucy is our empty nest baby. She also remembers every squirrel she has ever seen and wants to revisit the experience every time we let her out. Round and round she runs looking for the squirrel she saw two weeks ago.

  20. This is so beautiful !! I Really enjoyed it !! Thanks for sharing..

  21. 'became as inaccessible as a properly determined virgin.'

    Humour this kind is almost non-existent, so when I find it, I bathe in it.

    What a beautiful post. It reminds me why I love the four distinct seasons we have in the UK so much. When people ask me if I miss the sun, I always reply that indeed I do, but how would I be able to enjoy the spring if I didn't have a harsh winter?

    By the way, which football do you support? You left me intrigued. As long as it's not United, the Gunners or 'pool, I'm fine :-). Me? I'm a Chelsea boy. 7-2 on last Saturday! Whoopie, I'm in seventh heaven now!

    Greetings from London.

  22. What a wit you are! What fun!

    Oh, poor Napoleon, trying to keep for himself all the food in sight and never getting to eat any of it. You wrote it so well that I was watching the film!
    Thank you!

  23. Hi Friko. I wandered into here from Pondside's blog and was wonderfully entertained by your 'boredom'post!
    Having just finished lots of little jobs that needed completing (the odd bit of grouting, a bit of filling, a dab of paint ....that sort of stuff) I'd far rather having been sharing your peaceful boredom! :)

  24. Wipso and I have noticed similar bird behaviour but could never write about it like you do! Even when you are bored your writing is so entertaining - thanks for sharing!

  25. Deborah - A scientist I could never be, I am far too scatty and curious in an unprincipled way. Where my curiosity and mood lead me, there I follow. Discipline is not my strong point. I didn't see Napoleon puking.

    Fran Hill - yes, could be. Boredom is what you make it.

    Pondside - thanks for the flowers! I regret to say that I would always try to escape any housework if at all possible. Sometimes it catches up with me and the birds remain unobserved, but not for very long.

    maggie - that's an interesting point, maggie. No, I probably wouldn't have bothered to actually talk about watching the birds, it would have seemed too much of a nothingness to me. There you are, something else that blogging helps you to do: even if you have nothing to say, you can always blog it!

    Cloudia - thanks for that - I hope he wasn't offended by me making the male the villain of the piece!

    missy - if you can stop a dominant blackbird stop bullying others when food is scarce you are good!

    Robert - I am sorry, that you have not time to be bored any longer. Life can be quite interesting when you are being idle. It's good to be allowed to daydream and observe sometimes.

    QMM - what is a BB gun? I don't hate any creature, all life is here for a purpose and even the greedy bullying birds have their place in the scheme of things. Trust in nature, she'll take care of things.

    Kass - peace, boredom, idleness, whatever you want to call it. It was boredom which led me to observe the birds but I soon stopped being bored.

    Nancy - thank you for visiting. There is something fascinating about watching any creature live its particular life, even a dozy, old, smelly, gorgeous, lovable labrador.

    Unseen Rajasthan - thank you, happy to have you visit all the way from fascinating Rajasthan.

    A Cuban in London - hey, thanks, you saw the joke! Seasons back home for me are rather more distinct than in the UK, so this winter was a good reminder of what I no longer have to put up with during most winters here. I only wish we were as well prepared as the Continentals.

    Football? Oh dear, no, not Chelsea, although congratulations on the
    7-2. The Gunners, for my old man, Liverpool and Everton for the kids and Bayern Munich for me. And no, I would never pass the Tebbit test.

    June - thanks a lot for that. Don't be too sorry for the Napoleons of this world, they always get the lion's share.

    Nutty Gnome - Love your name! Thanks for visiting and leaving such an appreciative comment. DIY? Rather you than me.

    Twiglet - thank you and I'm glad to hear that both of you take time out from all the busy stitching to watch the birds.

  26. Such a well written post! My daughter loves stories like these; I will be printing it off and reading it to her. :)

  27. I love it! I think your blogs are a refreshing ray of sunshine melting away the freezing snow and warming our hearts.
    "please sir, can I have some more?" Is there any more news on Napoleon?

  28. Napoleon sounds like most greedy critters that want it all for themselves. They end up with nothing of value. Good moral there as well as a very entertaining story. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Those were a great set of moralistic musings in your last paragraph. I've been coming back and forth to this post like one of your birds - never quite managing to get a peck at the comment box, before I got distracted. Now feel I really achieved something tonight - I've filled the bill! :)

  30. Why did this make me think of my brother, who used to hide his dog's bone after the dog had buried it?

    I am enjoying the thought of Napoleon at his therapist, crying in frustration. Not in a mean way, no, just the thought of him on the couch, the books on their shelves, water in the cooler...

  31. Shattered - including the virginal bits?

    Jay Diamond - if he lives long enough and if there is enough snow to bring out his real character, sure.

    Darlene - thanks Darlene - they'll never learn their lesson.

    jinksy - haha, do you have to be funnier than me? you do it deliberately, don't you.

    swallowtail - I don't know, why did it? What's more, you seem to know all about what goes on at the therapists?...........

  32. I am a little late reading your boredom post – it was not boring – nice play on words. But I have one comment – I would not have called him Napoléon – maybe Beau Brummel?

  33. Vagabonde - Ah, but Beau Brummel only wanted to lord it over his fellow creatures as an arbiter of taste, not a conqueror.
    You do understand, don't you, that it was a bit of fun?


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