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Saturday April 5th  2014  Tim Candler

 

      Not Easy to count Wren territories. And these were not the panoply of Wren that hop about on the West side of the Atlantic Ocean. These are the European and Eurasian Wren. You can find them in the British Isles, parts of North Africa. And all the way across Europe, down toward Iran, through Afghanistan, across the top of India, and all the way to the Islands of Japan.  They were given the name Troglodytidae, which comes from the Ancient Greek word 'trogle' which means 'hole' and the Ancient Greek word 'dyein' which means 'creep.'  And when you think about these two words and the little bird they give a name to, you can get a soft spot for the men and women engaged in the enterprise of naming creatures. A European Wren weighs about eight grams when adult, which is about quarter of an ounce, and they are primarily insect eaters, so a cruel winter fairly well decimates them. But a European Wren doesn't like to be seen, so if you only knew them from their voice, you might suspect they could be the size of a chicken, because for someone who weighs around quarter of an ounce they can make a noise fit to send Sheep running. High pitched and fierce in the ornamental shrubberies and in privacy hedging that people who like to hide from each other are so fond of.  And if ever you find yourself asleep in a hedgerow during the springtime, they will make quite certain you don't sleep longer than the very first crack of dawn, which can be kind of irritating, until you remember that hedgerows are more their territory than yours, and possibly time to move on before agricultural interests ask you questions.  So, if you happen to be around twelve years old and you're trying to count Wren territories on your way to the railway station, there's a good chance you're endeavoring to avoid putting any great thought into your immediate future. And I guess too, it's under these sort of circumstances that a person decides to give Peter Worsley's "Cargo cults of Melanesia" to his boy child as a Christmas Present instead of a new locomotive for his electric train set. As well, it's the kind of thought process that can cause a person to lose count of Wren territories, and become deeply annoyed by a Headmaster for thrusting the duties of titular head of the tribe upon someone who was a little short for his age, when there where a whole range of fellow tribesman, some of them easily thirteen and three quarters, and almost shaving if they happen to have come from the more rural areas.  And you know damn well your task is to work the will of The Headmaster, keep order at the morning assembly, put an end to reading or talking after the lights were out, which in summer time was particularly dumb, because in summer time the sun didn't set on East Sussex until something like two hours after tribesmen were supposed to be asleep. Nor did any kind of handbook come in the brown paper parcel along with the titular head school cap and tie.  But two weeks of exile hadn't changed Three Oaks and Guestling Halt.  "SPURS" was still upside down on Butcher's Lane bridge, a truly poor effort when put beside the handiwork of the invisible hand, and you have to respect anyone sufficiently moved by his or her circumstance to write on brickwork.


     

     A Bedford SB with seating for forty up there on Butcher's Lane road, and a Silver Dawn, that sparkled a little.  And one thing you can say about Three Oaks and Guestling Halt, it has it's community of Mistle Thrush, which is a bird about the size of an American Robin, but unlike an American Robin you can sometimes see a Mistle Thrush take direct action against a snail who might be trying to hide in her shell.  The Headmaster was on the platform of Three Oaks and Guestling Halt, he had on what might have been a new pair of shoes, they had a dark blue black tone, and he was very determined they'd not get wet, which might not be a sure sign of new shoes, but they looked new to me. Then he reached out his hand to shake mine, which was not something The Headmaster made a habit of doing, and it's always a little awkward when someone demonstrates an express desire to shake you by the hand, because you're never quite certain how hard to shake back and sometimes the hand you are shaking can feel a little peculiar, and if you happen to have your maternal grandmother's elegant wrist there's a chance something might break.  Either way, I had the titular head school cap on my head, and the tie around my neck, and The Headmaster said something like "Congratulations." We trudged up the incline to awaiting transport. Never really a happy time for anyone.  There's a sort of mood like drizzle, and a good strong chance that someone had done something to our homeland during our absence. The Headmaster stepped into the driver's seat of his Silver Dawn, I could see his socks when he lifted his leg, and  there was in him a kind of expectancy. And even though I had no handbook, or written direction, I knew I was supposed to walk around to the passenger side door of the Silver Dawn, get in and sit there beside him in the same way I'd seen other titular head's of my tribe behave.  And maybe it was Chaka Zulu calling form his grave, but more likely it was a whole lot of other little things. I could see the tribe boarding the Bedford SB, they had their backs to me, the French Master holding the door, lending an occasional hand with the heavier carry bags. "I'll bus with the men, Sir."  Which kind of made The Headmaster look as though he'd smelled something nasty in his mustache. When I got on the bus, Switherington-Smyth gave me a "Good Chap." And maybe he went on to spy for the communists, but there were a couple of other beaming faces in my direction because at the beginning of a season, tribesmen like a little furor. Of course I had to sit next the French Master, but sometimes you get some kind of Grasshopper in your head, which jumps around a bit. Then on the bus ride to the homeland something else happened that had never happened before. Someone started to sing "Inky-Pinky Parlez Vous" which is a song about Three German Officers crossing the line and behaving in a somewhat disgusting manner. And the driver of the Bedford SB must have done his bit in something like the First World War for the National Service because he knew a whole lot of lines that caused considerable mirth amongst the tribesmen, and which kind of made the French Master blush. But the French Master never reported the tribe for using words that generally speaking were rewarded  by extended periods in Latin detention and long sermons about civilization. And I'll tell you this much comrade, maybe an Act Detournement achieves little more than that, but worth every damned second of it.

Das Ende

 

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