“Daddy look, Geraldine has got so much bigger!” Gigi’s comment hung in the air like a query of birdsong.
“Yes, she’s had a real growth spurt this last week,” Roddy replied from behind me, and I turned around.
“Who are you guys talking about; who is Geraldine?” I demanded, wondering if someone had smuggled in another pet without me knowing. Until that moment I was happily minding my own business weeding the driveway but overhearing this exchange I was suddenly on full alert, as I had no idea what anyone was talking about. Gigi turned and looked at me with that expression, the ‘Mummy you are so silly’ sort of look, as then she proceeded to very matter of factly state that Geraldine was a garden spider who lived in the hibiscus beside the house.
Yes, of course Geraldine was a spider – how could I not have known that. Silly me. I mean everyone names their spiders who just happen to live outside in the garden, right?!
Welcome to our world; I often think we are perhaps all just a little bit crazy, for it has to be said this is not your typical household. It’s one that keeps us on our toes and bemuses and captivates most people that come here, it’s just that it’s not altogether entirely conventional. But then it’s good to be different, isn’t it?
And it’s not just Geraldine who has entered that hallowed hall of fame, where small creatures are given a name and treated with reverence. Other spiders have titles too; there was Henrietta who lived for quite a while in the downstairs loo and terrifiied Hetty every time she went in there,
and there’s Gertrude who lives outside the study window in the mirabilis,
and Desdemona, a fearsome wasp spider who casts a spell of fear and anxiety into the world of pests and creepy crawlies by the front door.
Visit us here and you never know quite what you might encounter. Naturally there are cats and dogs, as they are a huge part of the story, but then you all know them – they’re super intelligent and they’ve even written their own blog posts, and yes, this is Clara, who will be telling you her own story soon.
The four of them seem to spend a vast amount of time snoozing in the midday sun, conveying a somewhat misleading impression that everything here is tranquil and calm with never a care in the world.
Evie even seems to think she is something of a human, and regularly takes her place at the head of the table if I turn my back for a second
and pop-up grooming salons seem to appear out of nowhere.
Sometimes, I have to hide my face in mock despair; there are those moments when everything is running smoothly, when we’re enjoying apéros with friends in the garden and the conversation is animated and lively, when dinner is in the oven and everything is under control and then someone utters those fateful words, “Daddy, quick, look. It’s a BIG one!!”
I turn and inwardly I silently sigh, I know it’s an insect of some sort and I also know that if it’s a ‘good’ one, then dinner will be delayed! Conversation stops, Roddy inspects the creature and makes a dash for his study and retrieves one of his special collection pots. The ‘thing’ is caught, the children crowd around and everyone oohs and aaahs at the size and colours of the said specimen. It will be kept on stage until it has been photographed and then it will be released in a suitable location. Our guests, if they have never been here before, stare with unmasked naked surprise as Roddy calmly states this is a Nonplexus maximus (or something) – I mean, bien sur, it’s normal to know the names of our common garden critters in Latin, French and English, n’est ce pas?!
And that scenario I’ve just outlined is the QUICK diversion; for unfortunately there are times when the creature is unrecognisable, or when we are actually rushing out the door, when everyone is heading for the car in a race against the clock, and those fearful words are uttered. We will be late, again. I just know it. And there are instances (I have to be totally honest and admit) when I quickly rush past something rare and wondrous, without saying a peep, and steadfastly ignore what I have seen, knowing only too well that we cannot afford another deflection. I cannot mention to anyone I have seen a bug, for if I show it to the others they will certainly tell Roddy; it seems perhaps I am alone in my conspiracy to keep things running as normally as possible.
We had better not forget the chickens, thousands, millions of people keep chickens, it is totally normal, except ours are treated like kindred spirits.
One might just find a chicken in the kitchen
or a rooster in the hall
and an innocent face holding one as if it were a teddy bear.
We have a family of hedgehogs who live at the end of the garden. Occasionally a youngster will stray a little too far and we have to take it back to it’s family home and only the other day I walked into the kitchen to find Roddy, ably assisted by the children, giving a dragonfly that had fallen into the swimming pool a quick blow-dry with the hair dryer!
Since Roddy’s interest in insects has grown and his love of photographing them, scarcely a day goes by that is ‘normal’! Gone are the days when I was allowed to kill a bug, and I just keep quiet about those that I vacuum up silently! Except of course the mosquitos, they are still game on!
The pond is another constant source of interest, we made this when we first moved here, using old stone from the garden and encouraging as much wildlife as possible. Frogs arrived and then toads, we introduced mosquito fish and goldfish, but everything else just found it’s own way, I have no idea from whence they came but it seems they like it here.
We have Cornelius, the frog
and Larry the lizard!
Only the other day when I opened a window to let the clear warm autumnal air circulate around the house I squealed in horror as a green tree frog jumped through the open space and landed on my foot.
Millie has recently started up her own aquarium, introducing stock slowly she started with four Amano Shrimp. Then she added three Plio fish, Joséphine, Constance and Soléne. Am I even surprised they have names? No, of course not, I would be more surprised if they didn’t!!
No one can tell any of them apart, aside from some are fish and some are shrimp. Needless to say I have no idea who this is, but click to play for you might be watching, Gildas, Bénédicte, Nibbles or Magellan!
Quite a few people have recently told me that our family reminds them of The Durrells, the tv programme based on the book My Family and Other Animals written by Gerald Durrell. The tv series is, I believe, about to be shown for the first time in the USA. If you havent seen it, watch it, there is more than a passing resemblance to our family and you might just be filled with a like minded desire to know all about everything living that surrounds us.
Inquisitive minds and inquisitive faces.
Madness aside however, most people seem to enjoy any time they spend in our more than crazy household. Impromptu dinners turn into late night parties, what starts out with 8 people turns into 12 in no time at all and there are always umpteen children, but you know what I wouldn’t change a thing!