I have a nightly ritual these days. Before retiring, I have a need to sit in contemplation, for some while, in the Throne Room. All isn’t quite operating as it should. I blame the amoebas of Thailand. I’m sure normal operations will resume. In time.
The Throne Room (which does also house a bath, along with a broken shower, a towel rack strewn with mismatched undergarments, several piles of books and magazines, and a clutter of spiders) is an old, badly built extension jutting out from my 1917 ground floor conversion. It’s damp, mouldy (there are many species, which are quite interesting in their way) and, like everything in my life, in need of love and attention. Because of the mould, even on a cold, snowy, February night like tonight, I must keep the window open. This reduces, somewhat, the amount of water that drips down the walls. The window’s above where I sit. It’s a tad drafty.
Sitting here, beneath the open window, in the extension that impedes into the wildlife sanctuary that was once a garden, one becomes aware of life happening – out there, in the jungle. It’s a land of shrubs, discarded cat litter trays, crisp-packet-drifts and miniature action figures – ceremoniously thrown over the fence by the rapscallions next door. Offerings, no doubt, to the Big Black Dog that takes care of watering duties. Down the bottom of the garden, near the handmade bench (thickly covered with ivy) and the deathly rose bush (90% thorns, 10% outrageous beauty) is a small shoe. A dark blue Croc, with a yellow flower. Clearly never worn. Last year’s fox cubs’ favourite toy.
Ambient wildlife noises occur wheresoever you are; a world awakens as us diurnals hand over the watch. In our urban world, where there are few elephants and lions, we don’t tend to notice the night noises overmuch. Sitting here over past weeks, bemoaning my troubled tum, I initially paid no heed to the sounds waving in through the window. But, once my brain finally acknowledged the prodding from my ears – there’s a noise going on that doesn’t compute – my awareness switched on and tuned in.
How strange – that eerie hooting howl.
A fox? I think not. I’m familiar with foxes. A somnambulant wood pigeon? From what I recall, pigeons don’t tend to howl. An owl then. How exciting to think an owl has taken up residence in the neglected world beyond my bathroom. Perhaps she’s built a nest in the tumbledown shed.
But I did some research – seeking to find reference to that strange sound and link it to a friendly, wise old owl. I searched the files on the RSPB web site; I searched in the library. No owl could I find that makes such a sound.
So it’s not an owl, that’s made a home in my shed.
It’s out there again, tonight. Quite loud. Quite close, to the open window.
It’s funny what you don’t pay attention to. Things in the background – escaping notice.
Until it’s too late.