Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.



9.30 on a warm, humming, late-summer morning. Sun streaming in the double doors of the beach house, facing east onto the verandah. A titree thicket beyond, in a garden which falls away sharply so that the verandah sits halfway up the trees. Birds visit. It's like a treehouse.


A flash of black and white dropped from somewhere above and lit on a branch above the verandah. A magpie. It let go with an ear-piercing call, kind of a musical, ringing oggle-oggle-oggle, as if it were gargling diamonds.

The magpie finished his song and then the children arrived. One hopped up the steps, because they were there; one dropped down from a branch above and one flew up from down below. These are the children that were eggs in September, when their parents would swoop on anything that moved including you and me walking down the street. Now they're sociable again, out and about, visiting, that's don't mind if we stay for a little something and have you met the children visiting.

They came into the house. One sauntered through the double doors, stepping high and rolling his hips, as if he owned the place. Another flittered behind him, nervously, then a couple more. They are still greyish. The striking black and white plumage comes later.

We had laid some cheese, small cubes, on the floor. One of the nervous ones took the nearest piece, wheeled around and hurried out without so much as a Thank You. The saunterer came further inside, took a good look around and then marched off to the left. A piece of cheese had rolled away, almost behind a chair, and he had spied it. He hauled the morsel out from behind the chair and stopped to watch the others, cheese in his beak.

One started up a plaintive, beseeching cry. The cheese is there, Magpie. Just help yourself. He kept crying and another 'pie gave him a playful peck as it walked out the door with a nice piece of cheese.

We sat watching them. William flapped his arms wildly as he does when he gets excited. He sees a dog, he waves his arms. We take him to the lake to see the ducks, swans and geese, he waves his arms.

It's amazing how they all have different personalities. (I'm back on the magpies now.) The chest-out saunterers, the timid flitterers, the greedy ones. Most were happy to pick up one piece of cheese and take it outside. But one bird, possibly possessed of more brain, picked up one piece of cheese, then another and then a third - all in the same beakful. You could see it moving the first and second pieces further into its beak as if it knew what it was doing. Well, it did know what it was doing.

Then it hopped out the door with a beak full of cheese and flew away down to the ground, dropped the pieces, picked them over and ate them.

The cheese was a lovely soft nutty Colby, one of my favourite cheddars. Lucky magpies.


Sara said...

I have said it before, you write beautifully.

lucette said...

I love that arm-waving thing--my grandsons do this too (they're just a little older--11 and 13 months).