Friday, 9 August 2013

The Crow That Knows

Well, we're back home and sweating. Leaving the UK, where it felt like the air-conditioning was on outdoors all the time, with the temperature around 18ºC when we boarded the plane, then exiting the plane at Rhodes to a smidgin under 30ºC at 9.00pm, it was a case of, well ...get re-acclimatised!

There was nothing for it but to take a brief detour to Haraki waterfront on the way home (our good neighbours Mac and Jane, see chapt. 12 of Moussaka to My Ears, collected us from the airport) for a well needed drink. A cool Fix poured into a frosted glass slid down rather well, while Mac had a draught Mythos and the women ...whatever, I didn't notice theirs!! Sitting above the horseshoe-shaped small strand of beach, surrounded by a hubbub of chatter from the people sat around us in their droves on this balmy, inky-black Greek evening was like balsam to the soul.

You'll forgive me if I just reflect a while on the three weeks we spent in the UK dealing with the aftermath of my mother's death, but I haven't had a great deal of Rhodean life to talk about recently. It was just last Tuesday morning, as we sat in my mother's conservatory gazing out at her pretty little secluded garden whilst eating breakfast, that we saw her friend the crow. And it was then that I finally had time to reflect and become a little watery-eyed. Prior to that, I'd been so engulfed in paperwork and house-clearing; in handshaking, hugging and e-mailing; in telephoning and visiting office after office (the local Council, the Bank, the funeral director, the estate agent, solicitor...) that I'd not allowed myself time to think.

Last April, as we'd witnessed my mum's routine, we saw that every morning she'd rise at something like 6.30am and make her first cup of tea. Then she'd settle down in her favourite armchair to watch the re-runs of Heartbeat before starting to prepare her breakfast. Every morning it would be the same, a bacon and tomato sandwich. Of course, she'd always microwave the bacon, after first having cut off the rind and some of the fat. This was her concession to healthy eating! The beneficiary of this habit though, was a huge crow, who'd arrive every morning on the wall beside the garden, owing to the fact that mum would place the chopped bacon rind in the same location every day. On the top of the brick-built barbecue, that my dad had built many years earlier, there would be the fatty feast awaiting the crow. Mum would make a clicking sound with her mouth, convinced that she was talking to her jet-black shiny-feathered visitor. Nothing you could say would convince her that he didn't answer her as well. Ah, well, no harm done.

The thing is, this crow did arrive every day, having become quite bold, and would swoop into the garden from atop the wall and snatch a few pieces of dead pig in his beak, before swishing up to the garage roof to pick away at it. He may not have talked to mum, but he certainly knew the sound she made and it registered with him as "time for breakfast".

Now, when you lose your mother, who in our case in fact was the last of our four parents to leave us, you know that it's going to be a difficult time emotionally. To be honest, we were so busy whilst staying at her house this past few weeks that we didn't have much time to grieve, as mentioned above. But finally, two mornings before we were due to depart for our flight home to Rhodes, we found ourselves eating our muesli, covered as usual with yogurt and chopped fresh fruit, staring out at mum's garden, where, right on time, appeared the crow. I know, we often use expression "bird-brain" don't we, to describe someone who's not the brightest sparkler in the box. But birds aren't so stupid really. As we studied the crow, he very definitely hopped or strutted along the wall, then across the shed roof, all the time cocking his head to stare at the spots where my mum used to leave his bacon rind. This was now well over two weeks after she'd died, yet here was the crow, the crow that knows where his breakfast was to be found, apparently expressing his dismay that his benefactor was no more. Having found nothing he'd flit up to the roof of the garage and sit there a while, before once again repeating his little dance along the wall and on to the shed, evidently hoping that he'd not seen right the last time and that somehow his nice little morsel would have by this time appeared.

This was all it needed to set me off. Then began my thoughts of how my parents had moved into this home almost exactly thirty years before and both my sister and I had visited innumerable times, seeing this modest little bungalow as our focal point, the place where we'd come for that feeling of security that only your parents can give you. Then came my reflections of having watched my mum just months before, as she stood at the conservatory door and made that "click-click" sound with her lips, calling her crow to come and dine, which he always would. 

We both sat and became watery-eyed, not needing to talk, since we both knew what the other was thinking about. In just 48 hours we'd be locking up and leaving this place for the last time. Every plant in that garden had been put there by my father's hand, each brick in that barbecue cemented in place by him. How many times had my mum carried a tray of drinks out to the patio near the pond, the pond that Dad had set in place years before in order to realise the dream he'd had for a long time of keeping a few koi carp. That pond, which was now choked with water lily foliage and thousands of baby frogs. Not that the water lilies, which were just coming into flower, weren't delightful, but the way they'd taken over bore silent witness to the fact that my father had long ceased to be around to keep the pond looking just right.

Then it was that we began to talk about what we'd been reading in the papers and watching on the TV news during our stay this past few weeks. Did we still recognise the world outside the little Rhodean cocoon that we call home? It seems to us that the world is full of "fracking" and "trolling", of enough health and safety regulations to tie one up in knots, of all kinds of other stuff that seemed entirely new to us. Yes, you're going to tell me that "fracking" isn't something confined to UK shores, as is also the case I don't doubt with "trolling". It's just that such things don't seem to touch us out here up our dusty track in Rhodes and perhaps that's why we love it so much. We can almost put the world's changes on hold, or into slow-mo, while we nip down to the beach, as we did this very evening, for a swim in the luxuriously warm August waters of the Med. 

Driving up our track just metres from the main road last night, after we'd taken our interlude at Haraki, all four of us were surprised and delighted to catch in the headlights of Mac's car a pair of mature deer, just feet from the front bumper. As we'd come up around the bend from the road, they'd been grazing by the lane's border, been spooked by the lights and stared at us for a few precious milliseconds, before bounding away into the dark unlit surrounds of a Rhodean rural night. He was a handsome antlered stag and she was probably his mate, a mature doe.

Yes, losing loved ones is hard. But I know that millions have been there before me. None of us is special, none of us is immune. But the world, despite all the fracking and trolling going on somewhere or other, is still a place full of wonders. 

And back there in Midsomer Norton, there's probably a crow that knows.


  1. Oh eck, sniff sniff, the tapestry of life eh?

    Very best wishes

    "Porridge Oats"

  2. Glad you're safely back and that home is soothing for you. I can empathise totally with your experience in your mother's garden, having had to say goodbye to my parents' house, in which I grew up, when my dad moved after 60 years residence. The strangest little things can indeed reduce one to tears.
    Best wishes, and hope to see you in October. Yes we've booked, how could we not?

  3. Its nice to read your words. Yes the world can have its badness but its the lovely people, places and animals that make it better.

    Looking forward to more of your Ramblings!!

    Love from

  4. A very moving tribute, the tears have fallen.

    Best wishes from a Winsley resident!

  5. Such a nice post, John. Puts me in a rather contemplative mood. So sorry to hear about your Mother.
    Take care
    Judy M

  6. Lovely to hear your tale John...and glad things are all settled now and your back on Rhodes....we are flying over on the 28th for our two week break....if you are down at Vlicha Beach would be great to say Hi....take

    1. And you would be? (Sorry, but you're signed in with your comment as "Anonymous", and there are lots of correspondents oddly enough with that very name!!)

  7. Sorry John....Its Linda Goodey - I am never quite sure what my profile should be?? we have shared a few comments in the past few months..