One of the things my webmaster said to me when I first started this monthly newsletter, several years ago now, was "Are you sure you can always find something interesting to write about?
" I think I have managed it, although I do admit some news updates have been more interesting than others.
I now also have my Devon Diary to keep up to date and the challenge is to ensure the entries do not overlap. This month I'll get a big X for 'fail' as they do just that - overlap. Either there is no news for this page or the Devon Diary stays blank for the first week of October. So, executive decision - both places will share because I had the most exciting experience a few days ago. (Which I telephoned Mr Webmaster about because I was so thrilled!)
The 'adventure', I think, deserves to be recounted here in full - so Devon Diary followers, my apologies for re-linking you here. Anyone wanting further owl information can find it on the Leaning On The Gate
I've added a few interesting YouTube links there as well.
The story - for that is almost what it is - involves owls.
I have been fascinated by owls since my teenage days, prompted by the superstition that Barn Owls are the returned souls of the dead. You must admit, they are ghostly-looking. Owls are haunting creatures, you can hear them but rarely see them; and believe me, on a dark night in an even darker Devon lane they can be very spooky indeed.
Alan Garner's young adult novel The Owl Service
set the ball rolling for me about owls; the mythology behind them is intriguing. Owls lend themselves superbly to Tales of the Imagination don't they? Before Garner, in early childhood, there was Owl in Winnie the Pooh
, in the Little Grey Rabbit stories, and in Beatrix Potter's Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
. I found that owl a bit alarming though, probably because he pulled Nutkin's tail off. But then, Nutkin was a very naughty squirrel. The things you remember from childhood!
Since moving into our new home in Devon I have heard the Tawny Owls calling on most nights, sometimes right outside my study and bedroom windows. Within the first two weeks that we were here, we saw a Barn Owl float across our back garden, and my daughter saw a pair sitting on the wooden fencing further along the lane near our neighbour's field. I have never actually seen the Tawnies. What with my eye problems and it being somewhat dark out there, I have not been quick enough to catch them visually, which has been extremely irritating and frustrating.
All was set aright last week.
Kathy, Adam, and I were walking down the Lane, having been up to Top Field to check the horses were all right for the night. It was dusk, that mysterious half-light between day and night. A calm, clear, beautiful evening with the first bright stars appearing (Okay, the brightest was probably a planet.) An owl hooted, quite close. We stopped. Kathy called back - a sort of high-pitched "twee-eek" imitation. To our surprise he answered! Kathy called again. Once more a response, only nearer this time. And a third and a fourth, each with the owl coming closer until he was sitting in one of the trees bordering the lane. Which one? Where was he? We could hear, but not see him.
I was so excited, at last I might be able to catch a glimpse of an owl!
'Keep talking to him' I whispered.
Kathy insists she was conducting a conversation about the latest plot line of in the UK soap-drama Coronation Street; the Owl, we think, thought he was chatting up a new bird. (Pun intended.)
He moved from one side of the lane to the other, but I had seen him. He was now directly above us in the oak tree. I was amazed that he moved so silently. There was no flutter of wings, no rustle of leaves, not even movement in the branches. It is no wonder that the superstitions about these beautiful birds evolved.
A little more conversation and there he was; a silhouette against the sky gliding from one side of the lane to the other. He was so beautiful - his wingspan so big! I had seen him, I had actually seen him!
Those people who know me will not be at all surprised to hear that I shed a few tears of pleasure and excitement.
And then there were two owls. Another male was calling from further down the lane - it seemed he wanted to chat Kathy up as well. Owl Number One flew to see the intruder off, but we were lucky enough to spot him a few minutes later on the tree behind the dairy, his blinking eyes glinting in the torch light, his evocative face staring, a tad bewildered, back at us.
I only hope he wasn't too disappointed by his potential girlfriend being somewhat un-owlish in appearance. On the other hand he could have been thinking, all along, that these humans are very, very odd creatures trying to pretend to be owls.
"The less he spoke, the more he heard. Now wasn't that a wise old bird!"
On a completely different note, you may be wondering why I have the quote about dogs and books as my header.
, our fool of a dog, is a sweetheart, the sort of dog any dog-lover would adore instantly. Not yet two years old though, he is occasionally a little puppyish. He gets overexcited and still has to learn not to jump up. and um, he must learn that it is not a good idea to chew books. I left one on the coffee table and it got knocked to the floor. To be fair, Baz's toys live on the floor, so I expect he thought it was his. I will reveal here that it was an Indie published historical novel submitted for review by the Historical Novel Society
. I am the UK review editor; it is my responsibility to receive the books, add them to the database and send them out to my superb team of reviewers.
Even after Baz's attention to it the novel remained readable, fortunately, and what a good read it was! The reviewer I forwarded it to, with a note of apology regarding its appearance, was most understanding about it being somewhat 'dog-eared'.
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.