Tuesday, 29 September 2015

somewhere in-between


Another way this world is divided is people who love animals and people who don't. I have purposely not called them animal haters because the world is not as black and white as that. There are many different shades. So there are some people who don't mind animals or are indifferent to them and there are people who hate them, and there are lots of things in between.  As you will know by now, I'm an animal lover.

It's probably unusual that I turned out that way because your grandma has a different approach to animals altogether. I think she was always respectful of them but I think she saw them as dirty and maybe the kind of things that were best kept outdoors. She does have a love for them, especially Kelda and her tortoises, but it's a them and us kind of love. To her they are still very much animals.

When we were very young some other children in the street had Guinea pigs and they had babies. I think everyone in the street was offered one and me and my sister were allowed one each. Your granddad made them a hutch and we promised, as all children do, to take the very best care of them and did for a while until it became grandma and granddad’s job to clean them out.

When we wanted to stroke them or pet them it was like a military operation. My mum put a special cloth on the kitchen table, I'm not certain but I’m guessing my sister and I had to put on our oldest clothes. We were then given pinafores to wear over the top and had a towel folded across our knees. Then your grandma gave us special gloves and masks to wear (that bit is me exaggerating) and after about an hour's preparation we were allowed to handle the poor animals for a while. And stroke them and fuss over them.

Then we had to put them back and wash ourselves thoroughly before the world could return to normal. In fact, I was always taught to wash my hands after stroking any animal. Now we have Kelda, I'd be permanently washing my hands and there would be no time for anything else. 

The other day I was having tea with my friend and his family. He has a little boy who is two and a bee flew into the room. His mum is scared of bees and made a bit of a fuss and my friend wasn't very happy with her. I think he was worried that her reaction would make their son scared as well. And it will be difficult as parents because how we behave will brush off on you.

When we go to the park, if there is a dog or sheep or even a cow or a horse I will call to them and try to stroke them. My friends used to call me Doctor Doolittle (because he could talk to animals). They say you should never work with animals or children but I think most of the time they're easier to deal with than adults. I think part of it is that they are much more aware of their senses and if a person is scared they feel that and become scared themselves. Whereas if they sense warmth or kindness or a lack of threat, they respond in a similar way.

Your mum is a bit more cautious. With dogs she thinks that their owners should have a bit more control over them. Actually I think secretly your mum is a bit scared of them, particularly big dogs who aren't on their leads. When we were in India last summer, we were in the jungle and there was a strange sound from the bushes. Your mum ran to me for protection and then wanted to go back to where we were staying.  I don't think it was anything to worry about but if it had been a big scary animal I'm not sure what she thought I'd be able to do! (I'm only joking. Of course I'd have protected her).

Now it's okay for me and your mum to have different ideas about things. That's what makes us a good team. It will be good for you to learn different ways but I don't want you to be scared of animals. I want you to respect them and see that our world is shared. It's not ours or theirs, it belongs to all of us but we can interact with each other and live together just fine.

Obviously you also need to learn that some animals are dangerous and you need to learn the signs they show so you know when not to approach them. I once was at a park and a goose decided to chase me because I must have got too near to its young. It was bigger than me and gave me a bit of a shock but I managed to run away and though it tried to bite me it missed and there was no harm done.

Your mum thinks I go too far and maybe give animals more credit for intelligence than I should or they're due but I'm not so sure, especially as far as Kelda is concerned. Hopefully you'll get to see for yourself because you will grow up with Kelda.

I think your mum is fond of Kelda but she finds her a bit disgusting too. Kelda has got long hair and sometimes, when she 'does her business' (that's your grandma's expression) she gets it stuck in her fur. Then she walks round the flat so it could get everywhere though I've never found it.  Sometimes she cleans it off herself with her tongue which sounds disgusting but that's what animals do.

Kelda's way of washing is to lick herself. She has a special sharp tongue which acts a bit like a brush. Sometimes when you stroke her she tries to lick you. I think she thinks she's cleaning you. Your mum thinks this is really horrible, especially considering where her tongue has been but I just don't think you can look at it like that.

My friends were laughing at me yesterday because I'd spent an hour or so building 'Kelda's cottage'. Kelda likes to hide in boxes and tunnels so me and your mum decide to build her a sort of tent that she can go in when we move into our new house. They thought it was funny because I was making things for Kelda when I should be focusing on you.

I think it was fun though and it was sort of preparation for you. I bought some wood and made a frame which you could have helped with. And then your mum used an old duvet to make a cover and again these are the kind of creative activities we want to do with you. We're planning on turning the garage into a creative room where you'll be able to make things and paint things and it won't matter if things get a bit messy.

You watch, we'll end up putting you in a pinafore and covering the table with a special cloth and your grandma will just look at me and nod in that told you so way. 

 
Footnote 

Your mum says that she started worrying about Kelda when you came along. She worries that Kelda 
will try and get in your cot which might stop you breathing. She worries because Kelda's 'business' can be very harmful to pregnant women and to you before you are born. She does like a good worry, your mum, but in this instance I can't really blame her. 

What we mustn't forget though, and I keep meaning to write this down and getting side-tracked, is that it's quite possible that Kelda knew you were here, or at least on your way, before we did.
In those days she used to sleep in our room, at first in between my legs and later right between me and your mum. At some point she started snuggling up to your mum, to her tummy, to where you were forming though we didn't know at the time.

Once we'd found out your mum was pregnant we worked it back. They say that cats might be able to sense pregnancy hormones or pheromones and so it seems she was snuggling up to you and looking after you before we even realised. Even the animals are going to protect you.

Kelda can be a little bit fussy and your mum won't let her sleep in our room anymore so that she gets used to not being allowed in the bedrooms before you come along. We're going to get her used to your things and your baby smells (hopefully) once we move into our new house but I'm sure she's going to look after you as if you were her own.