ok here I am, the Italian Marginated Tortoise.

“Last year, I met this Porcupine,  living a little further north into Tuscany than me, and he tried to tell me he!d been quietly minding his own business, trotting across the road at dusk, when a car-thing screeched to a halt, to allow him to cross…

Right, said he ( thinking ok, this is where I get marinaded in herbs & eaten…) bug they all got out to look at me and they were going Ooooh a Porcupine!!! Like I was from bloody Mars or something. Suits me. I trotted on..

Get on, I said, you’re taking the piss ( sorry but…). Then would you believe, this year , when I was snaffling up some vegetation close to the Lago Di Santa Luce…some person-peoples screeched their car to a halt on a dirt track in Tuscany…and said

OMG is that an …..Italian Marginated Tortoise…

hey yeah. Maybe. Who needs Florence, eh? “IMG_1228



the Naming of Pecky McDuckface

So, I am a little Italian duck. I am on the shores of Lago di Como, which is..well, bellisimo .. ( scusi, but my translator here speaks just English, and Welsh, which nobody knows. We do our best.)

DSC_4155Here’s my story…

I sleep here every night, safely on the shore. Me and my egg mates, we are a little sock-bundle, all night. My eggmates are… Carlotta, Luisa, Angela, Rosa, Roberto, Grissini and Milano….(which Mama chose only because she heard, from a free flying heron, that this was an exotic name and reminiscent of glorious things.)Me, I have no name. And Mama watches us until well after daybreak…

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Our near neighbours are humans. They throw us the ends of bread, and they swim with us. In the beautiful clear lake Especially at night, and in pairs, and sometimes without their feathers.

When the sun slices through the black mountains beyond us, we stir, and stretch, and shake our tail-feathers…And Mama watches over us..


and when all the tail feathers are shaken, Mama bobs us all out into the lake, and just a little way back to shore and then we paddle in and we have a little peckabout…


So on this day we have completed the morning peckabout, and we notice something  in the peckabout-pebbles. It is a female-human, and it is drinking coffee, which I now believe may have been the most glorious coffee in the world. My brother Milano, and my sister Angela approach me rapido. They were most excited. That, they observed, is a person from a far outpost of Britain, and as such may be very morose, and seizing the coffee-window of the day. What, no gin, I cried?


” No gin,” they confirmed. “The ‘sun’ is not yet, as they say. ‘over the yard-arm’. This occurs around 6pm, GMT.. Hence, only coffee..”At this point, a couple of coots came by to laugh. Coot coot coot they went.( Mama says they are very unintelligent but one day I’m gonna run with the coots…)



Milano sidled up. “Go for it, nameless” he twittered “You want to be a chicken, or you want to be a DUCK..?”Angela muttered approval; she had some exciting plankton-snack going on in her duck-breast just then so that was distracting for her..

DSC_4207“Aww so cute” said the humanos, as I square-footed it over the lake-softened terracotta tiles, and the stones… “He’s so confident!!”

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I have to admit, the feet were scarily disgusting. Apparently only British women can cultivate such hideously filthy fungal feet, Mama said it is because they all live by the sea and they kick their shoes off all the time to walk around the edge of it through all sorts of shingly stuff, and they just don’t care, because apart from 2 days sunshine in June they all get to wear massive thermal socks. They can’t help themselves” said Mama. “that one, for example, has been kicking around shoeless, picking up bits of lake-glass, and bleached pottery. Probably makes jewellery with it. Or something…”

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So….it was a done deal in the end. Up I waddled. Right up to that rancid big toe. And Mrs toe-owner cooing all the time like one of those brainless pigeons that sits on the statue of Cupid in the square. I closed my ducky eyes for the final challenge.


Ok, so I may have felt a little guilty, but…Angela, Milano, Carlotta, Rosa, Roberto, Grissini, Mama..this is me….Pecky Duckface

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I’m a hero, me.

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O yeah.



the best bit of the egg

Summer here is a bit of a fantasy.

It goes like this : monsoon-like rains begin in early April and continue nonstop until the time when such things might be on the seasonal agenda, e.g March. Punctuated by the occasional teasing day of hot sunshine, this means that for the most part we in the West of the UK spend our summer days bogging around in wellies under grey skies, attempting to ‘manage’ an encroaching sea of vegetation that threatens to engulf our houses and swallow our cats up whole.


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Here is my friend, the unruly and generous Alzheimer’s Rose. He doesn’t care, he just falls all over everything else, dementedly throwing out luminous blossoms,  glowing before dawn, after dusk, and often till Christmas. He just goes on, his perfect petals hugging deep, warm hearts , scented somewhere between honey and paradise.

He’s like my Dad all over.  Who always shared the best bit of his egg with me, especially on grey days….


Unbog me now…

Dear Mr Tent,IMG_0051
We’ve come a long way together. Had so many adventures…camping has taught me so many useful things.  For example…

  • That no matter how ‘level’ the pitch, the ‘wee-bucket’ will always mysteriously fall sideways during the course of the night
  • That gigantic toads will arise from beneath the groundsheet and stealthily clamber into unoccupied shoes. Squish.
  • That every campsite is seeded, pre-season, with slug eggs so that a massive army of slugs will be ripe ‘ n ready to wrap themselves around every forgotten barbecue morsel drape themselves over beer bottles and curl up in your yogurt.Scan 189
  • That the only place to wash your dishes is in an outdoor trough which you will find conveniently situated next to the evil pit where folks empty out the chemical toilet ‘cassettes’. What ?
  • That animals will enter your tent at night and you will wake to see the bin bag moving around by itself..
  • That for the cost of a few small coins you may purchase the opportunity to stand naked under a piddling shower feeding these into a metal box while foot- juice from the neighbouring shower swirls magically around your ankles.
  • That every campsite contains a random dog which will appear from nowhere and cock its leg all over your barbecue and your new chairs.
  • That those people who have the same tent as you also have a free range toddler who will on at least one occasion wander into your tent looking confused, or even worse may start to scream inconsolably.
  • That hidden in the folds of your bed compartment is a zizzing insect with a spectacular blood sucking proboscis who has been there since you last packed away. He’s well hangry, and he’s going to feast on your flesh….
  • That within a day that area just outside the entry-hole of the tent will transform into a rancid quagmire through which you will be forced to walk to escape.Anaxyrus_americanus_-_American_toad
  • That if you forget the mallet you will be forced spend every evening on your knees banging the pegs back in with a frying pan.
  • That the glorious peace of nightfall is rent by a symphony of snorers, farters and sexual athletes following an intensive training schedule.
  • That it is usually possible to keep warm at night by wrapping up in a full set of ski thermals and bedding down on a full size mattress with 6 pillows, 3 duvets, and a blankie.
  • That by bringing a small fridge you can prevent your beer from simmering and your butter from running into next week.
  • That a portable wardrobe is the only certain way to safeguard against your clean underwear stash being used as an impromptu bat roost.A shoe store is also useful (see ‘toads’ above)..
  • And a full sized cooker. In fact, a house would be really handy. Or a hotel.

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(No-brainer really……)

The expansion of cats

Yes, I confess to sharing my home with a couple of cats. And I recognise that for many people the appeal of sharing space with 50 claws attached to a random-brained, unpredictable eating machine is something unfathomable and a sure-fire sign of weirdness.

Not so.

Cats are magic. They have special powers beyond human reasoning.

Here is Tiggy. She is going to demonstrate one such power …


“Behold. By day I am a delicate little poopkin, no bigger than a wickle melon.


By night, my body mass triples, quadruples even, and I expAAAAAaand into a thing of monstrous proportions.


Because of this trans-mogrification I am not allowed to sleep on their bed.

( the morning I will get in and Sit on her Face. Heh.)”

..for I will consider my cat , Percy

Don’t you just love poetry??


Percy does….

Its all intense and draws a thread of language though experience and ideas , producing something seamless that sings or speaks or sobs..and often shines.

Patti Smith got it right. Back in the dark ages around AD 1970 something, looking dangerously hirsute, the rocklady glared crossly out from the album-soup which at that time provided an alternative floor covering for countless student shag-piles. “Poets are Dangerous” declared the record sleeve “..because their Minds are Free…”

Really?? All that careful crafting of self-absorption? Dangerous minds perhaps but free???

How delightful then, to discover the odd poet whose mind truly ranges free. images

Top man for me has to be Mr Christopher Smart, an 18th century English chap whose mind was so free that he ended up in a lunatic asylum. Whilst there he fell to musing about his cat, very sensibly named Jeoffry. Obviously a creature full of the universal truths of cat hood , good old Jeff inspired a gigantic poem which correctly details all the finer points of cat etiquette. I know this because I have read it to one of my own cats, Percy, and he has verified it’s accuracy.

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the whiskered ones better look away now, because what follows is the first 18 lines of Mr Smart’s poem..followed by a translation for the modern feline..


For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food…..

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For I will consider my Cat Percy
For he is the servant of nobody and nothing and all humans must duly and daily serve him
For at the crack of dawn he worships in his wailing way
For this is done by winding himself round the bedpost seven hundred times
For then he leaps up to sit upon my face, which hath the promise of food
For he rolls upon my head to make his point
for having done this duty and received a verbal kick up the arse he turns about-whiskers in disgust
For this he performs a ten step ritual. Minimum.
For first he stares at his front feet and chews stuff from between his toe-claws
For second, he assumes the chicken position, and licketh his bum.
For thirdly, he getteth his legs back from around his earholes and he works that stretch,
For fourthly he sharpens his claws upon the bedroom chair
for fifthly he washes himself. Again.
For sixthly he writhes about on the carpet.
For seventhly, he shares his fleas with his human, that his murderous mousing may follow undisturbed,
For eighthly, he rubs himself against a post ( any post..)
For ninthly he looks up and goes ok, what more do I have to do, ignoramus.
For tenthly, he goes in quest of food.
(…On his own.
….And it will be your breakfast and he’s going to chuck it

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