I woke up to the happy chirping of birds outside my window this morning, and the lingering smell of paint. My bird-book packed away against the dust (you’ve got to read my previous posts to know what I’m talking about) I can’t identify most of them except for the obvious, the kites, ravens, crows, pigeons, and sparrows, all speaking their own languages, and sharing space, as the Lord intended. The sparrows chirping out their greetings have been scarce this time, who knows why, but the mynahs have been creating a racket, adding to the constant cooing of pigeons which abound, much to my dismay. The odd Asian Koel or two settle down amidst the leaves of the tree, some brave enough to perch on the barren branches of the tree across my window whose only reason for being, its status as favoured bird sunning spot, its long claw like branches soaring heavenward, serving as a perch for its feathered visitors who drop by faithfully every morning, in their myriad sizes and hues.
A curious crow strikes a pose for the camera and a parakeet drops by, just to check on the painters doing their work. Then there’s also a ringed parrot which drops by every alternate day. I think the parakeet and he or she take it in turns to show up. One not wanting to upstage the other I suppose, in some screech or squawk code that I would not be able to decipher.
The kingfisher usually camera shy, sits on a wire a safe distance away. Today he perches on the tree. An early bird, he’s up before the sun starts its climb up from the horizon, staring into the distance, his vividness dulled by the limitations of a tiny camera, and a sun that hasn’t yet risen.
But the White-browed Wagtails pop by every now and then, hopping about before the fierce sun compels them to seek refuge amidst the larger branches of some densely foliated tree. And then there are the others, the red vented Bulbuls, a friend and I had nicknamed the Elvis birds, and what looks like a Tailor-bird with its long slightly curved beak, and the green Bee-eaters, with their exquisite colouring and long needle like tail extensions, their rudder against the air currents.
Speaking of birds, I’m a bit wary of the larger ones, the kites who soar majestically in the sky, and who I secretly admire, and the ravens, the variety of crows with their wings flapping menacingly close, with talons and beaks that can rip and tear. Whoever said that fear was an irrational emotion needs to have his head shrunk. There’s absolutely nothing irrational about a bunch of ravens swooping down and trying to scalp you one tiny bit at a time. So yeah, I’m wary of large, big-beaked birds, and I hold du Maurier and Alfie responsible. Ol’ Daph if I may take the liberty to refer to her as such, wowed me with Rebecca. Such an easy read for a young voracious reader, it had none of the jargon that many writers employ to impress their verbal prowess on their readers. No frequent visits to the dictionary or the use of a guide, like I was compelled to use the first time I read Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or should I say ‘attempted to read’, when I was still in school. Silly me! But Rebecca was a joy, and I consumed it from cover to cover, feeling her overpowering presence in the room as I read through, wondering if she was watching me, her presence all too real. I ultimately did manage to re-read Ulysses in its entirety several years later, with some degree of understanding I hope, but that’s another story.
So birds bring to mind Daphne du Maurier, and Hitchcock, who found her work so compelling, he made three of them into films. ‘Birds’ scarring a couple of generations, creating an aura of dread around ravens and crows, with a terrified Tippi Hedren cowering as those big black flapping beasts tried to gouge her eyes out.
Given my fear you’d expect me to avoid our feathered friends all together, so it is a bit odd that I would count bird-watching as a hobby. But it is a truly fascinating activity, one I discovered twelve years ago, all thanks to a friend I met on the meditation trail. A gentle soul, Toni advised me on which books to buy, and took me through the paces. Generous enough to commend my sharp eyesight as being better than her field-glasses at spotting details, she would often ask me to verify the striations or the hints of coloured crown or neck or underbelly. Toni passed away from cancer a few years ago, her tryst with the disease thankfully short, her numerous postcards of stained glass windowed cathedrals from places she visited around the world a reminder of how fortunate I was to have known such a wonderful soul.
So the birds chirrup and chirp and caw and squawk and hoot and gurgle, and trill excitedly when the sun comes up each morning before the city awakens and the raucousness of the day drowns out their voices. And a tiny baby owl pops out from under the rafters of the old printing press in front of my window a short distance away, but too far for me to get a clear shot. A crow doing a couple of sorties, curious at this plump little morsel that suddenly materialized out of nowhere, and then curiosity satisfied or fearing Mama Owl lurking somewhere, flew off. The baby, popped back under the rafters, then stepped out again, in what I would like to think was a bit of gauntlet throwing down, and finding the crow gone hopped back up.
What a hoot!
A Spinach Frittata with Grilled Tomatoes.
Here are the ingredients –
2 loosely packed cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
One large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
2 chillies (I used 1 green and 1 red, just for colour)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (more if you want it cheesy)
2 tomatoes cut down the middle… for grilling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
My oven packed away, I had to cook this on the stove top. But I covered the pan with a tiny wok like utensil called a kadhai, which fit snugly over the egg pan. This is a super easy recipe. All it entailed was whipping up three of the eggs, folding in the spinach and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan (leave a little for later), before adding the garlic, chillies and salt. I couldn’t seem to find my pepper mill, so left it out of this recipe, but a twist or two of freshly milled white pepper (or black if you like) would be lovely, without overpowering the spinach which I wanted coming through.