Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A FLIGHT OF FANCY

My poor wife is recovering from her recent hip replacement operation, and is hobbling along with the aid of her wheeled “walker”. Watching her improving pace, I was struck by the power we take for granted in our hips and upper thighs, and the reliance we place on them.
     In one of my more exotic flights of fancy, I remembered a visit we made two years ago with our younger daughter and our two grandsons to the City of Science and Arts in Valencia, which is a couple of hours from where we live. Near the entrance a Dinosaur Park has been built, which features life-sized replicas of repulsive creatures that roamed our World many millions of years ago.
     One in particular caught our attention, and that was the fearsomely aggressive Tyrannosaurus Rex. Its outer skin had been enhanced to replicate the latest findings, which were that it contained small feathers. My mind went into overdrive, as I envisaged being chased by something that resembled a giant, fledgling cockerel.
     The thought of this spectacle changed my attitude to the extinct species, and I burst out laughing. Can you imagine being chased by something that looked like that?
     This was all going through my mind, as my wife disappeared into our kitchen to get herself a drink. I must emphasise that in no way am I comparing her to a T-Rex. However, my timing on this occasion was bad, as she turned back and poked her head around the corner to ask me, “Why are you laughing?”
     How could I possible tell her, without causing grave offence? After all, it was only a flight of fancy.
     One final point; I was watching the Discovery Channel a few months ago, and was told that modern day dinosaurs are all around us: they are the birds!
     I therefore think it is relevant to tell you a factual story based on my early years. This is recounted below.

I found out that a legal footpath existed between our house and the nearby village. It led from our immediate neighbours' properties, through their gardens, past a chicken run and pig sty. It continued down a trail in a small wood, over a sign-posted wooden stile and then through the back garden of another house before emerging into the main road, above a railway bridge.
     There was another sign identifying the footpath outside this house, but I often felt slightly embarrassed about taking this route; however, it was a considerable shortcut on the normal lane that we took by car, and no one seemed to mind.
     Next door’s sty contained the biggest pig that I had ever seen, reminding me in size whenever I saw it of P.G.Wodehouse's fictional sow belonging to Lord Emsworth and called “The Empress of Blandings”. The chicken run contained a noisy cockerel which was not near enough to our house to be a bother.
     One day, as I passed this menagerie, the wire mesh door was ajar, and the hens were wandering around pecking the ground outside, as is their want, supervised by the “cock of the roost”. This bird, to me the size of a pterodactyl, started making a threatening, high-pitched sucking noise, flapped its feathery and leathery wings and took off in my direction.
     I took off too and was chased up the garden path at extraordinary speed by this prehistoric monster, which was flapping its wings to maintain low-level flight, and scratching the backs of my bare legs with its talons until I was bloodied.
     I always checked cautiously in future, to make sure that all the gates were closed before entering this arena.

    Who knows, the neighbour might inadvertently let the Empress out as well? Pigs were reputed to eat all traces of a human, without leaving any part to identify.