LAST LOOK

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - JANE FRASER

IN a week or so I turn 65; this is a vast age and it seems only yes­ter­day that I was 64. The one mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor is that I seem to have dis­cov­ered a new in­ner me. I have be­come de­voted, al­beit it in a half- hearted sort of way, to na­ture, es­pe­cially birds, and I ex­pect quite soon to be seen walk­ing around the back gar­den with winged won­ders set­tling on my shoul­ders and arms, a bit like St Francis of As­sisi.

My son and my hus­band, who some­times get into ca­hoots and talk about me in the third per­son as though I am not there, had a quiet snig­ger the other night when I an­nounced plans to in­stall a bird­bath un­der the tree, so as to give suc­cour to God’s thirsty crea­tures. In me, they share a com­mon tar­get. They re­minded me that some­one we know once bred mice to feed his cat; per­haps we could liven things up.

If I were hell- bent on at­tract­ing butcher birds and In­dian my­nahs, I could give th­ese preda­tors some­thing to write home about. Add a frog pond for their sus­te­nance, per­haps, and a few asps to keep them on their toes.

Th­ese are two men who share, too, a ha­tred of pos­sums.

In fact I have been amazed at dis­cov­er­ing in my na­ture chan­nelling that this world is sim­ply crawl­ing with ven­omous pos­sum- haters. Those who live near us ( pos­sums) are on the nose again; the other evening the man of the house was am­bling around the gar­den check­ing on the new bed of herbs, which had been flour­ish­ing, when he gave a big shout ac­com­pa­nied by a small dance of anger on the lawn; the herb gar­den had been dec­i­mated, as if some for­ag­ing four- legged beast had been out on the town.

Ap­par­ently it was the pos­sums wot done it and a search party set out to find the trap. It had dis­ap­peared into thin air. Sus­pi­cious eyes were turned on me: had I hid­den it?

In the event the handy­man had bor­rowed it to snare some feral cats in his neigh­bour­hood; peo­ple seem to be go­ing be­serk. But at least I was able to feign um­brage. My sulky fit was ex­ac­er­bated by the fact the gar­dener said nasty vi­cious cater­pil­lars were re­spon­si­ble for the demise of the herbs; all the more rea­son to en­cour­age the birds, I shouted. The birds would eat the cater­pil­lars and spread fear among the army worms that are pre­oc­cu­pied with chew­ing up the newly planted grass.

I would have ex­e­cuted an an­gry lit­tle dance to em­pha­sise my pas­sion but couldn’t; days pre­vi­ously I had kicked the dog, which had taken in his jaw one of the baby birds, which was learn­ing to fly, and I badly stubbed my big toe. Be­sides which, my hus­band can do lit­tle dances as he is as fit as a flea, re­mark­ably so for a man of an un­cer­tain age. I seem to lag be­hind in­do­lently, still wait­ing for some post­menopausal zest to kick in.

fraserj@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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