The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

IAM get­ting, at Christ­mas, a gar­goyle for the gar­den. It’ll see me out; you can’t ex­pect to out­live a gar­goyle. In many ways this is an un­usual gift, but far more ex­cit­ing than last year’s, which was a pair of py­ja­mas. They were black be­cause the py­ja­mas shop had run out of nice white cot­ton ones. Th­ese black py­ja­mas were made from a fab­ric — with lit­tle bob­ble- like thingum­mies all over the place — guar­an­teed to bring you out in grotesque hives.

I googled gar­goyles: try say­ing that three times when you’ve had a few.

While I’m wait­ing for Wikipedia to en­lighten me on the world of gar­goyles, I should tell you that, to make up for the dis­ap­point­ment of the hives- in­duc­ing py­ja­mas, I am also get­ting a bird­bath for the gar­den. This, too, will see me out. I would be un­likely to out­live a bird­bath. I am hop­ing this bird­bath will at­tract a bet­ter class of bird; I’m sick of those that fre­quent our gar­den and di­ve­bomb the early worms. They’re ei­ther gi­gan­tic black- and- white ones, or ugly black- and- yel­low ones, and do lit­tle to con­trib­ute to the beauty of na­ture. They bring only shriek­ing and cack­ling to the party. I want gen­tle bird­song and a bit more fi­nesse in the worm- catch­ing de­part­ment, thanks very much.

The in­cum­bent birds make al­most as much noise as those con­trap­tions that men wear­ing earplugs use to pick up leaves; they sound like jack­ham­mers or tree- fellers. One early morn­ing I had to con­tend with the ca­coph­ony of three leaf picker- up­pers in neigh­bours’ gar­dens, plus the bloody birds. At one point I was on the verge of at­tack­ing all of the above with fin­ger- stab­bing fury, against which I for­tu­nately steeled my­self.

Well, well, well; I’ve been sold a pup. What I am get­ting for Christ­mas is not a gar­goyle at all. It does not gar­gle. A gar­goyle, says Wikipedia, is a carved stone grotesque with a spout de­signed to con­vey wa­ter from a roof and away from a build­ing. ‘‘ So, where’s my spout?’’ I shouted.

I’m ap­par­ently land­ing up with a chimera, which has flung me into the horns of a dilemma. How to pro­nounce it? Is the h silent, like the p in bathing? I raced through the work­place and did a straw poll. It’s not shim­merer .

I think I could be­come quite fond of my chimera, al­though I haven’t yet laid eyes on it. It will be a wel­come ad­di­tion in the gar­den to my life- size zinc li­ons. I some­times feel like scal­ing the vines and swing­ing in the trees above them, and I would do so if my name was not Jane, be­cause that would be such a cliche.

Why a gar­goyle? he was asked. And what or whom does it look like? Com­bi­na­tions of hu­mans and an­i­mals, per­haps. Or mad monks and dragons. The ques­tion hung in the air like the Cheshire cat’s smile. In­vol­un­tar­ily his eyes flicked my way and kept flick­er­ing; he turned the colour of the prover­bial beet­root.

Stone the crows.

■ fraserj@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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