Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Sheffield’s Resident Pig

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Last weekend I went and caught up with my brother and sister-in-law in Sheffield. It is handy living a 50 minute train ride away from my family. It is a significant improvement on a 24 hour plane ride; that’s a long way to go for a hug. My visits to see Ben don’t generally involve much other than sitting around drinking coffee, cooking dinner and then going to bed early. But sometimes it is this sort of relaxed comfort that is exactly what you need to remind yourself of the good things in life.

Saying this, on Saturday afternoon things turned wild when Ben and Zoë took me to Heeley City Farm to meet the animals residing in central Sheffield. Nestled in a residential zone of the city, Heeley City Farm is a community based animal farm, café and garden centre. It is a fantastic space to bring kids and is also highly entertaining for us older folk. Who doesn’t like looking at lambs? Here are some of the characters we met on our visit:

Goat butts.

Goat butts.

What?

What?

Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We went to the café for afternoon tea and each had a piece of homemade cake. Flavours included a vegan pear cake, lemon polenta, and I had a sticky ginger cake. They were all quite delicious and clearly made with love and community spirit. Happy cake always tastes better.

Wednesday Write-In #81: Spring Fever

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

This is my second attempt at Cake.ShortandSweet Wednesday Write-In. This week’s words were: drawn; sitting comfortably; sag; hiss; Ship-shape. I was instantly drawn to the word ‘hiss’ for reasons you will soon discover if you choose to read on.

Spring Fever (Or When Geese Attack)

Even the most pessimistic Mancunians can’t deny the approach of spring in the city. “It has been the wettest winter on record,” they complain. “Last summer was the best we’ve had in years. That won’t happen again.”

Perhaps it is thanks to the endless winter drizzle and the increasing hours of sunshine that is exciting the daffodils, plum trees and cherry blossom. Crocus flowers are being drawn up from their muddy winter hideaways to add splatterings of lilac to dormant parks and roadside garden beds. Those browny-green twigs you have ignored during the winter months are suddenly bursting into joyful colour – electric green leaf shoots and look-at-me flowers. Nature is coming to life again and it wants to show off.

The birds are back in town, too. Petit sparrows, wagtails and tits dart about claiming territories and socialising. The larger breeds fly in with their heads in the air, cruising down the ship canal and sitting comfortably like bored teenagers by the water’s edge. With each movement they call to their friends – “I’m going over here now.” “Hey guys, I’m bored.” “Sweet, that kid’s got bread!”

Everyone is feeling good about the change of seasons and the approaching warmer weather. However, while sunshine and pretty flowers are good for the soul and breaking the communal SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), no one thinks about what the arrival of peak spring really means.

Canada Geese. One of the most temperamental creatures in existence, I once saw them described as ‘friendly’ in an Illustrated Guide to Birds (the cutesie drawing of the goose even had it smiling.). Dear Author, clearly you have never encountered these malicious fiends in the middle of their mating season. It is obvious you have never had to walk along narrow canal-side pathways with water on one side and a Canadian Goose on the other. They see you coming with nowhere to escape. They move into action, positioning themselves directly in your desired pathway, calling to their friends to come and join in the fun. You reduce speed to a slow but steady pace, not wanting to appear threatening but hoping your larger body mass and intellectual superiority will encourage them to leave you alone.

No chance. Get within a foot of these beasts and they’re off – craning their necks like pissed-off cobras, puffing out their wings and stamping about in circles. You’re in their zone and they’re letting you know. But the worst part is still to come – now they are beginning to hiss. Opening up those supposedly smiling beaks into a ferocious snarl, the sound of a thousand poisonous snakes hits your ears and you know it is on. They attack, stabbing and jabbing and aiming for your knees with their knife-blade mandibles. Don’t put out your hand to stop them or they snap your fingers off. Just run. Your only option to escape this death trap is to get up on your tip-toes, flail your arms in the air and squeal like a small child, running as far and as quickly as possible. Do not look back. Do not make eye contact. Just get the hell out.

And when you can finally stop and catch your breath, your heart pumping with the adrenaline of primal fear, you will be hit with the realisation that someone may have seen that. It is guaranteed that someone probably did and you may feel ashamed about appearing inferior to a goose. But sleep easy knowing that one day that person laughing at your misfortune will experience this torture themselves and will scream an even girly-er scream than you.

Spring has sprung, my friends. The geese are coming.

A Visit to Manchester Museum

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

After almost a year of living in this city, I finally took myself to Manchester Museum. I had been there for the launch of their upgraded permanent exhibition space but there had been too many people drinking free wine to see many of the exhibits. Yesterday I treated myself with a trip to the museum to make me feel better about my eye situation as I figured the stuffed animals and ancient clay jars wouldn’t laugh at my puffy face.

The Manchester Museum is an anthropological gallery showcasing the wonders of animal and human development throughout history. There are displays of amazing taxidermies animals and birds and sections dedicated to items found in ancient sites both in England and across the world. There was a case of rocks, knife ends and hippopotamus teeth found in Crewsell Crags near where Ben used to live when he was learning to be a baker.

The museum was well put together although lacked a strong narrative – I often felt like the displays weren’t interconnected and I struggled to find a desire to ‘read more’. There were some very beautiful and artistic displays which were nice to look at but I can’t say I learnt much.

Good looking displays

Good looking displays

My favourite section was the live frogs, lizards and snakes – I always like seeing multicoloured frogs hopping around on tree branches. There was a very cool chameleon as well – he’d have more issues than me if he got conjunctivitis.

I call him Leon.

I call him Leon.

Percival the Pig

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

My friend, sewing-and-cooking inspiration, and ex-boss, Claire, recommended I read a book she had recently read with her children. Yes, at the wee-ages of two and four they are slightly younger than me but I feel we have similar interests when it comes to well-written and beautiful illustrated children’s books. The ABC Menagerie by M.H. Clark and Elena V. Targioni is a book for everyone – it is so beautiful, funny and heartwarming that even robots would feel emotions while reading it.

ABC Menagerie

ABC Menagerie - image from LiveInspired

Each page of the book introduces a new animal and their particular habits and the rhyming text is accompanied by a photograph of a felt/material version of the creature. Similar to my sock creatures, these guys are slightly odd and always have something ‘different’ about them. There are many amazing personalities and the creatures themselves are so wonderfully crafted that you feel like you could reach into the page and pat them.

abc menagerie

Jesenia the Jaguar – image from LiveInspired

I thought I would share the text from one of the pages as I currently feel like this animal. Last night I went for dinner with friends at Le Jardin D’en Face and ate far too much and therefore wish I had the same release mechanisms as this guy:

Percival the Pig

Percival’s dinners are rich and gourmet,
with plenty of chocolate éclairs.
Whenever he’s had one too many that day,
his safety valves let out the air.

Buy and read this book. No matter what age you are, it will make you smile. Thanks for the recommendation, Claire.

Martin is NOT a Reindeer

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Everyone, meet Martin.

Martin the Zebra

Hello Martin

Martin would like to make it clear that he is NOT a reindeer. He is a full-blooded zebra, born from a zebra mum and a zebra dad and he will always be a zebra no matter what stupid costumes people force him to wear. Unfortunately for Martin, his mother made him join a youth group that puts a Christmas show every year for all of the parents to come and watch and his body shape and general appearance makes him perfect for the lead role of Rudolf. Put a red nose and some antlers on Martin and BAM! Instant Rudolf. The play leaders love it and don’t understand why he hates it so much. He was born to play Rudolf, they say. Really, Martin would prefer to be backstage where no one can see him, instead of up at the front of the stage with a bunch of elves singing about how he has such a shiny nose.

Martin the Zebra

That's not his real nose.

Martin is in second year of high school and certain ‘incidents’ that happened in the past two years have led him to having to join the youth group. It is hoped that by being part of the group he will find some direction and stability and help him stop spray painting swear words all over public spaces. Really, he is just bored and wishes he could grow up faster. Being a teenager is boring, annoying and pointless. He wants to be old enough to leave home, get a job and travel the world on his own. One day he wants to be an astronaut but apparently to do that you need to be good at maths and science and he hasn’t attended many of those classes lately.

Martin the Zebra

Martin

Martin won’t admit it but he’s in love. There’s this girl that he often sees at a local beauty salon – she has amazing hair! He has never said anything to her and she probably doesn’t know his exists but one day he hopes they might be able to go to the movies together. Martin has never had a girlfriend and the idea scares him a bit but some of his friends have been out with girls and they said it was ok. You just have to buy them presents or pay for their lunch and then they seem to like you. Martin reckons he could do that.

So as far as this Christmas play goes, Martin is trying his best to get out of it. Last year he tried to pretend he had a stomach bug but no one believed him. This year he is considering breaking his own arm but he knows they’ll just find some way of decorating his plaster with green and red tinsel. The least they could do is give him some antlers that weren’t back to front. It’s seriously embarrassing.

Martin the Zebra

He hates these antlers

Martin is available for purchase from my Etsy Store. Save him from his Christmas concert shame…

Farewell Jacob!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

I come to you on this glorious Thursday morn in sunny Paris bringing news that is both good and bad. Jacob, my cute and squishy mudwalking sock creature, has just been sold so I must wrap him up and send him on his way. He is heading to Tasmania of all places. I think he will fit in well.

Jacob the mudwalker

I'm going to miss those eyes.

Jacob is Ready to Discover New Muds

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Jacob, my mudwalking sock creature, is for sale on my Etsy store and is looking for new lands to discover and new muds to walk. He’s the perfect gift for mudwalkers, Dutch family members or that grubby person in your life. Buy him now.

Mudwalker

Love me.

A Fun Day in Paris

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

On Friday Tom and I met up with our friend, Pip, for an afternoon of lunch and cultural enlightenment. We went to a market in the Marais district called Marche des Enfants Rouges that has stalls selling food from various parts of the world – Moroccan, Italian, French, African. We chose Japanese as none of us had had decent Japanese food since arriving in Paris. We all had the same Bento box with fried chicken. Not bad but it was still a French version of Japanese food. And it wasn’t cheap.

Japanese

Bento Box au poulet

After lunch we decided to hear towards a contemporary art gallery in the Tuilleries but on the way we changed plans when we stumbled across the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature – a bizarre, creepy and hilarious museum about hunting and nature. But mostly about hunting. There were so many stuffed dead animals in that place – I have never seen anything like it. In one section you walked into a tiny room that had the heads and feathers of three owls spread across the ceiling. We spent most of the time with our eyes popping out of our heads and trying to stifle our laughter.

A highlight of the exhibition was a large room filled with hunting weapons and on the walls were the heads of every possible animal you could possibly imagine. One of those heads was a wild boar with a motorised mouth and eyes that growled and I think spoke French to you when you walked in the room. His eyes rolled around in his head at the same time. It was fantastically awful.

Animal heads

You can see the talking pig in the bottom right of this photo

We left the museum feeling somewhat unsure about what we had just seen – it was an interesting insight into the importance of hunting in the past but it was also just plain creepy. We needed a drink. So we went to La Caféotheque so that Tom could have a hot chocolate, Pip a coffee, and I had a cup of tea. The perfect ending to a fun day in Paris.

Cafeotheque

My new favourite place in Paris

Walk This Way

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Introducing the latest edition to the Zaum menagerie – everyone, meet Jacob. Jacob, meet everyone.

Jacob the mud walker
Hello…

Jacob was born near the Zuidplaspolder – the lowest point of the Netherlands and has always felt a strong affinity to all things ‘marshy’. This is potentially because his mother gave birth to him in a swamp (it’s a long story involving flat bike tyres, a windmill and lots of herring) and the fact he spent a lot of time playing in canals and soggy ground throughout his childhood. Whatever the case, Jacob has never shied away from getting a bit dirty.

Jacob the mudwalker

Jacob is ready for any muddy situation

Unfortunately for Jacob, this backfired slightly in that he was constantly teased and getting into trouble at school for the muck under his finger nails and the general stench that wafted off his skin. But no matter how many times he was tripped up by bullies, he couldn’t stay away from the ooey-gooey goodness that mud provided. In his opinion, all humans should live in mud, be constantly coated in mud, and live off the creatures and fungus that grow in and around mud. There is nothing better.

This is why when it came time for Jacob to leave home and find himself a job, he headed to the north of the Netherlands and took up mudwalking. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found out that he could make a living taking tourists on treks across the North sea sea-bed when the tide was out. Suddenly people were interested in his passion – people wanted to become with mud, just like him!

Jacob the mud walker

Everywhere he goes, he takes his mudwalking stick

While he did manage to get a job as a mudwalk tour guide, it wasn’t easy. People get scared by his odd looks and obsession with the slimy stuff. Due to decades of contact with mud, Jacob’s pasty-white skin has turned into a dark, mouldy-black. His blonde hair has permanently stuck to the top of his head and you can’t tell the difference between hair and skin. The only part of his face that is easily decipherable are his eyes that bulge out in a mole-like appearance. The only part of him that makes him clearly a Dutch-man are his limbs – long and gangly compared to the rest of his body. His legs are excellent tools for getting out of tricky mud-situations and his arms can pull out stuck tourists in an instant.

Every time he heads out on an expedition into the great mud, Jacob will always wear his lucky green hat. It is the only colourful item that he will wear – he never washes his mudwalking outfits as he has broken too many washing machines and he hates doing it by hand. His hat, however, is his pride and joy and he will do anything to avoid it getting muddy. In addition, he attached a small bell to the back of it in case of emergencies – should he ever get completely stuck in the mud he will ring the bell to call for help. Now that’s a pro-mudwalker.

Jacob the mud walker

Lindt Bunnies aren't the only ones who need bells

Jacob will be available for purchase from my Etsy Store soon! I just need to go to the post office and work out postage costs… That’ll be fun. Not. Also, Jacob is made from a sock that had a one in three chance of being used by me when I went mudwalking in Holland. The socks I actually used were beyond repair so this is as good as I could do. I don’t think any quarantine departments would have been too happy about me sending mud-filled socks across their borders.

Important Stuff

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I often feel bad about not keeping more up to date with the latest news in Perth and so while eating my lunch I have just scanned the West Australian newspaper website to see what is happening. All I learnt was that there was a budget release and in England a man tried to take a pony on a train. I am really hoping someone can explain to me why a man taking a pony on a train is the fifth most view story on The West website. He didn’t even get it onto the train because the train officials said no. Where is the story?! At least I don’t feel so bad about not keeping up with the news. There clearly isn’t any.