Here's my take on theGuardian's Country Diary.
A Country Diary
The Metaphor that Wouldn't Fly
|Parus major, aka Great Tit or Koolmees|
(Photo: Luc Viatour)
I happened to glance out of the kitchen window, and saw a beak protruding from the nest box nailed to an East-facing wall in the garden. A young great tit flopped out, buzzing like a bumblebee towards the hedge opposite, which it barely managed to reach. But it did.
Following Big Sister came Little Brother. Visibly smaller, and thinly covered in white fluff below which the black and yellow was discernable, out jumped Little Brother. And flopped onto the floor below. No jump to the hedge for him.
It had been getting audibly crowded on the floor of the deep nest box. Muffled, frantic scuffling and screeching could be heard inside, the young summoning their parents to come up with the goods, which they duly did, looking increasingly dishevelled as they shuttled back and forth. The two overworked adults had clearly had enough of this.
Sitting still on the edge of a pavement slab below the next box, Little Brother did not appear to have got the hang of this flying-out thing yet. So we sit on the pavement, huh? And we try and pick little things from the gaps between them tiles? And how do I get away from here, anyway?
The little, not quite black, tit spent so long musing over its new circumstances that the sunny spot in the garden crept on, beginning to warm its little body. Little B. tried to hop, and managed to cross half the tile. And what if I rattle those wings? Goodness, that's a big jump.
|Pica pica, Magpie (ekster)|
Teemu Lehtinen from Salo / Helsinki, Finland CC BY 2.0
Little Brother had made another jump and was now hanging on to a dead branch of a potted fuchsia in a corner of the terrace. One of the adults whistled a signature tune. Little Brother replied with its rough, repetitive beep beep beep, and Father Tit, or Mother, descended from the small oak tree with a mouthful of nourishment.
Big Sister was nowhere to be seen, probably gone frolicking inside the privet hedge, but Little Brother clung to his fuchsia twig in plain view, looking straight up, its beak spread wide open while its parent bent down from the only fuchsia branch in the pot that appeared to be alive. Tit Senior disgorged whatever it was - I'd rather not know - into Little Brother's beak. Little Brother appeared to derive a little more strength from this and managed another fluttering leap, ending up on the garden bench.
A new round of parental care followed, and finally Little Brother set off into the oak's leaves, where its relatives were happily tweeting and twittering, venturing out for an occasional circumnavigation of the tree. 'What? Nothing - just trying.' They stayed safely out of sight of the magpie hoodlums.
Having done the dishes I prepared to go out around the back of the house when I heard a nervous, even panicky chatter from the oak tree where a female blackbird had claimed its regular branch back.
|Turdus merula, Blackbird (merel)|
Andreas Eichler CC BY-SA 4.0
Little Brother sat a little dazed on a tile below the kitchen window and scurried into the foot of the hedge when I tried to take a closer look. What a life: getting knocked out on your first big adventure.
When I came back from my errand I checked between the leaves where the tiny tit had been. Gone.
That's OK then. No stray feathers or bones left over from a magpie's feast.
Fledgling, I thought. That's what he was, a fledgling. I had used the word a thousand times in its metaphorical sense. Only now did this useful metaphor lose its status as an abstract expression. From now on I would always picture Little Brother when talking about a fledgling democracy, a fledgling enterprise or a fledgling state. Tock!
Notes, 23 June 2014:
A Dutch Country Diary was written in Hilversum, the Netherlands. The only couleur locale is to be found in the typically Dutch error of the female blackbird claiming "its" branch. Yes, her branch - I know.