It has been a long time... No, I hadn’t given up on the blog. Nothing like it. I simply haven’t anything to brag about right now. I had been extremely lazy believe or not. I had stitched one pair of trousers and sewn in two missing buttons in what... past 4 months. That’s all. It’s not like me, not at all, but I have a reason.
The reason? I’m having the time of my life. You know, people have dreams... Mine always was travelling. Sometimes you got a chance to live up your dreams. At least I got. I had been travelling non-stop nearly a year now trying to decide where exactly I want to stop (if I ever will).
In June it was apparent that it’s time to leave Med area as it was becoming too touristy –noise and dust... Unpleasant mess. If you had been there, you understand. If you haven’t ... I suggest avoiding such an experience. The world and its brother is there, stomping over each other’s heads, binge drinking and no parking spaces... It was time for Exodus.
I was looking for some peace and forests... Right now I’m lurking around through national parks of Pyrenees enjoying every moment. No, actually it’s not true. I do have my moments when I seriously regret 30 years of solid smoking because climbing to the top now is such a job. I delayed the climbing and now it feels far too late for me. But... When I will be able to do that? When I’m 80 and climbing on top of the bed will be hard enough? So I just keep going, up and down.
Weather here is very predictable. Each morning starts with a bright sun and light cowbell symphony across the valley. It’s worth to get up early because at about 2 pm you must be back because half past 2 the sky open. Do you like thunderstorms? If you do, Pyrenees is the place to be because each day brings a wonderful one. The best lightening I have seen in my life! Another good reason to be here – mushroom season is starting right now!
Mushrooms and wild flowers, bats and deer, prawns and rafting, green valleys and cold mountain rivers... Like in that popular song by Visocky... better than mountains only mountains can be.... * ( «Лучше гор могут быть только горы, На которых еще не бывал»)
So I haven’t done anything. Knitting needles are packed in the box; my stash for quilts is tucked under the bed. And I’m not even ashamed about that. Living your dream day by day can be a hard job itself, you know.
But still... I keep working on my little project which I started last winter and probably will finish the next. And then it will be even harder job to do it all over again but it’s fun, at least for myself and its all that counts.
I do not have the official title for the project but the working one is “Eagle in the fridge”. My English needs a serious editing but it’s all arranged so if you read it just imagine it after the good editor has been sorting it all out to a readable standard. Life can be such a fun! Mine was and still is. Just a little bit of it so you can see that I’m still working on something even if the sewing machine had been abandoned for nearly a year now.
Andrew, as usual, appeared out of the blue without a notice. It is just how he is - knocking at the door and the fun starts. Usually he appeared quite late, right after the arrival of the train from Moscow.
‘Can I have some water?’ he shouts from the doorstep, pushing in a big cardboard box.
‘Cold, lukewarm or hot?’ I ask as I know that Andrew himself probably haven’t had drank a pure water at least since he left the kindergarten.
‘Cold will do. Is the bath empty?’
All three children are out of beds already – Andrew’s voice is the best alarm clock in the world. I put the kettle on the gas and open the tap in the bath.
Andrew removes the tangled hemp ropes from the box and opens the top. Children froze in anticipation. Andrew dives in the box, takes out a sleepy goose and tucks it under the left arm. Then he repeats the box diving to fetch another one.
I sigh. I like roasted goose. I really do, and it’s November, St. Martins day is close when a nice, fatty roasted goose is really appreciated on our table, but I prefer buying one in the market when it’s dead already. I hate plucking, especially in the apartment when you can find unexpected feathers in the tea box even six months later.
‘They will recover in the bath in no time, do not worry!’ Andrew reads my sigh slightly wrong. ‘This pair is going to Holland next week. You don’t mind, do you? This is a very good, established breeding pair, raised in the captivity. Just few pairs of these in Europe, you know.’
We both nod peacefully. It’s not so bad then, we can bear with a pair of geese in the bath for a week. It’s just a week after all. There is only one little problem – the two cages in the corner of the dining room with 16 quails my friend asked to look after until she will return from the holidays. I really do hope that they will tolerate each other as well as the injured raven that right now lives under the table.
While I make coffee, Andrew stretches legs under the dining room table. He takes out of the bag a bottle of gin, then another bottle and another; and then a wee bottle of tonic. It’s obvious that there is no need for a coffee.
‘It’s so good to be back in Europe, you know! Real Beefeater in the corner shop and no queues!‘ he takes a big sip of gin out of the juice glass. ‘Now you three! I have a little present for you!’ Andrew pulls out of his bag a pillow case while children gather closer in dead silence.
‘Here he is!’ Andrew takes out a small crocodile, maybe just a foot long, ‘be gentle, it’s a baby, about 25 days since hatched only. ‘
If the geese were sleepy after the trip in the dark box, the crocodile definitely is not. Maybe he dislikes the Russian train service, maybe he has objection against the company of gin bottles, but he definitely is not a happy bunny.
‘Always hold the tail, that’s the way!’ Andrew puts the crocodile in Carl’s hands. ‘See? One hand around his neck, another one around his tale, about in the middle and he will be calm! Just put him in a bowl or something, a puddle of lukewarm water will cheer him up.’
Now I had bath occupied by geese and the kitchen sink by the crocodile to be cheered up.
‘See, it’s Nile crocodile, they grow up to 9 meters or so but if you will not overfeed him right now, he will reach 5 foot in several years only. Do not worry! He will be OK for a while and then we shall think about it. It was a bargain in Moscow, a dollar only per centimetre. Tomorrow just fetch him some guppies from aquarium, they do not need much food.’
‘Anything else?’ I whisper in some despair.
‘No. The monkeys I left in Moscow already. Sold and done.’
‘Yes, I just returned from Georgia.’
Well, there are probably monkeys in Georgia, who I am to object but as far as I know, it’s quite a hot spot there right now.
‘There’s the war going on there, at least news are full of it. Why you went there?’
‘Oh, see, because there is the war! Up in mountains there was a lab, they were doing some research or something and when the war started, they just pissed off and left monkeys behind. You know, some quite rare ones. So I tried to go and fetch some.’
‘It was some fun, trust me. I arrived from the Russian side, but monkeys were on the other side.’ Andrew opens the second bottle of gin. ‘So I had no choice than to go to the front commander and explain him the situation. Well, of course, I had some vodka with me so we had few toasts for the peace, friendship of nations and monkeys. Then the commander called to the commander of the opposition and explained the situation. “You know, there is the man, he must go into the mountains to get the monkeys, so we must let him go through.” No problems. Next morning at eleven the cease fire was announced and I was escorted through the front line with best wishes. The opposition soldiers lead me right to their commander. Of course, I had few bottles of vodka with me. So we had some toasts for the peace, friendship of nations and monkeys.’
‘The rest was easy. The commander appointed to me ten soldiers to help with chase and off we went. See, they had escaped from the lab, the ones which were still alive but they were no way the wild ones. So we picked the ones I wanted, put them in the sacks and went back. The commander already was waiting. So we had few toasts for the monkeys, friendship of nations and the peace in the world. And then he called to the opposition commander. ‘Did our man get the monkeys?’ ‘Of course, genotsvale, of course! Yes, sure, then at eleven tomorrow!’ And that was it. The next morning the cease fire was announced, I crossed the front line with all my monkeys. Soldiers helped to carry them to the line and then the opposition team took them over. Few more drinks with the commander for the monkeys, friendship of nations and the peace in the world and off I went to Moscow. Now I’m planning the next trip to Chechnya – there are some very endangered species of mountain goats and I have a good buyer for these. Want to join?’
It was a tempting offer, truly a tempting one. The blood of a journalist is boiling. You know, going to Chechnya is basically a mission impossible so going under the cover of a wildlife expedition like that would be a great opportunity. But.. I have three children and there is the war. That’s one. The other, more serious problem is all these toasts for the peace, friendship of nations and probably goats. I will be not able to handle that. I simply can’t handle alcohol in any amounts. So no, I do not qualify for the animal collector. Not at all.
‘Nope. Thanks, but no, I can’t go. See, now I need to look after the crocodile.’ “