Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wildlife














For several weeks I've been wondering if some Aussie litter bugs had taken residence in Geneva because the local park has been festooned with McDonald's bags, coke cups and burger wrappers.

To make matters worse, the rubbish has all been dumped right next to the bins in a rude 'up yours' to the SCRASA* employees who dutifully sweep the streets and tidy the parks first thing every morning.

However, today I found out who the filthy fools were - black crows. Milly was off sniffing the side of the road that is dotted with tiny rabbit burrows and as I enjoyed the view of the city, several of the blighters landed on the edge of the bin and proceeded to remove every item they could carry, drop it on the ground and have a good old peck and feed. Who knew that our feathered friends had a thing for stone cold fries and abandoned pickles?

Returning from my run this morning, I stood out on our eighth floor balcony to cool off. It's been a rare day because the fog had lifted and, despite predictions, there was still no snow on top of the Jura mountain range.

My attention therefore turned to the garden below where, if I'm patient, the quivering leaves reveal squirrels leaping athletically from tree to tree. Apparently they're scientifically known as 'Sciurus Vulgaris' which seems a little bit uncharitable. Any creature who can tell off my dog in a sharp little wittering tone and still hold a couple of acorns in its cheeks whilst jumping to safety deserves a nomenclature considerably more flattering in my opinion.

On the grass; that acreage of pristine green growing velvet that no dog or human is allowed to sit or walk on, a shadowy shape emerged, stretching itself with a lazy confidence that only a frequent visitor can pull off.

At first glance, I thought it was a ginger tabby cat, but as it scratched its ears with a hind leg and faced the rising sun, the fluffy tail revealed that it was a fox.

I'd never seen one during the day, let alone here, of all places. A huge apartment building housing several hundred people on one side of the narrow garden and a senior high school on the other, and it seemingly in no hurry or overtly alert to any dangers.

What did it eat? Lazy, ground-bound squirrels? The ginger cat normally seen but not today? Leftovers thrown over the fence by fussy teens? Kidnapped sparrows offered as food alternatives by nervous Sciurus Vulgarii keen to avoid becoming the meal of choice themselves?

No matter; I had to get ready for a brocante with three friends. 'Brocante' sounds better than a flea market and the one in Plainpalais often features more trash than treasure but it is exerting a strange power over me. My visits have become weekly and what initially seemed like a heap of junk that turned me into a female Darryl Kernigan muttering 'They're dreamin' when the price tags were shown has now become an opportunity to leisurely rummage and spot a bargain.

A tiny tin caught my eye. "Combien, monsieur?"

Twenty francs. No way Jose. I shook my head and was about to move onto the next stall.

He called out something to me, but I didn't understand and didn't particularly care as my attention was now on a box of dusty old art books.

He tried again, this time commenting to his friend and they both laughed. Now I may spend a goodly part of my life here in a bubble of ignorant bliss when it comes to the language spoken around me, but I know a ribald snigger when I hear it.

I tapped Monique's shoulder. She's French Canadian and despite being in the company of three Aussie women would have understood every single word. "What did he---" I thumbed back to the man now holding up a fox fur stole for a customer "----say about me just then?"

She took her time answering, which can't have been a good thing. "Um he said he'd shave for you."

My eyebrows are blonde and therefore invisible, but even she could see that I had one raised in that 'oh come off it' expression. "Monique, I can handle it."

Her cheeks flushed red. "Um he said he'd um, have a shave and then um, be ready to, ahh, do a few rude things to you if you'd buy the tin for twenty francs."

Not sure if I was supposed to be insulted or complimented, I called out, "Dix."

He nodded. My offer of ten francs was accepted and I gently placed the tin in my pocket. Maybe he'd eaten the goodies inside which was why he'd so cheaply offered his sexual services?












* No, I have no idea what SCRASA stands for either. They are efficient and friendly blokes but the acronym reminds me of something you'd want the doctor to remove.

31 comments:

Elisabeth said...

What adventures you are having Cath, in this land of squirrels and flea markets and fig rising under snowcapped mountains. So very different from here in Melbourne, where most things seem to stay the same.

River said...

I'm having frequent thoughts of going to the Fisherman's Market lately. Every week, I think I'll go, but so far I've been able to restrain myself. I don't know how much longer I can hold out though, I'm in need of a good rummage-through-junk day.

PS my blog is back!!

Imogen said...

Love, love, love it!!

You make words sing. I laughed so loudly at the 'uncharitable' comment (re squirrel's name), that I scared my nine year old daughter who is cuddling half asleep at my side, half to death.

And to River - you are in Adelaide? Me too. We visited the fishermans warf markets a few weeks ago and bought the most divine sage and jasmin soap there! Nothing like a good rummage. I think I need to go again soon!

Jackie K said...

Gorgeous squirrel picture!
I have NEVER seen a fox - at all. I just realised that.
Glad you got that tin cheaper - it was starting to sound more and more expensive...

Kath Lockett said...

It's all relative though, isn't it Elisabeth, because local-born people think it's really boring here. Although perhaps seeing an old Australian woman stop in her tracks and stare up in wonderment at squirrels might make them realise how lovely their home town is.

Yay River - it never 'disappeared' from my end. I'm finally discovering the joys of a good rummage but it can only happen when you are NOT in a hurry or looking for anything in particular.

Thank you Imogen! Maybe I'll start a petition to rename the squirrels Cuteius Athleticus instead.

Thankfully, JackieK, he didn't need to 'shave' and I didn't need to 'receive' those kinds of attentions....

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Great post! I have seen quite a few "urban foxes" in Manchester and it doesn't surprise me at all that they roam around in Geneva.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Anonymous said...

Ba ha ha! He'd *shave* for you? Is that a big deal among Genevan gents? Though I think I had a cemetery guard try to pick me up in Montparnasse...

Red

Andrew said...

Ravens empty bins here too. Very messy. I was very excited when I briefly saw a squirrel in London. They move much faster than possums.

The Elephant's Child said...

I would be excited at the squirrels. In one of our previous residences we did see foxes, and introduced pest or not, I was always pleased to see them.
Lovely post, and I am so glad you managed to get that tin. 'I'll shave for you' I'm going to have to think about that.

Jayne said...

LOL
Hand him a wax strip next time you pass his stall and see how quickly he pales ;)
Love the travelogue, and it sounds like you're going great in French, mais oui, mon amie!

Pandora Behr said...

Love squirrels. Love foxes even more (got to commune with one in Surrey a few years ago - gorgeous when they're not vermin that want to eat your chooks)

So glad to see things are normalising.

Great post.

Kath Lockett said...

PlasMan you're a more worldly European-dweller than I. The only other foxes I've seen here are the dusty ones that old ladies wear on their shoulders.

Red, it's a new one on me, too. Maybe he's your cemetery guard's cousin?

They are particularly fast little creatures, Andrew. It's impossible to get a decent photo of them but I love sitting there and watching them from my balcony. Perfect visual procrastinators....

I might try that suggestion Jayne. My "French" mostly consists of pointing, smiling and giving the 'thumbs up' but it seems to do the trick.

Thanks Pand. I'm hoping to get some photos of Foxy Loxy soon.

Ann O'Dyne said...

1. aww ... a squirrel.

2. what do the foxes eat? next to that school? the lunches chucked away. OK, the squirrels and sparrows.
*goes off composing"

a swift swiss squirrel swished ...

Kath Lockett said...

Ann, your guesses are as good as mine. Maybe also some mice?

Kath Lockett said...

...and did anyone notice the interesting ingredient in the tin of pastilles???

River said...

Kath; yes I did notice the interesting ingredient. Is that why you wanted the tin?

My older daughter T had a visit from a fox recently. Bugger ate her three chooks. They were such friendly little hens, rushing to greet visitors, following her around the yard. One would lay an egg in a box on her front porch every morning at 10am.

River said...

Kath; yes I did notice the interesting ingredient. Is that why you wanted the tin?

My older daughter T had a visit from a fox recently. Bugger ate her three chooks. They were such friendly little hens, rushing to greet visitors, following her around the yard. One would lay an egg in a box on her front porch every morning at 10am.

Helen said...

You are very careful about not letting Milly too near the squirrels, right?... Do dogs have rabies injections as routine in Europe? Sorry if I'm being all prescriptive and you've got this all sussed already as I'm sure you do!

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh yes. Drug addicts these furriners be.

Red Nomad OZ said...

I'm not surprised about the crows' prediliction for the cold & stale ... not so different from the seagulls of OZ, right? And the alternative explanation for the offering of sexual favours could be he found you wildly. ravishingly attractive??

Kath Lockett said...

River, you got it - I wanted the tin because of the ingredient - cocaine. However, I also love little old tins. Cheap to buy, easy to store and carry. Sorry to hear about T's chooks - we would have been devastated if our Adelaide-girls Hermoine, Luna and Ginny had been killed by a fox.

Helen, Milly had a rabies injection as part of the quarantine regs in order to enter Switzerland. It's also listed on her passport (yes, a passport) so that she'll be allowed into France and Italy as well. Plus, her enthusiasm is there but her arthritic legs + squirrel speed means that they'll never be in danger.

Elephant's Child - you are right. But now you know - if a bloke says he'll 'shave' for you, have a good long think about what you'll 'do' for him!

RedNomadOz, if he did find me 'wildly, ravishingly attractive' he'd be the first bloke (apart from LC) aged under fifty to do so for at least 15 years! I seem to attract appreciative looks from fat old geezers in white vans....

Helen Balcony said...

A doggy passport!!!!!

#thisisarealthingintheworld

Hannah said...

Thank heavens you made this journey overseas, Kath. It worries me to think of the Swiss having no one to introduce them to the glories of The Castle ;)

P.S. I second the desire for photos of Foxy Loxy!

Helen said...

Also, speaking of passports, they're going to give you hell going through customs with that tin when you return to Oz.

Kath Lockett said...

Ms Balcony - yep, an official Swiss doggy passport. We're meant to take it when we travel with her to nearby France or Italy and it lists her dob, address, origin, breed (or guesstimate in our case) and shots she's had. What amuses me most is that there's also a section for her photograph!

Hannah, I've also peppered 'daggy' into some conversations but that's just produced some very lengthy explanations afterwards. I'd love to get a picture of FoxyLoxy but suspect I'd need to station myself out on the balcony full time.

Oooh Helen, you're probably right. I think it'll end up in a tea chest on a very slow boat though.

Kymmie said...

I love reading your adventures. Bloody crows (and McDonald's wrappers). In every country, I'd suspect. xx

Christine said...

Litter! in Swizerland??? I guess it HAD to be foxes or squirrels!! Not people. There has to be some disorder, somewhere so I suppose the animals do the job. I also remember seeing my first squirrel in Europe and how excited I was. My first (French)bumblebee is also a great memory.

Kath Lockett said...

You're probably right, Kymmie. They were busy scavenging when Milly and I were out walking this morning too. Despite this, a tiny red robin perched on a branch about a metre from me (Milly was busy searching for squirrels). Note to self: take camera next time.

Christine, we haven't seen any bumblebees here yet - I remember them in the UK and we certainly saw them in NZ and Tassie but not here for some reason..... too late in the season now I suppose...

ropcorn said...

Yes, it is strange where wild animals like to hang out sometimes. The weirdest place I frequently see wild bunnies is in Stockholm by the freeway. Every time I visit and we drive by this particular place, there they are. The wild bunnies. Sitting on a tiny piece of grass, eating. And they don't seem to mind the high traffic around them at all. Very fascinating!

drb said...

It makes me sad whenever I see squirreks as it reminds me of my mistake. 7-yo me accidentally trapped a squirrel with a rat trap, instead of letting it free, I decided to keep it as a pet (or I'll call it CAPTIVE now - as most pets are captive, they won't still stay by they own will). Things went well, until one of those torrent night thunderstorm. In the morning, I discovered it shiveringy wet. No one remembered to take it from the tree! I dried it and tried to warm it up by the stove, but it died in my hand.

Kath Lockett said...

Ropcorn, you take such good photos for your blog, so I hereby set you a challenge - the bunnies near the traffic! :)

Oh drb - that's so sad..... still you were only seven and I remember my little brother David finding some baby bunnies that had unfortunately been trapped and insisting that they were just 'sleeping'...