Sorry, no GTI this week

And here’s why:IMG_0451a

My 70th birthday falls in the middle of next month, at which time we shall (fingers crossed) be in the middle of our move back to the UK after thirteen years living here in France.


As a birthday treat, my daughter, aided and abetted by her husband and my wife, secretly purchased for me what is very possibly the best birthday gift I have ever had – an hour-long microlight flight in the company of a skein of red-necked geese and Cedric – a great pilot, a knowledgeable bird-man and one of the nicest people you could hope to meet.

My only possible reaction was: Wow!

This was my first microlight flight, which was a big thing in itself, but to fly in formation with these magnificent birds; to be a part of their group, sometimes leading sometimes following, to react to them as they reacted to us – to have the sense of being of them as well as with them – like I said: Wow!

Left to right: daughter Tania, Cedric, me and wife Clare
Three of the six red-necked geese we flew with

So now you know.

And I bet you want to know more, don’t you?

The English language site is at


“Hang on, Mr Director, let me get used to this form.”

“What’s to get used to, P’sheen? You’re a bird.”

“Yeah. I’ve seen that. First time I’ve been without manipulators, though. How am I supposed to hold things, carry things?”

“You’re not. Your assignment is simply to observe and to report back on what you see and hear.”

“I need to know how to use this body, though. I can’t just go straight in.”

“Why not?”

“Because if I crash because I haven’t mastered flying properly, my cover will be blown. It’s easy for you; all you need to do is stand there and look like a tree. That’s really Acting 101. I need to spend time exploring what it means to be a bird. Once I’ve figured that, I need to find out what it means to be a … what species am I, anyway?”

“Look, P’sheen. You keep telling me how method you are, how you like to research your parts and so on. And yet you haven’t worked out what species you are. Explain.”

“Hold a mirror in front of me so I can see myself, then I’ll be able to work it out.”

“I would have thought your character would be flexible enough to look at yourself and work it out.”

“Yeah, sure. I can twist myself inside out so I can see the back of my head and look myself in the eyes. Come on, just hold up a mirror, or take a picture and let me look at it.”

“Okay. Picture coming up… [click]. How’s that?”

“Ah, okay. Male Green Woodpecker – Picus viridis. Right. I kind of guessed that, but wanted to be sure.”

“So you know what you need to do so as not to attract attention?”

“Yup. I hang around on the grass eating ants.”


“No, they’re fine. Remember that job in the deep south a while ago? They were into dipping ants in chocolate and eating them. Quite tasty. They put the ants in a jar with sugar to keep them happy until they wanted to dip them in the melted chocolate.”

“Why bother keeping them happy if you’re going to eat them?”

“I don’t know how true it is, but they said that the ants go sour if they’re not happy.”

“I think you’ll find, my gullible little friend, that they were pulling your chain.”

“Either way – it’s what they did.”

“So you’re eating ants. Do you have a long tongue, like a proper ant-eater?”

“Sure do. It wraps around the back of my head – and it has barbs on the end to help pick up the little critters. See how far I can stick it out?”

“Oh, wow. That’s cool. Now; the job I have for you—”

“Not so fast, Boss. Method, remember? I need to practise.”

“Practise what?”

“Flying, feeding, manoeuvring, the whole nine yards. I have to feel Green Woodpecker. I have to think like a Green Woodpecker. I have to be a Green Woodpecker – a convincing one. That takes time and commitment. When’s the caper coming off,”

“Caper? You’ve been watching too many B-grade detective movies! But the answer is: I don’t know. That’s why I need you to get into their lair and find out. Preliminary intel suggests soon.”

“Okay. Give me a couple of hours to familiarise myself with my part.”

“You can have one.”

“Why only one?”

“Because whatever you ask for, I’ll cut in half.”

“So if I’d said I needed four hours…”

“I’d have said two.”

“I need four hours, then.”

“Too late. I’ve said one already.”

“That’s not very fair.”

“You’re wasting your hour, P’sheen.”

P’sheen flew off, laughing raucously as he executed his undulating flight over the meadow. The director waited patiently.

Fifty minutes later, the laughter started again, stopping only when P’sheen landed on the grass in front of the director.

“Okay, Boss. I’m ready.”

“What’s with the laughing?”

“That’s not laughing, it’s my call.”

“Well, don’t do it when you’re working. Fly in silently, listen and fly out. Silently. Clear?”

“If you wanted me to be silent, why am I a woodpecker. An owl would have been more useful.”

“Oh, yeah. Hooting and screeching. Just what we need.”

“Silent flight, though.”

“I’ll grant you that, but you’re not in the form of an owl, you’re a woodpecker, so work with it.”

“Be nice to me Boss.”

“Why should I?”


I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 192, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.

Over ‘ere, son. On me ‘ead.

“So… what’s the boss doing today, Hobie?”

“You’ve asked the right Labrador, Flash. I know all about this”


“I listened in while the boss was talking to his mate about it.”

“You mean the mistress?”

“That’s the only mate the boss has.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Did you wink at me then, Flash? I didn’t know dogs could wink. Anyway, let me tell you something about humans. According to the sacred texts, they mate for life and have a monogamous relationship.”

“And if they want to spread their genes further than just one mate?”

“Then the pair-bond would be broken, and that never goes well. But I know for sure the boss doesn’t do that.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well, remember the human we used to live with?”

“The one that’s in a rescue centre now?”

“Yes, only it’s not a rescue centre, it’s a prison.”

“What’s the difference?”

“You don’t get rescued. Simple as.”

“What about him?”

“I could always tell when he had mated with another female.”


“You, Flash, have extremely good eyesight; that’s your strength. I’m practically blind, but by golly, my nose makes up for it.”

“So you’re saying…”

“I’m saying that the boss only ever mates with the mistress.”

“Alright. So what did you hear about what he’s doing today?”

“You remember that young kestrel the boss brought home, the one he keeps in the aviary next to the redtail?”


“And you know he’s been training it up and exercising it to get it ready to go free?”

“I know all that.”

“Well, he reckons it’s nearly ready to go. Today’s lesson is teaching it to hover—”

“Like kestrels do…”

“Yeah – it’s how they hunt. But he told the mistress that he can’t let it go free until he knows that it can do that.”

“So how’s he plan to teach it to hover? He can hardly explain it with diagrams, can he?”

“The plan, he said, is to cast it into the field, the call it back with the whistle for a bit of food. Then, just as it’s ready to drop onto his fist to claim the reward, he’s gonna hide it. The kestrel’s supposed to hover and look for it, and as soon as it does, he’ll bring the food out again.”

“That sounds like a plan, but is he sure the bird’s smart enough to know that?”

“Let’s watch – well, you watch, I’ll listen. Out it goes, into the field … whistle … the bird comes back and… hide the food.”

“Erm, Hobie…”


“Does the master know he’s got a kestrel on his head?”

“Has he?”

“Yes. As soon as he hid the food, the bird landed in his hair. You don’t suppose it’ll build a nest in there, do you?”

“I doubt it, but it tells us one thing. We didn’t need to wonder if the bird’s smart enough to work out what the master’s doing.”

“If I stand here and give him the look, d’you suppose the master’ll toss me a bit of the bird’s food?”

“Probably, Flash. He knows you’ll catch it, and he likes to end on a high.”

I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 173, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.