Thursday, April 01, 2004


One of the not-so-wonderful aspects of country life here is the wait for a telephone line, especially when you are relying on a village landlord to apply for it. I've become an internet beggar, going to various friends' houses to use existing phone lines, a tedious business, especially since I can't do it daily and inevitably end up having to download about three days of email in one go. Then, of course, I have to read it or at least decide to discard the irrelevant (for now) items. Most of the time, I write my blog online, but the nice folks at Blogger added an email feature that no longer gives me an excuse for not posting.

So here I am in the quiet of the Abu Sir countryside, munching on a bowl of muesli and local bananas and sipping a cup of tea, while the horde of house sparrows outside make the most appalling racket as they are madly nest building all over my house. The eaves of the house are tiled with the terracotta tiles that are sort of tubular in shape, and the sparrows love them. Unfortunately, they also are still convinced that my residence in the interior of the house is just a passing phase, since they had the run of the place for about 2 years before I did such anti-social things as putting in windows and doors and floors and furniture. Every so often a pair will fly in the door and perch on the top to survey possible nest sites in the living room. If tiny grey and brown birds can express outrage at the temerity of humans, these do when I shoo them back out the door. These incursions are decreasing in frequency, so I imagine that in some weird avian logic, I'm being accepted as a neighbour.

One factor in my rise in status among the house sparrows is probably my installation of the flight cages for the parrots. I chose material that had holes small enough to keep out weasels but the holes are big enough for the sparrows to be able to fly in and help themselves to the parrots' goodies. I have a pair of African Greys, a single male African Grey (no computer dating services for birds, too bad), and a trio of Cuban Amazon females. My male Grey, Ali, has been with me for about 14 years and right now he's sitting behind the bouganvilleia vine in his flight calling and whistling in his most enticing manner to get me to bring out his ration of bird bread and chopped fruit and vegetables. He shares his cage with a pair of balady hens who tidy up after him and produce about an egg a day each. Fantastic eggs, too. Nice little recycling venture. Mona and Fritzi, the other Greys, also have a pair of hens sharing their cage and doing the clean up on the leftovers from my messy parrot diners. The Amazons are a bit dubious as avian neighbours and I really can't eat any more eggs, so I haven't put any hens with them.

After a number of years of yanking myself into consciousness to haul my sorry body out of bed into an office, it's a joy to wake up here and know that the first thing I have to do is talk to a bunch of real birdbrains.