Coming Down, Going Up…

Dear Readers, this might look like a perfectly normal staircase, but until a few days ago it had a stairlift on the left-hand side. We had hired this back in 2013 when Mum and Dad could no longer walk up the stairs, what with Dad’s breathlessness and Mum’s arthritis. We knew that it would probably only be used once a year, at Christmas, but it seemed well worth the investment. At least they could have a family Christmas with us.

The first time Mum used it, she took to it straight away, but Dad was more unsure. I heard Mum and Dad talking in the bedroom as they unpacked on that first afternoon.

‘I don’t like it, Syb’, said Dad. ‘It doesn’t feel safe’.

‘Well, you’ll have to get to like it, Tom, because otherwise we can’t come to visit’, said Mum.

In the end, Dad quite got to like it, riding up and down the stairs to collect his tablets and his walking stick (which was always in the wrong part of the house). But last year, we went to Milborne St Andrew to stay with them because they had had a chest infection, and were too ill to travel. And this year, we will be visiting them in the nursing home.

it seemed like time to remove the stairlift. After all, I told myself, if there was a miracle and they felt a bit better, we could always get it installed again.

What surprised me was the speed with which it went. I sent off an email, and the engineer phoned me the next day, to say that he was in the area and could he pop in and dismantle it?

A few hours later, I had my staircase back.

My heart has been very heavy this past few weeks. After all the effort of organising the nursing home for Mum and Dad, it seems strange not to be constantly occupied with carer rotas and medical appointments and trips up and down to Dorset. Mum is still very unhappy in the care home and that weighs heavily on my mind. But today I actually looked out of the kitchen window. This is kind of difficult because my two ‘pet’ orb-web spiders have been busy while I’ve been so preoccupied and have built a kind of spider metropolis between the ceiling and the windowpanes. But outside, whirring and clicking and fighting and bickering, were the starlings.

Their feathers really are star-spangled at this time of year. I wondered how many of them were this year’s dull-brown babies, all spivvied up for the winter? As the breeding season approaches in the spring, the bills of the adults will turn bright-lemon yellow, with the area of the beak closest to the face turning blue-grey in males, pinkish-white in females.

The colder weather this week has drawn them all together, and the flocks that descend onto the bird feeders ebb and flow all day. Starlings used to migrate south in the winter but, thanks to the suet pellets and fat balls provided by humans, many now stick around all year. The ones in East Finchley are certainly a constant presence.

And as is often the way, a few minutes spent with starlings seems to give me an injection of energy. Depression stalks me as it has for many years, but there is help in the sight and sound of these birds, fizzing and chuckling and arguing, reminds me that there is a big, complicated world out there. For a few moments, I’m not living in my head, and that is such a relief. And, just to give you an idea of the starling’s vocal range and ability to imitate, here are two rescued starlings mixing it up…


13 thoughts on “Coming Down, Going Up…

  1. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    Starlings, don’t you just love them, they have to be one of our most favourite birds. It’s impossible not to smile when you watch their antics, like a mass of boisterous children. I have to admit to giving over half of my spare bedroom to keeping all their sacks of food, and spending half the day continually filling up their holders, but they’re so worth it 😁

  2. Andrea Stephenson

    Dennis and Ernie are fabulous. I love starlings – just written a post about them myself – they’re such boisterous, joyful birds that they can’t help but lift your mood 🙂

  3. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    Recently a flock of starlings in our garden were harried and attacked continuously by two magpies, over about 15 mins, until all flew away. Territory? Food/feeders? No idea. Thanks for the link to the beatboxing birds: utterly delightful.

    1. Bug Woman

      I think magpies are often just juvenile hooligans at this time of year. I’ve seen great gangs of them attack a pair of crows and a small flock of woodpigeons as well. They are decidedly feisty birds!

  4. Michelle Le G

    We’ve had very few starlings for years and I miss them! We still have robins and blackbirds but mainly the garden is populated with blue tits, long tailed tits and pigeons.

    1. Bug Woman

      I think often it’s the destruction of nesting sites that causes the starlings to move on, they do love a communal nest, and so few new buildings have any space for them….


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