60’s Noir – a special Halloween Guest Post from A. Robin, Esq.
29th October 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are delighted today to have a truly spine-chilling, feather-raising guest post by the distinguished garden bird, A. Robin, Esq. who has agreed to share with us a dark Halloween tale of life in the wild. Warning ... this story contains scenes of death and destruction.
Life was pretty normal and humdrum in the garden. Summer gave way to Autumn and the trees began to turn all golden and russet in colours. I always liked that time of the year, because us garden birds have to eat lots in order to fatten up for Winter. So on that morning, I had just had a nice juicy worm sandwich and was wondering how best to spend the rest of my day - perhaps chasing the odd wren or two (they are a bit smaller than us robins), or sitting on the top of the yew tree and making up a nice new tune to sing to my sweetheart Lettice, when suddenly this appeared. Yikes!
Shock, horror! And abruptly everything went all ... Noir
Yes, those of you who know your birds will realise straight away that what I am referring to is a dreaded Kestrel. The tone of the garden neighbourhood had been going down a bit lately anyway, but none of us ever expected something like this would move into the area. The horrid creature began to terrorize the place - for a Kestrel, as everyone knows, will eat everything that moves – anything! Mice and voles would be torn to pieces before our very eyes, and even the giant green crickets weren’t safe. 'A nice crunchy snack,' he would say.
He would hover in the sky for hours waiting, or just swoop suddenly from the nearby rooftops – and small garden birds like me were also on the menu. I have heard terrible tales of young chicks being taken from their nests and gobbled up in Spring, and of elderly birds who can’t move as fast as they once used to being snatched from their branches and devoured mercilessly by this monster.
Terrifying and gruesome. It will eat anything!
The worst of it was that he reckoned he was a bit special - Kaiser Kestrel, he started to call himself, and expected all the other birds to bow and scrape to him. In the space of just a few short weeks, it had become a state of absolute tyranny! And then, one day, I nearly copped it for sure. From a dark and stormy sky, that Kestrel came swooping from out of nowhere and almost had me for breakfast.
Well, this is no good, I thought to myself. I’ve got to survive and pass on my genes to the next generation in Spring (which is jolly good fun, as it happens, and one of my favourite pastimes). So I got together with some of the other birds and we had a meeting. We decided we needed a bit of help – to put the frighteners on this Kestrel feller good and proper.
So we sent a message down to London for assistance from the Crow Twins. Now if you were a bird growing up in the urban jungle of the East End of London in the 60’s you didn’t mess with these guys, I can tell you. They were the 'aristocracy' of the avian underworld, and even the most violent and hardened of thieving magpies would go in fear of them. Right famous, they were. Or rather I should say ‘infamous.’ Why, it's even rumored they had a photograph taken of them by David Bailey. *
The legendary Crow Twins.
And it was the equally ruthless descendants of them Crow boys that arrived a few days later - flew in, they did, on the East Wind on a stormy afternoon just before sunset. It was very dramatic, I must say - and I swear I could hear Wagner playing in the background. Anyway, they waited on a particularly prominent rooftop (It was a place where the Kestrel chap usually came to eat his supper), looking all menacing, flexing their wings and cracking their talons and things like that – when in came the Kaiser himself with a typical fancy sort of flourish as he landed. Show off! He had a something in his beak that he was eating, a bit of a mouse. You could see its tail hanging out, and it was all dripping gore. Very bad manners (I hate it when people eat in the street, don’t you?)
‘Ere!’ said one of the Crow boys. ‘Didn’t your Mummy ever teach you not to eat in public?’
‘What! Who do you think you are?’ demanded the Kestrel and burped up a pellet.
‘Never you mind, mate,’ they said. ‘We’ve been asked to look after things around here for a while, and we don’t like Kestrels mucking about on our turf, see!’
‘Huh! So what!’ replied the Kestrel defiantly.
Here's a photograph of him just moments after he said that:
Kaiser Kestrel. Defiant. Debonaire. But ultimately stupid.
Well, what happened next is not easy for a delicate bird like myself to describe. I’ve led a sheltered life, you know, and not witnessed too much serious violence in my time. But them Crow boys fell upon the Kestrel with a terrible blood curdling cry. Feathers flew, pieces of wing got torn off and hurled around, legs were pulled away. It was carnage. Blood everywhere. There wasn’t much left of the Kestrel that you'd recognise by the time they’d finished with him, apart from his beak - which is fairly indigestible, after all.
Carnage. Thank Goodness all this Noir stuff is always in black and white!
Anyway, after that we all treated the Crow Boys to a slap up dinner and they stayed overnight before heading back to London the next day. The snails marinated in red wine along with the Kestrel Steaks tasted particularly good, they commented. They wouldn’t even take anything for their trouble. The Robin Hoods of the bird world, I call ‘em. And so that’s my Halloween tale complete, and I hope you weren’t too scared by it. The moral of this story is: always be good mannered to others and don't eat in public - which is, they say, bad for your digestions, in any case. Thank you, all.
~ ~ ~
And Thank you Robin.
As a Post Script to this tale, I should tell you that the author does in fact come from a long lineage of distinguished robins. His 16th-Century ancestors, apparently, once hunted worms on the estate of the Earl of Leicester. Here are some further interesting facts (details supplied by Robin himself): Current occupation: Tweeter in Chief to the author chap - what's his name? on Twitter. Favourite food is wriggly worms. Second-favourite food is ... well, more wriggly worms. Favourite music: The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Favourite poem: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Best-loved Opera: The Thieving Magpie by Rossini. (he did say Wriggle-letto until I informed him it was actually Rigoletto and had nothing to do with worms) Hobby – bathing in the bird bath. Secret vice – bathing in the bird bath with his sweetheart Lettice by moonlight. Favourite time of the year – Christmas, when he appears on lots of cards.
* The stunning and inimitable work of David Bailey, on the other hand, needs little further elucidation - having given us numerous iconic Noir images of outstanding 60's individuals, the famous and infamous, including:
(We are not entirely sure about the authenticity of the one shown in this story depicting the Crow Twins, but Robin assures us it is a possibility)