Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It looks like a bird . . . it sings like a bird . . .

What looks like a bird . . . sings like a bird . . . and has a battery in its stomach?
Yes, I know, it sounds like a riddle out of a Christmas cracker, but I'm willing to bet you don't know the answer.
Give up?
It's a Humidity Detector . . . and it was one of my most acceptable and entertaining birthday presents.

Not that everything was plain sailing at the start.
This very kind gift had come from my cousins who live at Kew. They had found it in the shop at Kew Gardens.

. . . Rupert thought it was a toy . . .

. . . at first glance, I thought it was an ornament . . .

. . . then I read the four pages of instructions.

I remained impressed, but baffled. The Humidity Detector was German in origin, and planned for the European market. All the instructions, all the explanations, were offered in five languages. The English version appeared to have been provided by a translator who had studied precise, nineteenth century English. His subsequent translation, whilst elegant in the extreme, was, at times, quite indecipherable!
Nevertheless, it needed no instructions to remove the small bird from its box.

Once safely out, I inspected it closely and noticed a piece of white tape sticking out of its stomach . . . I pulled.
Obedient to its programme, the bird burst into a sudden trill of song.
It was pleasing . . . if a little startling!
Would it repeat this exercise?
I poked it . . . and prodded it . . . and shook it . . . the bird remained silent. Clearly it was a one-song-a-day bird.
After carefully pushing its long, slim legs into a flower-pot, as instructed on the box, I waited to see whether it might announce the plant's need of water. The plant looked happy, the bird remained peaceful . . . I left them in each other's company and went to bed.

All that activity took place yesterday. When the sun came shining in through the window at nine this morning I was startled to hear birdsong emanating from the living room. The small bird was giving of its best. Clearly activated by the sun's rays, it was chirruping with all the determination of one set to sing until sundown!

Surely it was only supposed to sing when the plant needed water? The soil felt moist, but I added a little water, just in case . . . I then moved the flower-pot out of the sun and into the shade . . . but nothing I did succeeded in cooling the small bird's ardour. It was a song-bird and singing (so it wanted to tell me!) was what song-birds did!

I think I need your help! It's all very well in the winter, when the sun rises late and sets early, but what will it be like in mid-summer? Are Rupert and I to be awoken at five each morning by a strident dawn chorus? My friend, Lin, suggested that I cover the small bird with a blanket a night. But it isn't a parrot, and this seems a little unfriendly.

So . . . I really would appreciate your guidance.
Tell me, how, without wishing to appear unappreciative, do I discourage an enthusiastic, small song-bird from singing? And, even more important, how do I convince it that, such is the perversity of human nature, we really only value what is unpredictable and infrequent!