I am currently in the process of moving house – into my first proper shared house! I am aware that being 24 and having lived exclusively in college-owned rooms/flats indicates the kind of moral solubility that makes people hate Oxbridge students. Accordingly, I’m looking forward to becoming a proper, landlord-dodging, milk-sharing, sex-life-overhearing housemate/human being.
The house is BEAUTIFUL. The house is not beautiful. The house is exquisite in its entirety, with the exception of the kitchen to which my father is lovingly adding a skirting-board (one of my housemates didn’t know what a skirting-board was, and she has a PhD and has lived out, so clearly I’m not that far behind in life skills). The skirting-board is white, but the kitchen’s terracotta. Confessions of the perverse: I love terracotta. I have also always, absolutely always longed to live in a terraced house. My only regret is that we don’t have a cellar.
We do have, however, A DINING ROOM, and three decent bedrooms, NONE OF WHICH are in fact on (or below) the GROUND FLOOR. There is abundant natural light in every room. My room is the loft conversion! I have skylights! The bathroom suite is not only white but relatively new. The garden will look infinitely better when more of it has been lopped, bagged, and taken away. The front path is a deathtrap and the hedge is dead, BUT the floors are beautiful, the hot water is abundant and I feel happy every time I cross the threshhold.
There’s only one problem. We have a killer robin.
Housemate, mother and I were in the garden yesterday (loppin’, baggin’) when what we thought was a delightfully tame, Frances-Hodgson-Burnett-type robin started leaping about in a twiggy, festive fashion amidst the debris/refuge/other vegetable matter.
Then it hopped even closer and became so witlessly tame we assumed it must be brain-damged.
Then it started hovering, not so much near as at us, doing its best impression of a murderous humming-bird and with an unmistakeably psychotic look in its tiny eyes.
It did this three times, each with visibly killer intent, staging an aerial wardance and/or audition tape for a Hitchcock remake.
I have known for years that robins aren’t the fluffy boodlums one coos over on a Christmas card. Second only to blackbirds in the garden’s guerilla hierarchy, they have marked personality problems and would benefit from anger management. Nevertheless, this shook me.
Our killer robin isn’t even red, but orange; lean and hungry-looking, it seems unnaturally elongated in the body, and looks so scary as it skydrives near, round and at us that all three of us admitted later that, had we been alone, we’d each have dropped the loppers and made a dash for the house.
I don’t know what it wants from us.
Nevertheless, the dimwitted festival sentiments persist. Last night housemate and I started researching bird feeders and discussing them via facebook. Apparently, robins prefer bird tables and baths to vertical/cage-like affairs. Unconsciously resigning myself to a year spent fulfilling the whims of an abusive bird, I decided it could have a bowl of water on the garden table I’d spent part of the afternoon scrubbing. None of this seemed unreasonable. What DID seem unreasonable was the information I found on types of feeder/bath. Apparently, all robin-feeding/bathing apparata must include a RAMP UP and a SHALLOW EDGE so that small birds can easily climb out and not drown. First off, it’s a robin not a penguin and, therefore, can fly. Secondly: rubbish to the tray idea. That bird can clearly cope with any scavenging opportunity that presents itself. Personally, I suspect it likes to eat its meat straight off the bone. Preferably our bones.
We should all be permanently in the house before too long; self, two housemates, and/or this robin which I keep wanting to christen Sidney Poitier (housemate can do a very bad impression). Just down the road, excitingly, is Alex of More Books, Please, so it’s practically a literary enclave. Between us and the Cowley Road, we can boast a convent, a tattoo parlour, a burned-out pub, a wiring-money-home shop (no idea of the technical term), and a charity shop. The tattoo parlour is undoubtedly the poshest of the lot. I have been inside the convent only once. I think one of the nuns has a lava lamp.
ION: Brogan, my guinea-pig first student got a 2:1. This makes her completely awesome, and me a very relieved and happy practising-teaching-paper-8-before-I-start-doing-it-for-money tutor. HURRAH.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.