If I were an otter…

Just wee scientifically accurate otter poem

 

If I were an otter, even just for a day

I would eat a lot of bullhead, brown trout and maybe even lamprey

I’d spraint on the rocks and fallen tree logs

I’d take rabbits from their burrows and dig up hibernating frogs, because they taste good to me.

Mr Scientist – Chapter 2

 

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Two

The Basketball court

Chapter 2 of Mr Scientist. Read Chapter 1 here Mr Scientist – Chapter 1 if you haven’t already

Back in the basketball court, all the animals were getting on swimmingly. The chinchillas were jumping around and hanging out with other chinchillas. The rabbits were being rabbits and some seemed to be getting on well with the chinchillas. I found this odd as Bonnie, Lilly and Bruce could not be left alone together without fighting, but who knows? They may have been kept in this tank together for a while. Many of the birds had flown very high up now and it was difficult to tell which species I was dealing with, but I could see finches, budgies, small parrots and little owls. Strange. I checked on the mice and concluded that all was well.

 

I was dreading checking on the tarantulas as there had been a dark thought at the back of my mind – What if they ate each other? Tarantulas are not known to be social species; I would need to check what they were. I headed to my bookcase and headed back to the court armed with my trusty spider book. I identified the tarantulas as Antilles pink toe tarantula and after some reading found that they were able to live in colonies in the wild, but were not such a social species in captivity. Shit. I counted around ten tarantulas and although they seemed to not be eating each other it was difficult to see what they were doing. I had also read that they were tree climbing tarantulas, so I would need to somehow get them into the larger tank that had previously housed the chinchillas, rabbits and Hamish with branches in order to have them suitably housed. I could hardly release them into the court. Imagine? I wondered if Hamish could help.

He was still sleeping when I returned to my bedroom, but began to stir as I entered.

“Good sleep?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, have you ever slept in a tank with that many rabbits and chinchillas? Noisy bunch, that nap was heaven”.

I did think back to times when I had shared a box room with Bruce, Bonnie and Lilly, but didn’t feel it was a valid comparison, so I just kept that to myself.

“How long were you in the tank?”

“Two days, I think, our master likes to do things for 48 hours at a time”.

“Really?”

“Yeah, he calls himself a Scientist and is rather specific about time when it comes to these things”.

“Have you been involved in anything like this before? Can you tell me what to expect?

“I personally have not, we are usually used for just one experiment before being euthanized. I am not completely sure what your experiment is, but he did give you those envelopes so hopefully the information will be in there”.

“I still have 36 hours to go and I feel I have housed all the animals, although I need to move the tarantulas into a larger tank. Do you know how I can do this?”

“I don’t think I can help with that. I have severe arachnophobia”.

“I had thought about just putting the smaller tank into the larger tank and leaving the door open so they can move over themselves?”

“Probably the only way to do it, I’ll wait here and you can tell me how it goes”.

“Ok” I said, taking a deep breath, “No time like the present”.

Although I am not arachnophobic, I was slightly nervous about this part of my task. I was more nervous about lifting the tanks than being bitten. What if they escaped? I guess the main thing is getting the smaller tank into the larger tank. Luckily the large tank is pretty light when empty, so I moved it close to the tarantula tank, easier, I thought, than carrying a tank full of tarantulas and crickets across the court. The front door of the large tank is wide, which is good for putting in the small tank, but a tad worrying when thinking about closing it after releasing the tarantulas and I will not even attempt to retrieve the smaller tank, they can just have an extra hide, good animal welfare.

It wasn’t actually too difficult, got the heart going, but it was without fail. I just put the smaller tank into larger tank with some branches, quickly reached in and opened the smaller tank, swiftly closed the larger tank which was very quickly filled with crickets and then the tarantulas gradually followed. Job done. Now time to chat to Hamish.

I returned to my room to find Hamish annoying Scabby, pulling his tail and chatting incessantly. He says that he believes Scabby can understand everything we say and warns me that he may try to sabotage the task.

“What?” I asked, rather shocked at both revelations.

“He’s not on our side”. Hamish insisted.

“He’s not on our side? I assumed we were all in this together, even Mr Scientist, he said this was a job after all. Why would anyone want to sabotage it? I also don’t understand how you can believe that a cat can understand us”.

“He belongs to Mr Scientist, as you call him, come to think of it that will do, I don’t know his real name, Doctor Contract is what I believe some call him. But yeah, Scabby is his pet and Mr Scientist is not a good Scientist. The animals, all the animals here are being kept for research done for all the wrong reasons”.

“Cosmetics?” I asked.

“It’s a bit more sinister than that, I mean do you think that it’s legal to keep all these animals in these tanks? Do you think him bringing them to you is legal?”

“No, but to be honest all of this is so crazy that I hadn’t even thought about that. I’m starting to worry about what is going to happen to this animals, do I keep them? I don’t think I can give them back to him”.

“Do you think they have suitable homes now?”

“Better than the tanks, but I don’t think I could keep like this for too long. Should I re-home them? Do I have time to do that? I got the impression that he wanted me to use the basketball court?”

“Have you met all the animals? The parrots were kept with Mr Scientist for a while and sometimes you hear them repeating some of his most popular phrases, they might be able to give you some clues. They are only mimicking, so don’t expect a great conversation, but it might help. Do you have some peanuts?”

“Yes, do you want to come with me?”

“I think I should keep an eye on Scabby and the other cats”.

“I keep forgetting about the other cats, are all three part of the task?”

“I really don’t know, but there must be a reason why he sent Scabby”.

“I don’t really understand how those cats got in, I’m four floors up and they just came through the window”.

As I said this I went over to the window and noticed scaffolding, slim scaffolding that seemed to be leading up to my window and mine alone. I looked up to see a long wire running from my window, it was a very long wire and I couldn’t see where it led to, but there was a handle and a seat,  it looked a very high Flying Fox.

“What the …?”

 

 

Mr Scientist – Chapter 1

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One

  I have a job for you

The bedroom window was open as it was a very balmy night, it wasn’t open wide, just wide enough to let some air in. The first cat was a large male, I first noticed that he was sat on the window sill and barely had enough time to see a terrible rash all over his body before two more cats came in and all three ran quickly into my en-suite. I was still in shock from seeing the cats when a tall man entered the room, he was dressed in a black suit and claimed to be a Scientist. He had a large tank in his hand that appeared to be full of animals; I could see many balls of grey fur and right at the very front were two rabbits that looked identical to Bonnie and Lilly, two rabbits that had lived with me many years before. The grey balls of fur were chinchillas all that looked very much like my chinchilla Bruce, who sadly died six years ago.

“I have a job for you”. Mr Scientist explained, he then left the room and returned with two smaller tanks, one larger than the other, both also filled with animals; one tank appeared to be filled with insects and large spiders whilst the other seemed to be full of fancy mice and small birds.

“What is the job?” I asked.

“It is a research position”. He replied. He then handed me two envelopes. “Open these envelopes in 48 hours, no sooner, by which time you will have found suitable living quarters for all of these animals”.

“I’m sorry” I replied, “but I really don’t have space for all these animals”.

“Yes you do!” he shouted and went on to open a door that I have never seen before. “Look” he said, opening the door which revealed a huge room the size of a basketball court.

“Wow, I have never seen this room before”. I said, turning round to find that Mr Scientist had disappeared.

I thought back to the cats, typical, I had never had mice, chinchillas and rabbits in this room before and now that I did I had three strange cats, one with what looked like a contagious skin condition, hiding in my en-suite. I decided it would be best to move all three tanks into the large room and get a better idea of what I was dealing with. First I emptied the large tank – a decision I would immediately regret when I realised what was actually inside. As soon as I opened the tank a ferret wearing a muzzle jumped out of both the tank and muzzle and began to run around the room, quickly followed by at least twenty chinchillas and fifteen rabbits, all of which looked identical to either, Bruce, Bonnie or Lilly. I could not bear the thought of witnessing a ferret attack on such obvious prey, so decided to make a harness out of some braces I had in my room. When I realised exactly how big this tank was, I thought about the other two tanks, perhaps I could split up the animals in the other tanks between the three tanks. Mr Scientist had said that I must find suitable accommodation for all of these animals after all.

Looking closer at the smaller tanks I realised that the spider and insect tank housed only tarantulas and crickets, should I separate them? If I took the crickets out, what would I feed the tarantulas? I decided to leave them in. That left the tank containing the mice and birds, these must be separated. I chose to keep the mice in the small tank and move the birds into the larger tank until I could find something more suitable, this task was a lot easier than I thought, I just put the smaller tank into the larger tank, opened the door and all the birds flew into the large tank leaving me with a small tank filled with around fifteen fancy mice.

Now what about these three cats? Were they part of my task? Mr Scientist hadn’t left any contact details and seemed rather serious about me not opening the envelopes for at least 48 hours. What should I do? I went to see if the cats were still in the en-suite and indeed they were. As I opened the door the large male – who I will now call Scabby, began hissing at me, the smaller cats were both asleep on the floor. I slowly reached out to see if it was possible to calm Scabby down, but he let out a loud screech and scratched my arm. Fantastic, I guess this means that the cats want to live in my en-suite.

Now I had found somewhat suitable accommodation for all the animals, I decided it was time to make a wee shopping list. What did I need? My first thought was hay. I would cover parts of the basketball court in hay, loads of hay. What about the birds? Bird food was needed and definitely branches. The mice? Mouse food and wood again. The cats? Cat food and definitely something for Scabbys’ skin condition. There seemed to be more than enough crickets to keep the tarantulas going, thankfully.

I can’t drive so I am going to need to let someone in on my task, although for some reason I get the impression this isn’t such a good idea, at least not until the 48 hours are up and I know what the actual task is. My thoughts kept returning to Scabby, his skin condition looked awful, and if these cats were part of my task, did the en-suite count as suitable accommodation? I couldn’t think of anyone I could share this with. I guess I could just go to a big pet shop and get a taxi home.

I headed out to pets at home (I know, but needs must) as I knew I could get everything there, even branches. I will admit the whole basketball court full of animals excites me somewhat. I hope I get to keep the basketball court when this is all done. As I ticked everything off my list and headed towards the check-out, a sales girl approached me.

“Wow” she said. “That’s a lot of stuff”.

“Yeah” I replied, how observant. She wasn’t finished “What do you need all this for?” nosey.

“An animal sanctuary” more or less the truth I guess. I avoided eye contact as I really couldn’t be bothered with more questions this was my task and mine alone.

I got home, set everything up and released the birds from the large tank into the basketball court, and then remembered the wee ferret. I had left him tied up. I guess I was going to have to keep an eye on him. I picked him up and luckily he seemed rather tame, I named him Hamish and decided that he would be my new pal.

“Come on then, Hamish; let’s see what we can do for Scabby”.

“I will help you if you don’t make me wear that muzzle” Hamish said.

“You talk?” I did not believe it, but I guess all of this was rather strange.

“Yes, sometimes too much which is why I’m always wearing that muzzle”.

“I thought that was to stop you eating the animals”.

“I wouldn’t eat my friends”.

“Do you know what’s wrong with Scabby?”

“He has an attitude problem”.

I like this ferret. “No, I mean his skin?”

“It looks ok to me”.

“What?” I said looking round at Scabby, “Haven’t you seen the state of his f….”

I turned round to see Scabby, sat on my toilet cleaning himself, without any sign of a skin problem.

“But earlier, he was covered in scabs and he looked contagious”.

“He has many ways to keep people away”.

Ahh, this is all too weird. I am talking to a ferret. This was exhausting, I was now down to around 42 hours, but I guess I have done what was asked? Had I?

“Do you know anything about my task?” I asked Hamish.

“I assume you got the research position and not the lab technician role?”

“A lab technician role? What kind of lab?”

What have I got involved in?

“They have a few different types of labs, it’s all kept rather hush-hush as the public tend not to approve”.

“I don’t think I approve”. Where do you stand on all this?”

Hamish looked rather upset. “I am very much against it, but also rather grateful”.

“Grateful?”

“Yes, I am grateful that a failed experiment means I can talk. I will never be considered replaceable. A talking ferret is rather valuable to Science”.

“Wow. What about the rest of the animals?”

“I am the only talking subject left from my generation. Back then we were mainly used for testing painkillers, painkillers intended or human infant use.”

“Is that when you found you could talk?”

“That was during a study on pain and vocalisations, I am not sure how it happened exactly, and I just remember one day I found that I was able to think out loud. It’s just a shame that the rest of the animals cannot”.

“What tests do they do now?”

“It’s mainly cosmetics and household products. It’s much harder to justify than testing for the sake of children”.

I nodded in agreement, although I still could not believe I was having this conversation with a ferret.

“Do you know what happens to these animals at the end of my task?”

“They will go back to the lab”.

This was depressing. What had originally felt like a dream was now feeling like my worst nightmare, literally.

My head was racing. What kind of test was this? Could I get out of it? I got the impression it was best not to ask Hamish too many questions at the moment. Was my task to save these animals? Perhaps that’s what was meant by finding them suitable accommodation? Did I feel capable of giving these animals back to Mr Scientist knowing their fate? Especially considering that so many of them so closely resembled animals that I had loved in the past. I thought back to the lion-head rabbits and chinchillas in the basketball court. They were identical to Bonnie, Lilly, and Bruce. Was this a coincidence?

I decided it was best to look around for more clues. I left Hamish sleeping in my bed and went into the basketball court to have a look.

Read chapter 2 here Mr Scientist – Chapter 2

What are you good at?

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Me, hiding in a jumper I knitted

 

Writing my first blog post From wow to how? was very cathartic for me. I meant every word I said and I feel as if that post has set the tone for all my future blog posts. Self-worth is a very hard thing to quantify, isn’t it? It’s one thing to dish out advice to others, often using our own experiences as examples, yet, it’s another thing entirely actually putting these words into actions. Why? How many of us have sat with friends or loved ones listing all of their qualities in an attempt to boost their self-esteem? How many of us have had our self-esteem boosted by friends and loved ones? These exchanges feel good and they can work because much of the time we allow ourselves to be boosted by those we trust. Why can’t we do this for ourselves? Do we not trust ourselves? Do we not believe in ourselves?

Why is it so much easier to believe the negatives about ourselves rather than the positives? On any given day we are likely to receive more compliments than insults, but it’s the insults, the negatives that we are more likely to remember, more likely to dwell on. Why is this? We are taught from a young age that bragging and being arrogant is a negative thing, a flaw, if you will. However, it’s not as if there is an extremely thin line between putting ourselves down and being arrogant. There is a huge space between these two states, and, plenty of room for some self-belief; there is even room within that space to admit out loud that we believe in ourselves.

It seems that putting ourselves down has been fashionable for a very long time. Perhaps being self-deprecating is quite charming when done in a humorous way. However, I think it’s a real shame that we find it easier to put ourselves down rather than put ourselves out there. I’ve recently been writing a lot of cover letters and I find them so difficult to write, even though it’s not in person I find it so difficult to sell myself. If I were to write a critique of myself I feel it would be much easier and a great deal longer too.

I thought one thing that could be nice and positive for this blog post would be if we all post a sentence or two in the comments listing a few things we are good at. It can be anything, absolutely anything, as long as it is positive.

I’ll start….

My name is Lesley-Anne. I am good at talking, hiding, looking after animals, handling animals, studying animals, presenting Science shows, knitting, making candles and being a good friend.

Go!

 

A lovely wee pet

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I’m man’s best friend, a lovely wee pet

The sweetest dog you will ever have met

I’m loyal to my owners, I’m shared and enslaved

Yet their affection for me goes beyond the depraved

 

I’m tame, I seem happy, they think it’s my choice

I make a great victim as I don’t have a voice

Too scared to run, I appear so content

The result of dark actions that require no consent

 

The place I call home is now filled with regret

For who could abuse such a lovely wee pet?

 

 

Getting things done

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If I ever allow myself to really think about all the unfinished projects I have, I feel physically sick. The paper I never pushed to be published, the Etsy shop that could be better promoted, poems, short stories, blog posts, knitting, sewing projects that never get finished.  The list could go on and on. I do finish many things, most things, but the amount of uncompleted tasks is ridiculous.

What stops us from completing these tasks? Is it laziness? I wish it was, but that would be too simple. We all have to overcome laziness at some point, often daily, just to get out of bed, to leave the house, go to work, etc. It seems, in my case anyway that what stops me is that horrid little voice that tells me I’m not good enough, that I am destined to fail. It’s such a personal battle that it’s difficult to express and share with others that may be able to offer some words of encouragement. It’s a private and rather brutal battle that stops us from enjoying the present. How often are you dragged down by thinking about what you should/could be doing that you don’t even have time to think about where you are and what you are actually doing? You find yourself procrastinating instead of just getting it done.

I have always been a worrier, I’ve accepted that it’s part of who I am and I do love that fact that it sounds so much like warrior, when I say it anyway.  I think it’s important to care, but I am self-aware enough to know that I worry too much. I’m constantly working on it and I feel a strange sense of achievement if I get through a situation having worried less than usual. I really wish I was more laid-back. I’m one of these people who will leave things to the last-minute, which may suggest I am quite relaxed about it, when actually the reality is that I have spent so long worrying about a task that I have barely left myself time to get it done.

However, I did manage to get through many years of studying and very rarely submitted a paper late, suggesting that I respond well to deadlines. I try to give myself self-imposed deadlines, but they rarely work.  When it comes to an actual job, it gets done. I will work my arse off. But,  it’s often these things that I have to make myself do for me that I can’t finish, I can’t fully commit to. Why? I really don’t know.

I do know that I’d like to learn how to set myself stricter deadlines that I could take as seriously as those set in University. I would like to attack these projects with such vigour that I nail it and then have to move on to the next. I would like to just work on one or two projects at a time, be it a blog post, job application, story, scarf and that is what I am going to try to do. I am going to start tomorrow, just kidding, I’m going to start now. Who’s with me?

Does anyone have any tips on self-imposed deadlines? I’m hoping this blog could be good practice. What do you think?

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