In A Pickle  

Fighting with our feathered friends is for the birds

Magpie madness continues

“Na na na na na”, the magpies taunted from the bushes, as Doreen lethargically reached for her morning cup of Joe.

"Eye balls, schmyballs! You don’t fool us, chattered Anges and Antonio. The pair flapped their wings. “Do ya think we’re suckers?”

“If you two hadn’t been beaking off, I would’ve been unaware of your nest”, Doreen retorted. She stomped out the door, armed with an umbrella in one hand and a broom in the other. It was too awkward to remove the nest, so she carefully set aside the parasol. “Mary Poppins I’m not,” Doreen chuckled. “No, you’re Broom Hilda” Antonio cawed.

“That’s it you two, the nest is coming down” she yelled, while shaking the brush at the avian intruders. Now she was vulnerable without the umbrella for protection against the dive bombing feathered fanatics.

In five minutes, the nursery of twigs and soft grass was in shambles. The mossy materials made her sneeze. Foiled again, the magpie couple could only clack their beaks in disapproval. The three were thankful, however, that Agnes hadn’t laid eggs.

Those particular birds have a high IQ. They are tenacious creatures, with the motto 'Never surrender, never give up.” The battle for the bush carried on into its second month.

“In Scandinavian culture, nesting magpies are good luck,” argued Antonio. Doreen replied, “I’m not Scandinavian, but I am of Irish, Scottish and German descent, so nice try.”

Unfazed, Antonio told her that in both the German and Celtic cultures, Magpies bring merriment to a marriage. Doreen, however, remained unimpressed.

“In Pouton, France they worship us, because we warned the humans when the wolves approached, drawled Agnes. And they hang gifts in the trees for us, unlike you, who tries to scare us off with fake owl eyeballs.”

“In Mongolia, they believe we control the weather. So you better watch out or we’ll send a lightning bolt your way,” threatened Antonio.

“In Britain we’re supposed to take off our hats and bow to the bird-brains saying “good morning or afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Magpie. How's Mrs. and the chicks?” You are to spit three times over your shoulder and flap your arms while cawing too. Hopefully not all at once or you'll slobber all over yourself,” guffawed Doreen.

“Also,I'd receive a wellness check, compliments of the RCMP should I perform this bizarre ritual. Scotland Yard is another story!"

Doreen had read about various cultural ideas about the magpie on the Internet and Agnes and Antonio were also impressed her with their knowledge. Perhaps they’d been looking over her shoulder on her computer.

“The Scots believe there’s a drop of the devil's blood in your veins, and I believe it,” cried Doreen.

“Nonsense” squawked Agnes and Antonio. “We embody good and evil, light and dark, just as our colour suggests. Individually, we choose which side to be on, just as you humans do. Besides, there’s good and bad in every creature. Although in Australia they see us as aggressive, merciless hunters.

Italians assume we are crooks, as an opera semiseria named Gioachino Rossini wrote in the tragicomic entitled La gazza ladra, (meaning thieving magpie) which premiered in 1817.

Greeks believe magpies are drunk all the time because one of their deities called Bacchus, the god of wine, enjoyed chumming with us.

Roman Catholic mythology stated we were unsympathetic to Jesus on the Cross, and instead mocked him.

In Leviticus 11: 13-19 in the new King James version of the Bible, it states we are unfit for human consumption. “It’s true, we dine on road kill and in centuries past scavenged upon soldier cadavers. You are what you eat and we’re glad we're not on the human menu.”

“Some First Nations of North America think more kindly of us,” retorted Agnes. “We have shamanistic qualities, traversing to other realms as spiritual warriors. We are healers who enable others to find their inner strength, while our songs will relax and cure whatever ails the enlightened listener.

“Others say that when we tap on a window with our beaks, we’re letting you know there’s something wrong with your house. But you, humanoid, do the rapping from the inside and hammer on the window like a banshee.”

A woeful Antonio added, "Alas, you left us homeless again, so off we go to find other digs. Or just maybe we’ll wait a few days and try try again! Muahaha!"

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Battle for a tree - and peace and quiet — between birds and humans

Magpie mania

“Home wrecker, get away from our nest! Get lost, you brute. I say, I say, get away! My feathers have never been so ruffled Antonio. How dare those humans undo our handy work” cried Agnes.

Try as she might, Momma magpie couldn’t convince the two-legged beast to let them build their home in peace. Agnes and Antonio hurled insults from the nearby tree top, but the dummkoph didn’t respond right away.

Although magpies have 33 different calls, all Len heard was "wock, wock wock-a-wock, wock, pjur, weer, weer.". He laughed and said “I don’t speak magpie, Excuuuuse me for living. Blah blah blah, to you too.”

Antonio and Agnes flew frantically back and forth, dive bombing the intruder, but to no avail.

“We’ll call for reinforcements, Dude, if you don’t slowly back up and drop the twigs,” yelled Agnes.

Len left when the nest was in shambles on the ground, but not before dusting off his hands. The gesture sent them into a tizzy.

In the past, Len’s forearms and hands had been chewed up by the sharp branches while reaching in to pull out sticks. He looked as though he’d wrestled a feral cat. The blood-soaked scratches gave the birds some satisfaction. However, Doreen came up with a solution. She found a corn broom, which had a hook on the end.

When Len arrived home, he asked, “Wassup with the broom in the entrance?”

Doreen sarcastically replied, “I plan on taking it for a spin after dinner”. Wanna join me?"

The magpies couldn’t believe their ears.

“Now she’s going on an aerial assault. Oh, my! We’re in trouble now!” they quaked.

“It was bad enough when she put pie plates and a rainbow coloured pinwheel in the bush to dissuade us,” Antonio remarked. “The loco dame didn’t realize we loved the décor”.

“The shiny aluminum made a great mirror and the colourful windmill was totally psychedelic.” Agnes chimed in.

They persisted in their battle for the bush. Both species staked their claim on the shrubbery.

“We’re not squatters. Our ancestors have been here longer than yours,” Antonio tweeted. Len ignored their taunts and didn't leave until he destroyed the nest.

Day after day, both parties repeated the process. The magpies awoke before dawn and stealthfully re-constructed their home. But, alas, the feathered fiends couldn’t keep their beaks shut. They kept bragging to their buddies and got into squabbles with each other. Doreen would hear them and bang on the window, which sent the birds into flight and the dog running for cover.

It was a short-term solution, however. They’d return momentarily and carry on where they left off.

Len, their human nemeses, deconstructed their habitat at night. The hook made short work of the nest before they laid eggs.

“Boo hoo, so our relatives ate your precious barn swallow chicks. That’s no reason to deprive us of our nesting site,” Antonio argued. “Swallow tartare is a delicacy”, snickered Agnes.

Doreen had enough of their shenanigans and painted some eagle eyes on both sides of the tin plates, then hung them back in the tree. When the wind picked up, the aluminum dishes would flip around and point upwards, staring blankly into the skies.

The giant eyeballs freaked out Antonio and Agnes, along with other wildlife, including the human variety. The tree looked possessed.

Word got out amongst the critters to avoid that yard, as the bush had grown eyes.

“No matter where you go, they watch you. Before you know it, the monstrous brush will sport fangs, devouring us,” shrieked Agnes.

The crowd of black and white birds gasped in horror and clacked in unison with their disapproval. The high-pitched calls warned others of the danger.

A defeated Antonio told his wife Agnes, “I say we get while the getting’s good, and look for another tree to call home for our youngsters.”

Agnes, the firebrand, was all squawked out and reluctantly agreed.

They packed up their twigs and set off into the sunset in search of greener, eye-free pastures.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Dark tales from the dental chair

Dental horror stories

While spitting blood, I cussed at the smirking dentist. He had just pulled a wisdom tooth with no freezing or sedation.

I’ll admit that I lacked wisdom by partying the night before and showed up for my dental appointment reeking of alcohol and cigarettes. Rather than him re-booking my session with a stern reprimand, he taught me a lesson instead.

Afterwards, the doctor had the audacity to ask if I wanted the other teeth pulled. I threatened to kill him if he tried. The year was 1990. I was living on the edge of a dental chair.

The guy reminded me of actor Steve Martin, aka Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. in the 1986 rock musical Little Shop of Horrors. He practically knelt on my chest to rip the tooth out and almost broke my jaw.

The doc was the leader of the plaque alright, and I could’ve sworn I heard him say, “When I start extracting those molars, girls, you’ll be screaming like holy rollers.”

Instead, he looked at me with an evil gleam in his eye, and with a cackle, he spun around and walked away. I retorted with a non-lady-like remark and gesture.

After that awful experience, I didn’t see another dentist for 10 years when my remaining wisdom teeth started giving me grief. This time, however, I was sober and chose sedation dentistry. I was off to la la land and in no time awoke when it was over.

My friend Faron helped me to the car and drove me home. I spent several days eating milk shakes with a spoon and other pureed foods. My chipmunk cheeks needed time to shrink.

I didn’t overcome my dental phobia, though. A few years later, a widow maker tree fell on my head, which chipped several teeth, and that accident brought me back into the office. My front teeth were jagged and razor sharp.

Once again, they gave me a mild tranquilizer, x-rayed and then filled my teeth. Feeling more confident, I went back for a cleaning.

Not seeing a dentist regularly can cause other health problems. Such was my case, as I didn’t go again until I had a severe toothache. I underwent a root canal followed by the tooth removal because I didn’t get it capped. I repeated the same experience a few years later.

This time, I took a prescribed opiate at home an hour before the procedure. I recall staggering onto the treatment chair and then waking up in our TV room in the basement.

My friend Charlene said on the drive back to my place, I was hanging out the passenger window in rush hour traffic yelling “Wooo Woo, let’s party”! A kill switch went off in my head and I passed out in a heap on the floor of the car. The care aide had one heck of a time retrieving me from the vehicle. Thinking she’d need the fire department's Jaws of Life.

The party animal’s alter-ego reared her wild head once again as I bounced onto the ground. It was a challenge for Charlene to get my loose limbed body into the house.

I’m relieved that the evil tooth fairy from days gone by didn't appear as a hallucination. Otherwise, Charlene may have been in trouble.

It bewildered me when I awoke in the cool basement and wondered what happened. Charlene gave me the lowdown on the phone the next day.

After 32 years, I’m finally at a place where I can go to the dentist regularly without sedation or high anxiety levels. The staff is terrific at Kelowna Dental Centre. They play soft music which eases my troubled spirit, and they’re gentle in their approach. All the while, they explain step by step every procedure.

Along with their conscientiousness, I have to remind myself constantly to breathe and relax, and it all goes well.

There's a part of me that has waited for the other shoe to drop, I must admit.

My ears carefully listen for Steve Martin's voice after I complain, "It hurts. I'm not numb.” To which Dr. Scrivello replies, "Oh, shut up. Open wide, here I come! I am your dentist. Say ahhhh. Say ahhhh. Say ahhrrrrr. Now spit!”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Vigil for woman killed in Kelowna helps provides closure

Vigil for Austyn

More than 30 people attended Austyn Godfrey’s vigil, whilst an unknown number of supporters watched from their vehicles in the enormous parking lot of the Evangel church last week. Of the 30, 24 were Austyn’s friends.

The solemn ceremony started with Cathy King singing Amazing Grace a cappella.

Pastor Don Richmond of Evangel church officiated and welcomed everyone to the outdoor service. He expressed his sympathy to the bereaved friends of the young woman and said violence against women is a reprehensible crime which has to stop. He said he was honoured Evangel was asked to host the vigil, adding we need to lend our voices to those who can no longer speak for themselves.

I assisted with the eulogy, starting with some shocking statistics from the Canadian Femicide Observatory. As of March 1, 37 women and girls have been killed already in 2022 in Canada, mostly by men. That’s one woman or girl dying every 36 hours. One is too many.

A few people asked why I organized a vigil for Austyn, someone I never met. “Why her, why now? they asked.

For me, attending the makeshift memorial at the dog park (where her body was found) made her death personal. Just reading about it wouldn’t have had the same effect.

As a domestic violence survivor, I was deeply troubled. I realized I was extremely fortunate to survive and thrive and have the chance to grow old. However, Austyn’s life was cut short. She never had the chance at 25. The young woman deserved to live, but tragically, her life was taken.

Austyn’s friend Ashley’s sent an email which was the clincher. She said that she’d love it if I’d organized a vigil for her late friend

I read aloud what Ashley penned regarding the impact Austyn had had on her life. Another friend reaffirmed the poignant message afterwards. It was heartwarming to learn that all of them referred to Austyn as their best friend.

I wondered what it’d be like to have “BFF” (Best Friends Forever) title in the eyes of several people. Austyn must have been a real gem.

They shared the sentiment that Austyn was a happy-go-lucky person with a huge and generous heart. She had a beautiful smile and loved to laugh, enjoying life to the fullest. Her friends were family. She made sure none of them went without. When Ashley’s pay cheque was withheld, Austyn stepped in, unasked, and sent money for takeout and groceries.

The pair later became roommates when Austyn rescued Ashley and her pet rabbit from Alberta. Afterward, Ashley and Austyn became inseparable and purchased matching bracelets with the engraved text “I’ll always be with you.” The bangle is Ashley’s only keepsake of her ‘little pink bunny,” a nickname she lovingly gave her roomie.

Many of the mourners fittingly wore pink to the vigil, Austyn’s favourite colour.

My friend Morningstar said a prayer for Austyn’s companions. Richmond read Psalm 23, followed by Pastor Brian DeViveiros singing “And now my life song sings”.

“Dancing in the Sky” by Danni and Lizzy was Austyn’s favourite song and it was played afterwards. It was bitter sweet, but fitting. A procession of people quietly presented flowers and flameless candles and paid their respects in silent prayer while looking at Austyn’s memorial card photo.

After the beautiful service, we travelled in a motorcade to the makeshift memorial. The almost barren tree became enshrined by many colourful bouquets, topped with a pink bunny stuffy.

We overjoyed Ashley and her girlfriends with the service, and they tearfully received the poster and memorial card afterwards, along with my pink bunny.

By organizing a memorial vigil for a stranger, I too felt blessed, as it provided some closure to her companions. They celebrated Austyn’s brief life, stolen so needlessly. My aim was to shine a spotlight on her so she wouldn’t after a time be forgotten.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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