We suffer, up here in the High Doganate, from moments of acute eco-mania. Perhaps we have confessed this before. We were having one just now on our balconata, as an ice cream truck that works Inner Parkdale came by, too early in the morning. Its repulsive jingle is endlessly repeated from a short & cranky tape spool, amplified to skull-cracking volume. That the driver — whom we have pointlessly confronted on several occasions — appears also to be the wild-eyed Afghan terrorist from central casting, may contribute to this mania in some ineffable way. The man seems to be working on the theory that he can scare children into buying his ice cream. About thrice daily, through the summer months, I must fight the temptation to drop a brick ten storeys onto the source of the noise.
In my last confrontation, the amply-bearded gentleman dismissed my suggestion that he should turn down the volume & use his jingle more sparingly, on grounds that he’d never received a complaint from anyone else in the neighbourhood. While I knew this to be a bald lie, it would nevertheless not have surprised me were it true. Many Canadians still live in the municipality — we are among the larger visible minority groups — & as a class we never complain about anything. An American visitor once observed, of the ice cream vendor in question, that he could drive over a Canadian, dividing him in two. And the surviving upper half would pull himself up to the truck window, to say calmly & reasonably: “Watch where you’re going, eh?”
In other news, I see that U.S. oil exports have overtaken imports, & that our less peaceable neighbour is well on the way to overall energy self-sufficiency, despite every effort by the Barabbas administration to exclude human enterprise from federal land. I hardly know what to think about that. I get a little thrill of schadenfreude in considering what happens to the OPEC cartel. But gentle reader will be aware of my dislike for cars, & other powered machinery. The environmentalcases raise (incomprehensible) moral objections to any bumper harvest; my own objections tend to the aesthetic. I haven’t the slightest objection to oil drilling, per se; nor burning off the product in the hope of contributing to a warmer, more carbon-rich atmosphere, that will benefit the world’s farms, gardens, & forests. I just can’t see how cheap oil helps us get rid of cars.
Meanwhile, yet another new species of animal has been discovered, to designate “endangered.” Evidently, every newly discovered species goes straight on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. No wonder their list keeps growing: for we discover new species almost every day.
Our latest friend is a warbler, & let us call him Orthotomus chaktomuk. Verily, a tailorbird — among those which weave the most meticulous nests, of leaves sewn with gossamer. Very pretty little fellow, with his own distinct song & morphological nuances, to distinguish from his relations; but very much the tailorbird as one may see from the pix: the short rounded wings, the pert querulous tail, the strong legs, & exquisitely droll slight downward curvature of the beak. Darzee, as we call him in Urdu (meaning, “tailor”), was first described (to me) in Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.” This fresh Cambodian model comes with a fine rufous outcrop on the top of his little head.
“Cheer-up, cheer-up, cheer-up,” sang the tailorbird in the tiny swamp woodlot, over the wall from Nedous Hotel in Lahore, whenas I & my little sister would climb over it, half a century ago. He had every reason to be happy, with the supply of damselflies in there.
Our new Cambodian tailorbird was discovered at a construction site in downtown Phnom Penh, incidentally, “hiding in plain sight.” He managed to evade recognition until the census-takers came for the avian flu. Now he, too — poor little fellow — will be a client of government programmes, after millennia of freedom in the Mekhong floodplain.