The distractions of a Writer.

15 Mar

Recently I’ve put my foot down as to whether I’m a Writer or a Haus Frau who occasionally writes and made myself spend more time writing… as I want to be a Writer more than a drudge.

And, as our house is currently in a state of flux as we re-arrange how it all goes, the only place I have to sit and write right now is… cross legged on my bed. Which is what I’m doing right now! But relax, that’s not what this blog post is about.

A metre or so from where I’m sitting cross legged and writing is a bedroom window that looks out over the front yard. I can’t say ‘front lawn’ as that area too is in a state of flux as we dig up the lawn and replace it with shrubs and bushes that are far more ‘obscenely extreme’ weather resistant and not so water reliant. Yes, I live in the Adelaide Hills where we yo yo from plus forty degrees Celsius to minus four. Thankfully not on the same day… but it can make growing things a little hard.

So anyway, I sit and write and try not to procrastinate by just staring out the window. But there have been distractions out there of late and I’ve decided to use this week’s blog to not waffle on about being a writer, but of something more amusing. Call it a blog about procrastinating if you will. The distractions are… magpies.

Now I really don’t know how many of my blog readers are Australian and therefore know I mean Australian magpies – a bird­ not a football team. For those who don’t, I’d suggest going to check them out on youtube where you’ll find many a wonderful film clip of the Australian magpie ‘argle gargling’ away at you. That’s the sound they make by the way, not something they actually do at you like a flasher or something.

Me, I love magpies. I grew up in the Northern Territory of Australia and we don’t have magpies up there. I don’t know if it’s due to climate, resources, that cyclone Tracy blew them all away and they never came back (a theory of a friend of mine when we were kids, that cyclone got blamed for a lot of things). Still, no magpies growing up meant they were one of those unique specialities one only ever got when visiting family ‘down south’ in either Queensland or here in South Australia. They were new, foreign, alien to a tropical child like me. Just like temperatures less than twenty five degrees Celsius or water coming out of the cold water tap actually being cold and not warm to body temperature. And that love of these birds has stayed with me even after I spent eight years living with them in Brisbane (Queensland) or another eight here in the Adelaide Hills.

This love of the good old black and white maggie could be why I have been distracted by them, but I’m a bit of a bird lover in general and most birds tend to distract me. And not just when a falcon swooped down outside my window, pinned a sparrow to the dirt and then took off with it.Truth be known I’m actually a bird whisperer. As in, birds seem to like me as much as I like them. Parrots especially come to me (wild or otherwise) and if I’m ever alone in my garden I’m soon surrounded by sparrows, magpies, parrots and the chickens. Think of it as a bit of a Snow White moment… except the slack buggers don’t bother to help me out with the chores. And so, birds interest me and I will often stop and just watch them.

However! The magpies that have been distracting me over the last few weeks are doing so not by simply being birds, but by their near human like antics. They’re a family of four, two adults of black and white and two juveniles who are more black and grey. It’s the ‘kids’ that have been making me laugh the most.

It started when we had to dig out our septic tank. See, living rural as we do we’re not connected to a sewerage system. Instead we have a septic tank that our council comes and pumps out every four years. All we need to do, once they tell us they’re coming to do it, is uncover it from under a few feet of dirt and wait. The septic tanks in our street are located in our front yards for easy access for the council to get to. Sadly, this meant the day they did pump it out meant I couldn’t work in my room…  where I write being located only a few metres away from the tank… Ew. But back to the juvenile magpies! Once the tank had been uncovered it meant there was a pile of dirt (as well as the hole) in our yard… right in front of my window. One morning I’m sitting there typing away when I hear this funny noise. Juvenile magpies make funny noises as it is, almost as if they’re chatting in argle gargle. But this sounded more like giggling in argle gargle. I look out my window and see one of the juvenile maggies roll down the dirt pile. I snicker at its clumsy mistake and keep writing… only to see it do it again. Now my full attention is on the dirt pile as, taking turns like all good children do, they are climbing to the top of the dirt pile and deliberately rolling to the bottom. And all the time they are making these giggling like sounds. I laugh at the bird’s fun and enjoyment and one of them spots me through the netted curtain. They stop, look guilty and scurry away. Oops!

A few days later, the magpie kids are back, making similar noises and when I look out this time they are having a dirt fight on the pile. I kid you not. They’re picking up little clumps of dirt in their beaks and throwing them at each other, trying to dodge out of the way and giggling. These are birds here remember. I may be a tad eccentric but I am seriously not making this up. After watching them for a few minutes I once again, stupidly, laughed. They saw me, scurried off. And throughout the rest of the day this little grey and black head kept popping up and checking to see whether I was sitting on the bed or not. So cute, even if laughing at its appearance caused a squawk and for the bird to toddle off again.

The other day I came home from the shopping and couldn’t help but laugh as it appeared we had a magpie sports day happening in the front yard. By now the septic tank had been pumped and reburied and so the yard is a vaguely flat area again. And there, on one side right up against the edge of the garden stood two adult magpies looking rather bored. While in the middle of the ‘lawn’ two juvenile magpies chased each other while obviously playing ‘keepy off’ with a plant label. As in, one of the young birds would take this label (ripped off one of my newly purchased plants I may add) and kept ducking and diving and throwing the label away from the other young bird and then scurrying to get it before its opponent could. As I’ve just started being a soccer mum to my eldest child, it all looked just so familiar to me. They, thankfully, couldn’t hear me laughing from in the car but all four birds looked rather affronted when I had to get out to put the groceries away as I had chilled items I needed to keep chilled. They stalked off as if I was interrupting play. Oh dear.

Does anyone else have magpies that do this? Or other birds that distract them from their writing in such ways? I’m so amused by their antics I’m thinking of starting a joke blog for them. Something like ‘the day in the life of family Magpie’ or ‘diaries of a magpie’ in the similar vein to that of Jackie French and her wombats. Hmmm, there’s a thought, no wombats here. That’s a shame. Echidna, emus, kangaroos and the usual feral animals… but no wombats. If we had one of those would be need to dig up the septic tank every four years? Can a wombat be trained I wonder?

So the next time you go to write and get distracted from it, I guess it shows you’re a Writer if what you’re distracted by makes you want to write some more. I’m half tempted to put an old cat toy out in the front yard to see what those kids get up to next.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO


Posted by on March 15, 2014 in Writing


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2 responses to “The distractions of a Writer.

  1. Leonie

    March 15, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    So funny Janis! We had kookaburras that used to slide down the railings of the stairs at the front of our house when I was a kid. They’d slide down, fly back up, and then slide down again. The magpies (maggies) used to “help” us wake up in the mornings when we slept on the verandah in hot weather by singing loudly next to our ears. One used to talk – we assume it had been raised by humans, because apparently “My name’s Jack – what’s yours?”

  2. janishill

    March 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    They were indeed so funny I couldn’t help but blog about them this week. They’ve been doing these things for a month now. I’m used to parrots being silly and cheeky, like corellas and galahs… but to see magpies have a sense of humour – love it! 😉


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