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Ebony and Spica: Two Birds in My Life Paperback – 25 Feb 2014
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Ebony could not have fallen into better hands - Janet had been a bird lover since the age of eight, when she climbed a tree in her native Dorset, and felt a 'sense of wonderment at the first sight of the fledgelings in a neat heap, beaks resting on scrawny backs, packed into the cup of a blackbird's nest'. She has already fed rescued sparrows with the same small tool from her manicure set that she now carefully uses to nurse this young blackbird back to health. Ebony, however, turns out to be permanently disabled which means that he can never live in the wild again - so Janet puts her home at his disposal.
Janet does not now live in Dorset, but in Paris, where she works as a translator - and the Parisian backdrop provides colour to the story. The author describes, in her precise and accurate English, the minutiae of living with this carefully observed rescued bird. The care she devotes to him is astonishing - she leaves work to travel home every day at lunch time to feed him when he is young, and when he scratches himself with an errant claw, he is taken to the vet to be anaesthetized and stitched up.
We learn a little about Janet's life and relationships in the process too - how she moves to a different apartment and later, as befits a nature-lover, to the countryside - but this is more a story about the birds she cares for than about their human satellites. As a nosey person, I found this frustrating at times - I would have loved to know more about Robert, for example, Janet's help-mate and handyman, who moves from Paris to the countryside when she and her partner do. We learn that he prefers animals to humans and that, 'Robert is, to say the least, unconventional,' but then a veil drops - Janet is as discreet and circumspect in the descriptions of the humans in her life as she is considerate towards the birds.
Shortly before the move to the country, Janet acquired another rescued bird - Spica the starling. Cue various comical scenes of Spica sharing meals with Janet and her husband Jean-Luc - they dressed each evening in painter's overalls to eat their food, because of the mess the bird caused around them. Jean-Luc, one surmises, puts up with the upheaval for Janet's sake more than for Spica's.
Ebony died at the advanced age of sixteen years, but at the close of the book, Spica is still thriving under Janet's care, and she has since rescued another baby blackbird, which she nursed back to health and then freed. She is a long-time member of the RSPB, and feeds the wild birds which congregate in her garden. The author ends her book with the statement that, 'I simply can't imagine a time when there will be no birds in my life'. Lucky birds.
Author of 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir'.
Ebony (a blackbird) and Spica (a starling) were two birds rescued and reared by the author and her husband in real life. As someone who has tried (and sadly failed) to raise rescued birds who entered my life and tugged at my heartstrings, I longed to read about actual success stories and I wasn't disappointed. If only this book had been available then! Every page proved not just an education, but an enchanting journey into the lives of these sweet little creatures.
Most of Ebony's life was spent in a Paris apartment with the author until she moved herself and him out to the country with her husband. Ebony lived a long and happy life and reading about his delightful antics brought me so much happiness. But it was Spica who stole my heart. This little creature knew he had a special place in the world - and in his little world in particular, he certainly ruled the roost. I laughed aloud at some of his antics and the visions of the author and her husband trying to enjoy their evening meal in their dining room with its floor covered in newspapers, table protected by a plastic cloth and themselves bedecked in blue overalls, while Spica inspected, tasted and explored everything around him like a tiny feathered lord of the manor.
'Ebony and Spica' makes the most delightful reading. Its eponymous heroes were two tiny birds with enormous personalities and I just couldn't get enough of them. Those two little birds were blessed to be rescued by the author and the author was equally blessed to have them in her life. This is an uplifting account - you may shed a tear or two as you read, but you will be so glad you picked up this book. Highly recommended reading.
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