Of cameras and telephones

Dulci july '17

When we were planning a holiday, we wondered what to do with our 13 year old dog, Dulci? She is deaf, with cataracts on her eyes, a terrible cancer in her belly and she cannot control her bladder. Who would want to take care of such an old peeing dog? The vet even declared, that she won’t live much longer, and suggested that it might perhaps be time to give her an injection? We refused, picked up all the carpets and gave the tile floor a good wash when there was a puddle.

After many phone calls with dog sitters, it was clear, that nobody was ready to take her for nine days. They all said that they did not want her to die in their place, too much responsibility and they surely did not want such a peeing dog. Then my daughter jumped in. She really would like to look after Dulci. “Listen Mum, I have already a nursing home for animals. My 16 year old dog is not well and my 14 year old cat drives me crazy with his meowing. Dulci is welcome”.

That was the prelude to our Russian holiday. The day before we left we drove to our daughter with all the paraphernalia such as basket, leash and food for Dulci’s “summercamp”.

Before one leaves there are lots of preparations to be done. This was a guided cruise, starting in Moscow and ending in St. Petersburg and packing was a headache by itself. Will it be cold, suitable for winter sweaters or wet, umbrellas and rainwear and shoes? All bulky stuff to take and as we come from a subtropical country,  we check Google for temperatures, we seem to have it always wrong. Besides packing, one has to prepare one’s phone and buy a number of gigabytes or a Simcard, so the cost won’t be excessive. We decided that my husband would do that and then it won’t be necessary to take my phone. It is old and very slow. I might as well leave it at home. Big mistake!

Of course I packed my beloved camera too. I don’t like to photograph with telephones anyway, because one cannot zoom and the pictures are better (so I thought).

On the day of departure we took the train to the airport, each with a suitcase. Zwi had his backpack and I carried my museum chair and dropped it in the overhead luggage rack. It is an hour and a half to the airport, but I have my beloved Kindle with me and am not bored. To get into the Russian atmosphere I was reading “Peter the Great, his life and world” by Robert Massie. It really helped to understand all the sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Great to see all that one had read about and knew the reasons why St Petersburg was started by Peter the Great. It is a very readable and wonderful book.

 museum chair

Approaching the airport we were anxious to leave the train quickly. Halfway through all the checkpoints I realized that I forgot my museum-chair in the train. Is it still riding the rails two weeks after our return?

When we at last arrived in the departure hall proper, I asked Zwi for the phone. I wanted to call Yael to hear how Dulci was settling in. Zwi made a long face and even before he checked his bag and pockets he knew that the phone was still lying on the table at home! In these times one cannot live without communication, whether it is a simple phone call, a WatsApp, or Google….

First we tried to rent a phone, but in the departure hall that is impossible; you could buy a Sim card, but without a phone? We went to the tax-free shop and bought a phone for me! The old one was anyhow no good, I deserved a new one.  Off to the place to get a Sim card, so we could use it for calls (if I could remember the phone numbers). That was more or less what I could do on this one, because I still had to transfer all the information from my old one to this beautiful Chinese one with the impossible name  “Xiaomi” and that could only be done at home. The first call was to our daughter. She was most surprised to see a strange number on her phone and hear me. Listened to the whole story, laughed and told me that Dulci was great.

This is not the end of our troubles. In the middle of Moscow I tried to make a beautiful picture with the Zoom of the camera. It made strange noises, muttered and complained and died! The camera went into the wastebasket in the hotel after I removed the memory card. Hurrah for my new phone. It makes beautiful pictures.

All this happened, because we are not getting any younger and certainly more forgetful! Dulci joined us again after the holiday and is as well as she can be.

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St. Basils Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow.

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The caper bush and dogs

capers 001

In front of our house grows a wild caper bush out of a crevice in the wall. They only sow themselves out; you cannot plant or propagate them. One finds them in odd places growing from rock outcrops and walls. There used to be a huge one on the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem!  

Capers_Western_Wall_Jerusalem

Western Wall

They have the most gorgeous flowers, like fluttering butterflies, but it is the buds that are the edible part. I used to pick them in quantities and then pickle them, but nowadays it is much easier to take a jar off the shelf in the supermarket.

capers 003

~~~

This is the story about Marga’s dogs. After Ted had died in 1965 she was never without a four legged companion.

The first one that joined her was Pjotr. He belonged to Marga’s son Michael and his wife. He worked as a civil engineer in West Africa building harbours. When he was posted to New Zealand, they first returned to The Netherlands with all their goods and the dog. Of course Marga was willing to take this immigrant in.

Dogs Pjotr1

Pjotr with doron and yael 1972-3 a

Pjotr, the star in both pictures.

Pjotr (or Potter) lived many years happily together with Marga and was loved by the grandchildren who were also given shelter whenever their parents were globetrotting.

The next dog to arrive was also an immigrant. Norbert named after a Dutch politician Norbert Schmelzer, notorious for bringing down the Dutch government. The dog had had a very colourful life: originally from Namibia, a crossbreed between a bushdog and a Corgi, he was a ships dog, who sailed for years on a ship of “de Koninklijke Java-China Paketvaart Lijnen”. One day arriving in Jakarta, he was thrown off the ship by the captain. Theo, Marga’s other son, working in Jakarta as a shipping agent, found a very unhappy looking boarding clerk on the quay with the dog in his arms, who accosted Theo with the words: “Do you want the dog?” Norbert lived happily with Theo and his family until they were posted to Nigeria in 1981. What to do with Norbert? He flew first class by KLM to Amsterdam and found of course shelter at Marga’s.

yael-efrat-with-dog-adn-dackel-diana.jpg

Norbert left and Diana right.

The next dog was Diana, a brown sixteen year old dachshund.

An acquaintance of Marga moved into assisted living and could not take her dog with her. This dog was on a special diet, because she had kidney trouble. The owner paid Marga all medical costs including her diet needs. This was a dog with quite a character. She loved to eat and steal food, which of course was strictly forbidden (it would kill her).

There are a few wonderful anecdotes about Diana: one afternoon Marga had friends over for tea. The trolley was loaded with cups, teapot and all. The cake stood on the bottom tray. When Marga said goodbye to her friends at the front door, it took Diana only a few minutes to gobble up the rest of the cake.

tea trolly

When one of her grandsons came to visit, Marga took him on a sightseeing trip. To have something to eat on the way, she brought a roll of biscuits and placed them between the two front seats. Of course Diana went with them, but stayed in the car, when they looked at the site. When they returned to the car, her grandson grabbed the roll, which looked completely intact, but every biscuit had disappeared. Diana on the backseat had a good time while waiting for them and had hollowed out the wrapping.

Both Norbert and Diana passed away, and in 1983 Marga moved to another smaller house and garden in the same town. She soon felt at home and made friends with people in this street. One day a neighbour came and told her a gruesome story. She just discovered that the people next door, American pilots working at an airbase in the Netherlands, had returned home to the States and left their dog locked up in the house. I cannot remember the details, but I think that Marga and her friend together with the police entered the house and found a total hysteric dog, starved, dehydrated and neglected.

He was a Maltese terrier: A dog breed who is gentle and fearless, the Maltese greets everyone as a friend. His glamorous white coat gives him a look of haughty nobility, but looks can be deceiving. This dog excels as a companion.

oma with pluis

Shoo after his hair was cut

Of course Marga would take him, after it was confirmed that the dog was abandoned.  First she went to the vet to check his health. He was flee ridden with a coat so neglected, that he had to be shaved. But after a bath and a good meal he pepped up and never left Marga’s side again.

The pilots had named him Shoo, as in “shoo” – go away. The name stayed, although some thought it meant Shoe. Anyhow the way Marga pronounced it was far from shooing the dog out of her house!

When his coat had returned to its full splendour, he was a beautiful dog and lived many years with Marga.

Dogs Mammie Choo

shoo 1

He was even allowed to lie on her handmade patchwork cushions.

Now Mozart entered her life. I think that she got him from the dog pound, but am not sure. By this time she wanted only middle aged dogs, because young ones would have been too frisky. He was eight years old and also very lovable.

strauss and Mozart jack russel

Marga’s last name was Strauss. This inspired a granddaughter to give Marga a special birthday present. She had a name plate made, which indicated, that “Strauss and Mozart” lived here. It confused quite a lot of people who delivered things at the door: “Mrs. Strauss who is Mozart?”

Mozart loved to fetch the newspaper from the letterbox.  As soon as he heard the rattle of the box, he ran to the hall and tried to “kill” the paper. This resulted usually in a race between Marga and the dog and a struggle to save the paper.

Mozart passed away and Marga was dog less for awhile.

One afternoon I got a telephone call:”Barbara I got the hundred thousand lottery ticket. I have the loveliest 8 year old Scotch terrier. He is a beauty and he is so sweet. And she went on and on. So I told her:”Listen Mum, please don’t love him too much, he will die before you.”

“Oh no, this time I will be first” (she was not).

Dogs Blackie2

Blackie had a very tragic end; In front of her house, while the dog was on the leash, an irresponsible motor rider ran Blackie over and he died instantly.

baarnse bos5 met scottie 2004

The last dog was small and about 14 or 15 years old and ever so nasty. If you tried to stroke him, he bit and at night Marga locked him up in the tiled hall, because he peed all over the place. Nevertheless Marga loved him and he lay in his basket next to her chair. She stroked him absentmindedly and once in a while she would say “AU”, when he bit her. But he was with her until she died on 28th of January 2007 at the age of 93.

We tried to find a home for this dog (I forgot his name), but in the end the dog compound put him to sleep.

All dogs loved Marga and Marga certainly loved all dogs, even the last one.

dogs

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
Roger Caras

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Hermaphroditus and more dogs

I love cacti. Whole rows of terracotta pots stand in a sunny place in my garden. They are easy to propagate  and don’t demand much attention. A few years ago I got a little cutting from a friend and the result you see in the picture! My son and I called it our “Hermaphroditus”.    hermafrodites cactus
I can go into details and tell you the story from the Greek mythology about  Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite who had both male and female sex organs,  but the photographs speak for themselves.

Hermaphrodites

~~~

Dog:

So I worry.
Sleep with my ears up, not soundly.
When I’m not watching I’m greeting.
People are not grateful enough
for visitors. I am. I worry
about them not being grateful enough.
So I make up for it by howling
till they get up off the couch
to shake hands. Between the dangers
and the greetings I am simply exhausted.

Arthur Miller 
From  “Lola’s Lament”

In the fifties my parents had moved house to the centre of the Netherlands. Of course our cat Tommy came too and settled quickly in. Half a year later an acquaintance asked if we were interested in a boxer, remembering that my parents had a boxer before the war (see blog). Thus “George Washington” entered our life. George was a well brought up gentleman with clipped ears and tail and a little bit too short an upper lip. His teeth always peeped out.  His American diplomatic family had to return back to the States and I guess out of national feeling the boxer was called after the first president of the United States.

DOGS George Washington1

George Washington

One Sunday shortly after George came into our life; we all left to celebrate our grandfather’s birthday and the cat and dog were alone at home. When we returned, we found George sitting in the hall with the saddest expression on his face, whining softly. He had a cat nail on either side of his nose and was very upset, while Tommy acted as if nothing had happened. But we can imagine the fight that George definitely lost! From then on there was a kind of truce between them. Tommy made the kitchen his territory and slept on top of the central heating which kept him warm. Tommy died a few years later of kidney failure. Just before he passed away he hardly got off the central heating; the warmth kept him going.

George lived in the living room where his basket was and where he loved to roast in front of the fireplace in winter when a few blocks of wood kept us all warm.

There exists a wonderful story about George. Even if he was well brought up and behaved like a gentleman, he was a beggar. Marga used to let him out early in the morning and he went for a walk by himself. That was long before one had to keep dogs on a leash and pick up their business. He was well known in the neighbourhood and known as a friendly dog.                                                                                                           One morning when Marga looked out of the kitchen window, she saw George going to the back garden with two big sandwiches in his mouth. Marga followed him and saw him burying them on the compost heap. When we investigated later, there were quite a few decomposing sandwiches around. It was a mystery and we had no idea, where he found them.                                                                                                                                             One day when Marga went for a walk with George, a Salvation Army lady from the Orphanage near our house accosted her and said to her: “Are you the owner of this poor dog? He really does not get enough to eat. We give him every morning, when he comes to the kitchen door, two sandwiches.”                                                                                   Marga burst out laughing and told her that he was a first class beggar and hoped that they would stop giving him food!

George was an old dog. When Marga heard of a young boxer, she decided that that would be good company for George Washington.

Dogs Ecco 2

Ecco (2)

Now Ecco (number two) entered our household. (The first Ecco lived with Marga and Ted before the war) . This one was an energetic but lovable dog and very good friends with George. In later years they slept together in one basket. I believe it kept George comfortable and warm. He passed away in old age.

Dogs George Ecco 1

Ecco on top of George

Ecco sired a tub full of puppies with a wonderful boxer bitch. The owner, Gera, was a good friend of Marga’s and from this tubful we chose Alex. The father has always first choice.

DOGS Ecco puppies

Those two dogs loved to roll in stinky messes, jump into muddy ditches and run after rabbits. To take the dogs home afterwards, was a noxious and smelly business and they had a bath immediately.

Ecco gets a bath

Marga bathing Alex

Ecco and Alex both suffered from epilepsy and within a few years of each other they were given an injection by the Vet. They both died quite young.

Dogs M T Ecco Alex

Ted and Marga with Alex and Ecco.

In memory for all the boxers in the Strauss’ house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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„Au fines herbes“ and dogs in the family.

Two years ago we made a lovely trip in Ireland. In Cobh we found the ultimate of Irishness in the back of a courtyard. How the Irish love their pubs and how friendly and happy they are. After a good night out there she was in her bath of “au fines herbes” (with fine herbs). The whiskey bottle was empty alas, but she waved happily to us! She must have had a marvellous time with lots of booze and Irish songs the night before.

au fin herbes!

~~~

“A house is not a home until it has a dog”.

Gerald Durrell

There will be lots of pictures in this blog. This is the story of all the dogs in the family: From my mother’s side there seemed to be dogs forever. Her father grew up with dogs and in this early photo from about 1890, my grandfather Ernst Piel and his siblings are memorialised with a dog at their feet. The dog must have been loved, if he was allowed to be in the picture!

From r to l: Paul, Karl, Anna, Fritz and Ernst Piel
Paul, Karl, Anna, Fritz and Ernst Piel circa 1890

When Ernst married Grete Schlesinger they had a Dachshund, I don’t know the name, but here is a beautiful picture from 1912, when Grete was pregnant with Marga.

Grete Piel 1913 pregnant

A few years later this dog had apparently puppies! Marga carries two of them. She is here three or four years old.

 

Grete circa 1917 1

When they had moved from Germany to the Hague in the Netherlands, Ernst returned home from one of his business trips and brought a scotch terrier from Germany. That was Hexe (“Witch”). One year later he brought from the same kennel three more puppies, which the children promptly called Piff, Paff and Puff (bang, bang, Pow,pow) . If it had been 30 years later, perfect names would have been Snap, Crackle, Pop, but rice-crispies were not yet invented.                                                             Grete revolted: 4 dogs were too much for her. They sold Piff and Paff to acquaintances and for three years Puff fathered each year a nest full of puppies that were sold like hotcakes. Alas he was run over in 1934 and Ernst was terribly sad.

Evi, Ilse and Mia with Piff, Paff and Puff

Evi, Ilse, Mia with Piff Paff and Puff.

grete2

Marga with Hexe

There followed more Scotties over the years. Also during the war he had one. I have a vivid memory of being allowed to walk the dog on the square in front of his house.

me and scottie

Ernst’s last dog was Tinka, a brown Poodle, and most beloved and spoiled by my grandfather.

Tinka and Scot

Tinka

From the Strauss family I have a great picture of Ted just in front of his house, I am guessing that it must have been on a Sunday, as Ted is dressed quite elegantly. 

Teddy and dogs 1

Ted with dogs

Ted and Marga got married in December 1937. In spring 1938 they decided to have a dog. Ted loved dogs, so did Marga. They chose a young boxer and called him “Ecco”, which is a kind of expression in Italian of “so there” or “here” , but I am sure that my parents meant “here” or “come here!”,  remembering their Capri holiday. (see link).

( see link1) When I was born in October, it was a home delivery:  Ecco decided that I needed protection. He either sat next to the cradle, or when Marga put the basket with baby (me) in the back of the car, Ecco jumped in and would not let a soul look at me or touch me. He was innocence himself, but could produce a threatening grumble! Marga used to leave both of us in the car while she did her shopping. Nothing would happen with Ecco next to me. Nowadays she would have been put in prison for neglecting her child!

Diana and me1

Barbara 9 months, Ecco and my grandmother

Alas Ecco was run over in front of the house just before we moved to Zaandam in January 1940. All during the war we did not have a dog, which was a good thing, because during the last year of the war the dog would have died. There was no food and we all nearly starved.  We did have a cat! (See link 2). During the last months of the war we fished small fish from the ditch in the back of the house, so Tommy could also eat something. After the war many dogs were loved and cared for in our home.dog 1                                                                        To be continued

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Two times Cornelis Jacobus.

lmond trees in Moza

Spring is here. In this subtropical climate the almond tree is the first heralding spring in February. Yesterday when we drove to Jerusalem up in the Judean Hills, the almond trees were still in full bloom, covering the whole landscape as if a bride had spread her veil. The sun was shining and everything glowed and glimmered.

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my mini bulbfield

In my garden the bulbs are blossoming and my pride is my mini Dutch “bulb field”. Every year the snowdrops blossom … my joy and glory. They adapted themselves to our subtropical climate and probably are very happy not to have to push through the snow to announce that they are there. The narcissus and grape-hyacinths (blauwe druifjes) compete for space. A mini bulb field indeed. Next to it the wild cyclamen are competing for space. The lime started to blossom and perfumes the whole area with its overwhelming sweet smell. Spring is Glorious!

~~~

tante bettan + oom bob

Bob and Bettan

You have met Cornelis Jacobus, Bob for short, already many times in my blogs (Hongerwinter, December 1944 and Miracles and chutzpah). During the war he saved our lives. As he was harbourmaster of Zaandam and also vice mayor of our town he was able to lift all our files from the J register (Jewish citizens). The normal registration cards stayed intact; otherwise we would not get food coupons, which was vital during the war. This is one of the miracles that got us through the war. We did not wear a star in wartime.

Uncle Bob gave good advice and was always ready to help. He and his Swedish wife Bettan were my parents best friends during the terrible war years and remained so afterwards, when we moved from Zaandam. They often visited us.

One summer day my brother Michael got a present, a wonderful tortoise. Our dog and Tommie the cat tried, but couldn’t hurt him, because he retreated at once in his shell. As Bob and Bettan happened to be with us for a visit, somebody got the bright idea to call the tortoise Cornelis Jacobus in honour for uncle Bob. And Bob agreed at once. Whenever they came for a visit he always inquired about his namesake’s well being.

desert-turtoise

This tortoise was allowed to walk freely in the garden. He loved Marga’s herbaceous border. Soon all the succulents disappeared and we knew exactly were Cornelis Jacobus was, because of the bald spots in the flower patch. After a while he learned to react when we called him. The short one syllable BOB he recognized and would come trotting towards us. To make sure that he would not get lost, Michael painted his full name and our address with white paint on his shell.

I cannot remember how long he was with us. It must have been at least a few summers enjoying the Dutch climate. In winter he hibernated under a lot of leaves in a carton box in the pantry.

On a very mild, summery December day Bob woke up and became very active, so we took him outside to enjoy the sunshine, telling each other that we would keep an eye on him. Alas by sunset he had disappeared. Our frantic calling “Bob, Bob” did not have any results. That night it froze very severely and winter continued with snow and freezing temperatures. No Bob!

A year later… Marga had recruited all of us on a wonderful warm day in April or May to help clear up the herbaceous border.  Weeds were removed, holes were dug and what did my younger brother find, while digging in the ground? Bob’s shell!

shell of bobIt was completely hollowed out and clean, probably by an army of ants who had more than a year to do this. The beautiful transparent tortoiseshells or “scutes” started to fall off and over the years only the bony shell of “Cornelus Jacobus” remained and had pride of place in the curiosity cupboard of Michael together with corals and other skulls and skeletons.

It is rather confusing: The most obvious feature of any tortoise is the shell. This is the tortoises primary defense mechanism against would-be predators. The shell has remained almost unaltered by two hundred million years of evolution. The shell of the tortoise is covered by separate plates of keratin called scutes. (“The tortoise shell” used for jewellery and other objects).

Just recently Michael’s grandson became the proud owner of Bob.

tortoise-skelleton-

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True love

deaf-dogsDulci is deaf. I discovered it quite recently. She was trotting behind me at a very slow pace (she is never on the leash) and when I went around the corner, she did not follow me; she just continued and did not turn when I called her: very unusual. Poor dog, she is getting old, but as long as her appetite is enormous and  she still greets everybody who comes to visit with great abundance and happiness…. she thinks everybody comes to visit Her!…. We will pamper and love her as much as we can.

~~~

As this is Valentine month it will be a story about two lovers. But first some basic facts:

greenfinch-3

Green finch (Chloris chloris) is a small bird in the finch family Fringillidae. ( From khloros, “green”).

wild-canary5

Wild canary: The Atlantic canary (Serinus canaria) is known worldwide simply as wild canary. It is a small bird also belonging to the finch family, Fringillidae. It is native to the Canary islands (how original!).

domestic-canary

Domestic canary: The domesticated canary (Serinus canaria domestica) – descendants of the wild canaries, are most easily recognized by their bright yellow plumage, which was developed through selective breeding. The well-known typical yellow domestic canary goes back to the seventeenth century. Of course they are also belonging to the finch family, Fringillidae.

~~~

When I was ten, I got a canary in a cage for my birthday. I was not too keen about it, but my mother, Marga, was and she soon looked entirely after it. That was the beginning of a whole series of birds living in cages and later in a big aviary in our home. Marga loved it and the house was always filled with birdsong.

In the 50ies there was a canary living in the dining room and if it was a warm summer day the bird went outside on the terrace with table, cage and all, so that she could enjoy some sun and fresh air. She stood on her perch and gurgled, thrilled, warbled, whistled and sang enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air.

Now something happened. From a tree not too far away some wonderful birdsong was answering our canary’s song. It was a haunting, mystical, thrilling and enchanting call. Our canary was delighted and answered this bird in abundance, also with her thrilling and warbling.

Suddenly a little bird burst out of the greenery and sat on top of the cage. By this time Marga and anybody that was home, was fascinated. And we sat quietly in the dining room, watching this spectacle. Then Marga got sorry for our caged bird and said, that these lovers will be together and not separated by a family feud like the Montague and Capulet families who were sworn enemies who kept Romeo and Juliette apart, and she opened the cage.

Now something strange happened: our canary did not leave the cage!

She sat inside and the greenfinch sat on top: both of them singing their hearts out. This went on all afternoon. The sun set and suddenly the wild bird hopped down and entered the cage. It was evening and quite chilly, so Marga brought the cage inside and closed the door, because she was afraid, that the greenfinch would get hurt if he left the cage and flew around the room.

This story had to end in a tragedy. We should have known!

Next morning we found both birds dead on the bottom of the cage. We all shed a tear and that afternoon we had a great funeral. We put them lovingly together in a pretty box lined with soft cotton wool and buried them under our prettiest rosebush. They will be eternally together.

broken-heart1

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Of mice and man

Dulcinea , our dear dachshund is getting old. She is also not well and lies most of the day in her basket, tucked under her blanket. She dives under the blanket by herself. If the sofa is engulfed in sunshine and if it is a good day, she’ll jump up and toasts in that warmth. Climbing stairs is impossible, which is difficult in Haifa: the town is built on the Carmel Mountain and some roads end in stairs to be climbed to the next level. I have to carry her in my arms. But one thing she will not miss: she’ll be in the kitchen by 5 o’clock to get FOOD, does she pass the grandfather clock to see if it is already time? How does she know?

~~~

The first white mice were bred in China 1300 years BC and used by priests for their prophecies. Mice also lived beneath the altar in Delphi, Greece, and were fed in the holy of holies of the gods.

mouse5a

White mice were always bred through the centuries and it isn’t too long ago that every little boy owned white mice and so did Michael in the 1950ies. In a glass fish tank filled with sawdust roamed a few mice; my brother built some shelters for them. And Marga had to constantly remind him to clean the tank out. They were fed on titbits and greens. Dry store bought food did not exist. Mice are omnivorous; they’ll eat anything. They breed faster than rabbits and it was of course fun to see those tiny pink things grow into lovely white mice with red eyes.

M y brother turned out to be a most popular person when he took those mice to school to give away for free. But that market was soon saturated and the living conditions in the fish tank became rather overcrowded. The standard of living deteriorated. There even was cannibalism.  Finally Michael with help of Marga managed to keep it down to three lovely lively white females. They lived in the pantry next to the backdoor and were spoiled by Mike. For three months there was peace and harmony.

 Then one day Mike came excitedly from the pantry and told us that there was a happy occasion and one mouse had given birth to a lot of little babies. We all speculated. How could that be? Do mice have sex changes? Does that happen naturally after a community wants to procreate?

When those tiny little things started to grow there was a mystery. These little babies grew a fur in all colours! They had brown and black spots and were very pretty.

 In the meantime the other females were also breeding. One night, when Marga entered the dark pantry she saw something jumping out of the fish tank and scurry away, the mystery was solved. A wild mouse had a wonderful life: women, free food and services!!

mouse-6All Mike’s friends came to admire these strange and beautiful mice and we were giving them away as fast as we could. Word got around. One day the doorbell rang and there stood a most elegant gentleman on the doorstep in a three piece suit and introduced himself. He came from a research institute in Utrecht and he had heard that madam (we were in school) had very special mice. Was it possible that he could buy them?

“Buy them? You can have them all, you can have them gratis.” That was the end of our mice breeding and a very happy young man left for Utrecht.

mouse-7

A short codicil:

My title is in the singular, because only one elegant young man was involved.                          John Steinbeck took the title for “Of Mice and Men” from a sentence in Robert Burns’ poem: “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”. He wrote the poem in Scottish while standing in the middle of his field leaning on his plough and in the verse before last he said:

” The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, which means in proper English:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”, which is also true in this story!

mickey-mouse

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