melting and menageries

The Belfry is hot. So hot that I bought one of those vertical office fans in hopes of cooling down. It certainly moves the warm air around but I don't think it's actually lowering the temperature. Still, better the air to move than stagnate.

Nothing much stagnates around here at the moment. The garden is running wild, for instance, nearly cutting me off from the main house. The gardener 's been away due to roadworks. Thames Water replace the water mains, leading to a sort of barricade in front of the house, denying access to gardeners and the council recycling people. Why the rubbish men can get to the house and the recycling men can't is a mystery.

I nearly mowed the lawn today. I decided against it because the barricaded gardener is attempting his return tomorrow and he is a man of habit and protocol. He's expecting to mow the lawn. It was also too hot to mow the lawn.

The local food chain thrives on the heat. The Mall has quite a menagerie these days, an ecclectic mix of the domesticated, the undomesticated and those in the middle that humour their 'owners', the latter being the cats of the neighbourhood. We have no pets ourselves, but in my mind I adopt various cats who earn my admiration. The front steps have become disputed turf. The cats and the foxes each put their flag up (in their own way) and wait for the other side to challenge them. There's a blue cat, formerly quite a lithe and elegant beast, now somewhat battle scarred and uneven in the ears. He - or she, I haven't asked - watches the steps in the afternoon and early evening when he's relieved by a black and white tabby. The latter makes the journey from a house on the other side of the motorway - there are fewer foxes to fight over there. It's hard to gauge victory but I like to think the cats give the foxes a good kicking. I recently noted a young and vigorous marmelade cat with an adventurous nature examining his territory further to the west. There'll be nicks in his ears in no time, as no feline seems to go unscathed in these parts. The dogs have it lucky.

There are other signs pointing to the decline of the urban fox, or at least its relegation to a lower division. We have seven swans on our corner of the river - meaning that all of our local couple's cygnets have survived to maturity. This hasn't happened for quite awhile and the family's drawing quite a bit attention from passers by, none of whom seem to realise just how bloody vicious they can be. Just because they belong to the queen doesn't make them pets. In the past the foxes used to get a few cygnets, sometimes all of them. I'm guessing the thriving family this year points to particularly protective parents. Or maybe the cats have battered the foxes too much. It's odd to think of a vigilant feline population helping out the swans but stranger things have happened.

Yesterday I drove to Hertfordshire to watch my mate play polo. Picnic, sun, beer, Bentleys and horses - far more gentrified than Dundee and Perth Polo Club. I found myself missing the ramshackle blue clubhouse and precarious seating. I don't pretend to understand too much about the sport or the horses but it's fun to watch and there's a bit of social anthropology to enjoy as well. The haves, the have-mores, the have-but-still-not-that-cool, the wannabes, the Argentinian grooms who all look as though their having a joke at everyone else's expense, the friends who really are the only cool people there - it's as much a menagerie as the riverside, really. No cats to adopt though.