Born again … but not saved

8 June 2015

While wandering through a very trendy and beautiful art and craft stop in Noosa (Australia) today, an English lady in her mid 70s remarked on a colourful painting of a cow as she walked past. She had the most amazing blue-gray eyes, was still very pretty and wore a lovely gray/silver pants and blouse.

After telling me I must be from Victoria because I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless blouse in June (locals consider it too cold to wear these), and nodding ‘no’ to my query as to whether she lived here, it somehow evolved into a full-on telling of her story.

Lucy (as she shall thus be known) married a very quiet man (Bill) but over the years, his conversation had reduced to a grunt. Consequently she said she was busting to talk to someone whose conversation extended beyond three words.

Bill and Lucy used to live in Noosa for many years and she loved it. Around 5 years ago, Bill loaned $100,000 of their wee nest egg to the son-in-law for a business venture. His big mistake was he did this without consulting Lucy.

Seems son-in-law promptly lost the lot, as well as his own home. Now daughter, son-in-law and their children rent in Brisbane, trying to recover from the huge financial loss.

With almost no nest egg to live on, Bill and Lucy had to sell their Noosa home and move back to England (guessing they could get a pension or some such financial positive there). They come back to Noosa for a few weeks each year or so to spend time with the grandchildren, whom she misses dreadfully. She feels huge resentment towards Bill for loaning the money without asking her … there’s apparently little chance they’ll get it back.

The story jumped around a lot from here. She was adopted but didn’t find out until she was 20. Her parents chose to tell her on the day she and Bill celebrated their engagement. “Supposed to be a happy day” she said, “but that put a dampener on it.” She remains puzzled as to why her parents never told her until that point. I was thinking “why pick a party to spill the news?”.

She loved her mother as she was a hard worker, but said her father was pure evil. He was a control freak and interfered with her when she was 11 or 12 years old. “I didn’t say anything to anyone because it was at a time when no-one would’ve believed me”. Later when she told Bill, she said he didn’t believe her either. He had the attitude of “just get over it”.

When Lucy was seven, her parents adopted another baby girl. She loved having a sister but found the 7 year gap was too much to be of any great value.

After Lucy married, she lived about an hour away from her parents and sister. One day a letter arrived (they didn’t have a phone, guessing this was the late 1950s) to say her mother had had a breakdown and was in a mental hospital (as they were called then). To this day, she remembers the trauma of trying to get out of work and find a way to get to the hospital as they didn’t have a car.

Seems the now 15 year old sister had accused her father of interfering with her, and sadly it was still at a time when children weren’t believed. When she told her mother, the situation blew up. Despite all this, the medical profession still didn’t believe the sister and her mother was distraught and failed to cope. Hence a trip to the mental institution.

When Lucy visited her Mum, the medical staff said not to believe anything her mother said (about the incest). “But she was as honest as the day” said Lucy, “so why wouldn’t I believe her”. When Lucy asked her sister why she hadn’t said anything earlier about what the father was doing, her sister said “he threatened me and even if I’d said something, no-one would’ve believed me anyway”.

Just to cap the story off, Lucy said her married life was difficult, doesn’t know how they’ve managed to last so long, and even now is surprised they’re still together. There was a few quick comments about her son being difficult but we didn’t go there at all.

So there goes our Lucy, trotting along in her 70s, feeling a piece of herself is missing. Along comes some random bloke who convinces her it’s God that is missing and yes indeed praise be to the ever mighty, she found that this indeed filled up the hole.

I can listen for hours to people with troubles, be empathetic and sympathetic, really feel for them, and dream up solutions if that’s what is needed. But the minute anyone mentions God, you’ve lost me. The brain says “uh oh, time to get out of here”. I’m a total non-religionist – once you’re dead, you’re dead; there’s no hell, there’s no heaven, no God, no miracles and no divine anything. In my humble opinion, you can be a truly good and moral person without having to follow a religion.

When I told Lucy this, her reply was “but you can never be perfect, that’s why you need God”. Asides from the fact I’m not remotely interested in being perfect, I also don’t know anyone religious who meets that criteria either. Everyone is basically the same – some good bits, some bad bits. One saying I like is “religion is the roof of all evil”. Every century, including this one, there have been people waging war and other evil acts in the name of religion. Listen to the current news … the saying still stands.

Lucy tells me she’s a born again Christian. Without wanting to denigrate her beliefs, I’ve always found born agains to be painful. For some reason, they have to push the God factor down your throat. And indeed, Lucy did exactly that. By the end of the chat, she decided I should find God or – shock horror – I wouldn’t find heaven. She seemed worried that I’m not in the least concerned about that.

Given all Lucy’s just told me, I’m thinking the hole in her soul isn’t any better at all with this finding of God. I suspect the born again Christian passion is a cover up which she hopes will make her feel whole. And that’s great, if indeed she did feel whole. But to me, she’s a very lost and hurting soul. You don’t tell some random person in an art shop your life story unless you have issues.

She said she’d love Bill to convert and can’t understand why he’s not interested. I can – poor Bill is probably going nuts listening to the religious stuff pouring forth, coupled with resentment over money, and not seeing improvements to his wife’s happiness factor.

With Greg patiently waiting outside, time to go. Lucy said she’d pray for me. Not sure what for because all is well in my world and has been for the last 20 years. But Lucy, I trust you can find what you’re looking for in whatever fashion works for you. Everyone deserves peace and happiness in their later years, and I hope you find that above all else.

Solving the puzzle of Ferdinand

February 2015

Sometime in September 2014, a feathered pheasant with a rather magnificent long tail and red facial feathers wandered into the reserve at the back of our home on Phillip Island.

He meandered up and down the reserve, calling out periodically with a double raucous sqwark – grarrrrrrrk grarrk (that’s about the closest I can get in English).  One thing’s for sure, he had a distinctive call.

For those who aren’t bird savvy, pheasants are not remotely native to the state of Victoria, let alone Australia.  They just plain don’t live here in the wild.  So to see one popping in and out of the bush … well, you know it’s not normal.

For a few months he kept everyone with properties backing onto the reserve highly entertained.  One neighbour left a bucket of water on the back fence for him (which the wallabies made good use of) and our pheasant ran joyfully along the fence line staying hydrated and cool.

A name …

Didn’t take long before we called him Ferdinand.  I thought it had great flair for such a distinctive and noisy bird.

Each weekend was spent listening for his calls and chasing him around with a camera.  He was pretty cadgey though.  You would see him scurrying about, but not long enough to get a great photo.

Closeup of Ferdinand
Fuzzy close-up of Ferdinand
And where?

The entire neighbourhood wondered from whence Ferdinand had come. Various theories were suggested and our best guess involved an escapee from a pheasant farm.  However, no-one was aware of such an enterprise anywhere on the island.

Moving forwards …

It’s now February 2015.  Ferdinand hasn’t been seen or heard for a few weeks, so we’re all missing his fleeting feathered personnage. He’s part of our lives, eagerly looked for, and his appearances were much anticipated by the all. He’s caused a lot of neighbourhood bonding to go on over the fences.

So we figured Ferdinand pheasant was either:

1.  dead from snakebite
2.  run over by a vehicle
3.  died from starvation (no clue as to what  pheasants eat)
4.  pined away from lack of a scrumptious female companion
5.  mauled or eaten by vicious dog
6.  found somewhere better to live

It’s now pushing towards mid February without any sign of Ferdinand.  We are all devastated.  Everyone’s listening out for him but it’s still suspiciously quiet.

Then on Saturday, a neighbour announces Ferdinand has been spotted drinking from the bucket.  We are delirious with happiness.  This is the best news since Gregoire the Magnificent unexpectedly announced he was nicking down to the supermarket to get a chocolate bavarian & cream for dessert.

Late afternoon I finally hear him call briefly but despite rushing out to look, he’s vanished into the bush.  At least we know he’s alive … a very good sign.

The mystery unfolds

Late afternoon, being a beautiful summer’s evening, we stroll around Silverleaves and turn down a very short dead-end street.

We’ve lived here for about 10 years and never walked down this street because it hardly seemed worthwhile. But today we spot a house and can’t work out where the driveway is.  Perhaps it’s off this dead end road?

Yes, it certainly is and what’s more, there’s a wide grassy path at the end used as an access road between the hobby farms and our reserve.  We’re quite thrilled – if there’s ever a fire in the area, it’s an excellent exit to escape.

Because anything new is such fun to explore, we walk down the grassy path and marvel at all the wildlife in the reserve.  Wallabies, rainbow lorikeets, purple swamp hens (called pukekos in New Zealand), wagtails, ducks variants, kookaburras, ravens, blackbirds, a few bazillion rabbits and even an orange bellied snake.  A horse languishes in a paddock, being kept company by a wallaby and two swamp hens sneaking drinks from his water trough.

On the right, above the fence of the first hobby farm, I see heaps of netting.  So I climb the fence and peek over.  And yeah, you guessed it.  Under the  netting are about a dozen pheasants – some female, some male.  Bingo.

Mystery unravelled

At last we know the location of Ferdinand’s real home.  While the netting is to stop the birds flying away, it obviously wasn’t good enough to hold in a gentleman  pheasant with the strength, charisma and talent of our feathered friend.

We also now understand why he’s not moving away too far away.  For all we know, he goes home at night and perches on the netting so he can see his girlfriends.  I’ve since discovered they squawk mostly during the breeding season. As we roll into late summer, the mating season is over and hence his lack of noise.

Puzzle solved.  Unless he’s caught, may we have many years ahead with our Ferdinand clackerting around the reserve providing endless entertainment.

Additional information on pheasants:

Burkes Backyard

  • Pheasants are very secretive birds and can easily be alarmed. They are generally not vocal but tend to squawk during the breeding season.
  • Pheasants are omnivorous, eating everything from fruit and vegetables, seeds, grains, roots, bulbs, leaves, insects, grasshoppers, slugs and snails to small lizards.

Wikipedia

  • Common pheasants are native to Asia, their original range extending from between the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan.
  • The birds are found in woodland, farmland, scrub, and wetlands. In its natural habitat, the common pheasant lives in grassland near water with small copses of trees.
  • Common pheasants can now be found across the globe due to their readiness to breed in captivity and the fact they can naturalise in many climates.