The joy of animals

I had a curious conversation this week (first aside of the blog - in fact, I tend to have many in most weeks, but whether that's just me or the two strange professions I pursue I leave to you to decide), which I thought worth musing about, as it's central to the tvdetective books and also the lives of many of us.

'tis this - the wisdom of animals. 

I'm not quite sure how the conversation started, but a friend was arguing that the most intelligent birds she knew were chickens.

How so? asked I.  Did you once come home to find one sitting on the sofa, in front of the fire, sipping whisky and doing The Times crossword? (This chicken isn't so smart, look - it hasn't got 12 across etc...)

No, her contention was the delight of the simplicity of their lives.  And from my observations of the birds in question, that's certainly true. Their entire existence appears to be taken up with (1) hopping around, letting out a squawk of joy every time they discovered a piece of corn (which happened a lot), and (2) sleeping. 

Personally, I favour geese, as there's a gang on the river here in Exeter of whom I've grown fond.  They recognise me to the extent they come running each time they see me, and are gentle and amusing whenever I feed them, taking the bread by hand and showing signs of being true English geese; that is, they queue politely for their turn for titbits.

Anyhow, we debated the matter (you may not believe it, but it really was a stimulating chat), until I pointed out that my favourite creatures are dogs.  Not because of their brains, but more to the point, the lack of them.  What I like about dogs is that they'll never leave you alone to be a fool.

If you're acting daft in front of a cat, it'll give you a look of pure and icy contempt.  But as for a dog... it will join in with your stupidity without a second thought, and often top it.

Which in turn brings us to my point (yes, I know that can take a while). As keen and thoughtful readers of the tvdetective books will know, Rutherford has, on at least a couple of occasions, been instrumental in solving the crime.

That's not to say he's climbed up on his haunches and whispered the answer into Dan's ear, appealing though the prospect may be. It's more that the joy of being outside somewhere with a dog, with time to think, and that wonderful sense of leaving the cares of the world behind, can free the mind in a way that allows the rare and elusive phenomenon called inspiration to edge in.

So, here's to Rutherford, and geese, and yes, if you must, to chickens, for being our kind companions on this wonderful planet, and such fine ones at that.

Lastly for this blog, a big thank you to all the folk of the University of the Third Age who came to my talk in Callington on Wednesday.  It was splendid to meet you, I very much enjoyed the morning, and you also make some of the finest tea I've enjoyed in my nomadic writing career.

And lastly lastly (promise), don't forget I'm doing a talk at the lovely Weymouth Library on Thursday evening.  If you fancy coming along, there are more details on the News and Events page -