The start of the hostilities can be traced back to an absence of shade on our terrace. Miriam was determined that we should have shade and that it should be of the natural sort, provided by the leaves and branches of a tree.
Accordingly, she set about acquiring a leopard tree, commonly so called because their spreading horizontal branches provide good places for leopards to relax while keeping watch over their domain. Sadly, we have no leopards, but we discovered that there are others who feel at home in that sort of tree.
Our tree grew fast. After just a few years it was already providing a pleasant shady corner on the terrace. Miriam decided to place a table in the shady spot. It was a fine place to have breakfast. We truly enjoyed our leopard tree, until someone else moved in. He was small, bright yellow and he wove the most beautiful, intricate nests.
The broad, spreading branches of leopard trees are no doubt good places for leopards, if you have any. They are also wonderful for weavers who build their nests on the very end of the tree’s long, flexible branches. The entrance is always on the side away from the tree, making the eggs or nestlings safe from snakes and other predators.
Our weaver chose to position his first nest directly over the centre of our table. At this point I need to digress. Miriam is a great lover of birds. For some years she ran her own care centre for wild life, mostly birds. One summer she released over a hundred young birds who had fallen from nests or suffered other disasters. It took a lot of effort to feed and raise so many birds of ten or twenty different species. She did it willingly, happily even.
She was glad to see the weaver settle so close. “But not in the centre of our table,” she said. “His hen and her chickens are all going to drop their poo-poos right in the centre of our breakfast corner. We have hundreds of trees. He can choose one of the others. I’m sorry, but the nest will have to come down. And we’ll do it now before there are eggs.”
I am the tall one, so it fell to me to take down the nest. In cowardly fashion, I waited until the weaver was away, conducting business somewhere else, before I broke off the twig that held the nest. He returned soon afterwards, looked with some puzzlement at the place where his beautifully crafted nest had hung, and did what we least expected – he started weaving a new nest. And again he chose a spot that overhung the table and, again, in typical weaver fashioned, he fashioned a beautiful nest.
“He can go to hell,” Miriam said. “He may imagine himself to be persistent but so am I.”
So I took down the new nest, and third, and the fourth. “Were not making progress,” I said wisely.
“We have to prevent him from starting,” Miriam said.
“Are we going to sit under the tree all day, chasing him when he gets close?”
“No,” she said. “We’ll use traditional methods, scarecrows.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.
“Not at all. We’ll use helium filled balloons. They’re brightly coloured and will bob around in the wind. That will chase him off.”
Well, our tree got to look festive, rather than frightening. And on the first hot day, balloons started popping. On the second hot day the few that had survived so far popped too.
We went over to tinsel strips that danced in the wind better than the balloons had, and other Christmassy colourful items. And, in between, I removed more nests.
And suddenly it ended. He decided that our leopard tree was, after all, not a neighbourhood in which he wanted his kids to grow up, picked a tree on the other side of the house, far from our breakfast table, wove seven nests, and installed his harem. He left us with a leopard tree that looked as if it had been decorated in a drunken Christmas Eve party, a very drunken party.
We no longer use the side of the house where he has his nests. If we do venture in that direction, he screams loudly at us and makes the occasional pecking dive, ensuring that we realise we are not welcome in his territory.