Cover image for Fledgling days
Title:
Fledgling days
Author:
Ford, Emma.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, [1996]

©1996
Physical Description:
246 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780879519476
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library SK321 .F68 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Central Library SK321 .F68 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Falconry has been historically the sport of royalty and traditionally a pursuit of men. Emma Ford is neither royal nor a man, yet she is one of the most acclaimed falconers in the world today. Fledgling Days, her powerful memoir of life in the Kent countryside, where she learned from girlhood the art of falconry, is both a tale of personal discovery and a heart-warming and funny account of a country childhood.

Ford's was in many ways an idyllic childhood, living in the enclosed world of the Chilham Castle estate. When, at age eight, Emma encounters her first falcon, she is mesmerized. Soon she is given Wally, a Wahlburgs Eagle almost half her size, to train, and her fascination for birds of prey turns into a lifetime's passion. She learns the ancient skills of falconry and begins to make her own collection of hawks. Her reputation as a young falconer eventually spreads to the film community and as far as Sheik Zaid of Abu Dabi, one of the world's greatest falconers, who invites Emma to his country to share her techniques with him.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ford is an internationally known falconer, author of numerous books on falconry, and cofounder with her husband, Steve, of the British School of Falconry. This delightful book tells of her childhood and how she became interested in the sport and art of flying birds of prey after game animals. At age eight, Ford and her mother moved to a small village in Kent, and when she came face to face with a new neighbor's trained falcon, she was hooked. The neighbor allowed her to train an eagle, and from that point on she was a falconer. As she learned the skills of falconry and began her own collection of hawks, she also gathered dogs, cats, horses, and owls into her menagerie. Stories of the animals and their mishaps are enlivened by a cast of characters of a wonderfully eccentric nature--the owner of a local castle; a Lord whose clothes are always disheveled; Alex, a painter of fish; Max, the owner of a jousting troupe; and Steve, one of the jousting "knights," a fellow falconer who became Emma's husband. How Emma and Steve become internationally known falconers is a charming story and will be a very popular read. --Nancy Bent


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this captivating memoir, renowned falconer Ford recounts an idyllic childhood living in a small cottage at Chilham Castle Estate in Kent. Her next-door neighbor, the falconer for the estate, encouraged her obvious interest in the birds; by the age of eight, Ford had discovered her vocation. The first bird she trained was Wally, a Wahlburg eagle nearly half her size. Eventually, she learned to train all species of raptors and acquired birds of her own. Chilham Castle offered medieval banquets and jousting events during the summer months; one of the riders, Steve Ford, was also a falconer. By age 15, Emma had appeared in nature films and TV commercials, and her reputation as a falconer was widespread. She and Steve were invited by Sheikh Zaid to Abu Dhabi to share their views on falconry, a visit that inspired them to begin to teach. In 1982, Emma and Steve, now married, opened the British School of Falconry; in 1995, they launched an American branch in Manchester, Vt. In addition to the glorious birds, Emma's charming memoir is filled with other assorted beasts, plus a panoply of eccentric humans. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

An accomplished English falconer and expert on birds of prey, Ford has written what we can only hope is the first installment of her autobiography. Her story opens after her parents divorced, when Ford was eight years old. Separated from her father, brother, and beloved pet dogs, she became enchanted with birds of prey. She was introduced to falconry by a neighbor and from that moment on dedicated her life to the sport of kings. By the age of 18, Ford had written two books on birds of prey, found her life's partner in another falconer, and opened the first dedicated falconry school in the world. Her heart-warming book is recommended for all public libraries.ÄPeggie Partello, Keene State Coll. Lib., NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One A WISP OF BLACK wool nestled in the folds of a scarlet mohair shawl. Intrigued, I touched it tentatively with a finger and a tiny black snout emerged. Coal-black eyes regarded me briefly before the head was withdrawn into the cosy depths of the shawl. Disappointment welled up inside me. This wasn't a dog -- not a proper dog.     A month ago, my parents had announced their divorce and the world had crashed about my ears. At the age of eight, I was left with only the memories of our family home. Each night as I lay in bed, during those moments between wakefulness and sleep, I saw images of our big, rambling house, of playing with the St Bernard puppies in the garden and hugging my father on the stairs when he came home from the office just before bedtime. In the morning, I woke to the chilly reality of my new home -- a small cottage with three unheated bedrooms, on the outskirts of the village of Chilham in Kent.     My mother and I lived alone now. The only vestiges of our former life were my tabby cat, Lucy, six bald-headed tumbler pigeons and a handful of furniture which we had brought with us from Medlar House. My older brother Charlie was away at boarding school and my beloved St Bernard puppies had been sent back to their breeder. The infrequent occasions when I saw my father were now described as `access'. In the throes of all this upset and upheaval, I had been pinning my hopes on the promise of a puppy. It was a bitter blow to be presented with a poodle.     For as far back as I could remember, I had rescued sick and injured wildlife. My bedroom at Medlar House frequently resembled a cross between a small-animal practice and a children's zoo. Appreciating my passion for animals, my mother desperately hoped that the poodle she had bought for me would compensate for the loss of Porgy and Bess, the St Bernards, whom I missed terribly. However I could see no potential whatsoever in Bella, as she was later christened, as a future companion to accompany me in my rambles around the countryside. I couldn't even imagine her fetching a stick.     `We simply don't have the room for a big dog here,' my mother tried to explain. `Poodles are very intelligent and loyal. Give her a chance.'     On my return from school each evening over the next couple of weeks, I attempted to form some sort of attachment to Bella, but in those early days she spent most of her time sleeping in her basket, waking only to pick delicately at a bowl of freshly chopped ox-heart, or to shiver miserably in the garden when it was time for her to go out. She seemed totally devoid of the playfulness of the average puppy: even Lucy, who had played endlessly with Porgy and Bess, treated her with disdain.     I had inherited my love of animals from my mother. At the age of thirty-six, tall, slim, dark-haired and elegant, she had a manner which fluctuated between vague and anxious. In the aftermath of a fifteen-year marriage to my father, she had plenty of concerns of her own, yet she understood that more than anything else, animals would help me make the adjustment to our new life. In the evenings, she and I would sit with our supper in front of a roaring fire and she would tell me stories of the animals she had kept over the years since her own childhood.     All her dogs had been very badly behaved. The worst ever was a bull terrier called Buster, whom she had given to my father as a wedding present. Looking at pictures of Buster, as he leered evilly from the pages of the family photo album, bow-legged and four-square to the wind, it was easy to imagine him behaving atrociously.     My favourite photo showed Buster in the garden of Hillside, my parents' first home. Built of mellow brick, it was a three-storied house with a creeper-covered barn to one side and a sheltered walled garden at the rear, with wide herbaceous borders and a pond.     When she chose Buster, my mother was warned by the breeder that he was an unruly puppy, the worst behaved, most independent of the litter. Looking at him, though, she hadn't been able to resist him. He had long white stockings stretching up his front legs, brindle patches over both eyes and a brindle body with a small white tip to his tail. His ears flopped over at the corners, creating an impression of puppyish innocence belied only by his smug grin. It was love at first sight and my mother took him home with a large red bow knotted around his neck.     Installed in a warm basket next door to the stove in the large, flag-stoned kitchen at Hillside, Buster settled in straight away. At this stage he was too small to climb the big steps which led up to the back door, but he rambled cheerfully round the kitchen, mouthing the legs of the old wooden table and shaking his blanket in a display of mock viciousness. My father was enchanted with him.     As Buster grew, so his capacity to cause trouble grew with him. He learned to use his paws to open all the internal doors, which had no locks, and this gave him unchaperoned access to the entire house. He chewed indiscriminately: clothes, shoes, furniture and curtains all fell victim to his strong jaws. Even in the garden he managed to seek out trouble. Eyeing up washing on the clothes -- line from a distance, he would back off into the furthest flower bed. Then, emerging from the foliage like an express train, he would charge down the garden and take a flying leap at the clothes on the line. Latching on to a garment, he would swing by his teeth, his jaws set in a grotesque grin of pleasure, until he could hold on no longer. As his teeth developed, he was also able to chew the bottoms off the clothes and would go down the line like a circular saw, decimating garment after garment.     One morning my mother saw him flash past the large drawing-room window completely shrouded in a lacy pink négligé. The négligé had been her first wedding anniversary present from my father and she was livid to see Buster parading around the garden with it, towing it through the mud. She rushed outside and gave chase. She pursued him for twenty minutes before she managed to retrieve it, tattered and filthy.     Over the years, although they both doted on him, my parents were forced to admit that the breeder had been right, Buster really was a handful. When scolded, he would slink into the back of an armchair and put his head backwards through his front paws, kicking his hind legs straight up the back of the chair, so that his tummy was facing outwards. He would then roll his eyes in opposite directions. My mother said the effect was so comical that they simply couldn't stay cross with him for long.     Buster was lethal with cats and with other dogs but, with a few exceptions, he loved people and welcomed visitors to the house with enthusiasm. One morning he was outside sunning himself in the garden, lying with his back legs stretched straight out behind him, when he saw guests arrive in the drawing-room. Eager to introduce himself, he raced down the garden, leaped into the air and crashed straight through the drawing-room window in a shower of glass. Incredibly, he suffered only a single tiny cut on the end of his nose.     There was the odd person he didn't like. A state of mutual antipathy existed between Buster and my mother's plump daily woman, Mrs Branch. She arrived each day around noon, puffing up the hill on her old Raleigh bicycle. Buster greeted her with much barking and bluster and she wheeled her bicycle straight at him, cursing and forcing a passage to the kitchen door.     Once she was in the house, Buster would change tactics. He followed her around, watching her every move. When he got too close, she would flick her duster at him, which he hated. While she washed the kitchen floor, he disappeared into the garden, invariably returning just as she had finished, his paws covered in mud. As she completed cleaning each room, he galloped around it, raising dust and scattering books and papers in his wake.     `Its that dawg or me!' Mrs Branch threatened, in her broad Kentish accent.     My mother defended him stoutly, but it wasn't only Mrs Branch who disliked Buster. My great-aunt Pauline used to refer to him as `that damn dog'. She visited rarely, but when she did, she was woundingly critical of the household in general and of Buster in particular.     On her first visit to Hillside, Aunt Pauline inspected the whole house and was scathing about the quality of the furniture, the majority of which my mother had picked up in local auctions. The only item which she admired was a petit point foot-stool. One day, in the hopes that she would find less to criticize in the countryside, my mother decided to take her out for a picnic. To keep the peace, Buster was left behind in the kitchen.     On their return several hours later, my mother, knowing that Buster normally saved his most spectacular party-pieces for the people who disapproved of him most, entered the house nervously. They went into the drawing-room to find it covered in straw. In the centre of the room lay Buster, grinning manically, with the last vestiges of shredded petit point dangling damply from his jaws.     Nothing was sacred. Just when they thought that he couldn't possibly dream up anything new, Buster came up with another stunt. As my mother arrived home from shopping one day, he greeted her at the gate. She only had to look at his face to know that this time, he had done something really wicked. He was grinning from ear to ear.     She had been out all morning. It was a hot day and the back door had been left open so that Buster could either sun himself in the garden, or seek shade in the cool of the kitchen. In her absence, Buster had become bored. Roaming around the garden, he discovered a hose pipe, which had been left running into the fish pond. He plucked the hose out of the pond and with his teeth he pulled it across the garden towards the house.     By tugging the hose, without a single kink, Buster managed to pull it round three corners and tuck the last couple of inches over the lip of the kitchen door, allowing the water to cascade down the steps into the kitchen. My mother arrived at the back door and gazed in horror at the foot or so of water which was by then lapping the second step. Buster launched himself cheerfully into the middle of it, splashing about and wagging his tail vigorously. At that moment Mrs Branch arrived and peered over my mother's shoulder.     `That dawg's a bleeding menace!' she announced sourly.     For once, my mother had been forced to agree with her. As memories of Medlar House faded to a series of disparate snapshots, my days at Chilham began to fall into a routine. In the mornings, my mother drove me to school in nearby Ashford. After she picked me up at the end of the day, I used to rush through my homework and head outdoors to explore.     Endowed with a picture-postcard charm, Chilham sat astride a hill, with a square at the apex and four roads, one from each corner, sloping gently downwards, clustered with attractive houses and terraced cottages. The main gates leading to Chilham Castle stood at one end of the square, flanked by their gate houses, and opposite them lay the parish church and the White Horse pub. In the square, where residents jostled for parking space with the summer influx of sightseers and day-trippers, there were a couple of antique shops and the Copper Kettle tearooms. Two old fashioned butchers, the village shop, a tiny post office and Baldock's the garage made up the remainder of the village.     Our cottage, Carpenters, nestled at the foot of the hill. Half-timbered like the majority of the village, it had taken its name from the estate carpenter, by whom it had originally been built. Inside, it smelled of polish and old oak. It featured some beautiful wood, including an oak staircase and a little gallery with a window seat that overlooked the castle stable block and paddocks beyond. Outside, it was surrounded by a fine old-fashioned cottage garden, with borders which became a blaze of colour in the spring and summer months. A small rockery sprouted wild strawberries and a large bed of richly scented catmint, which was flattened regularly by Lucy, who rolled in it luxuriously when it was in flower.     The garden housed a small brick potting-shed, with a dovecote in the roof. A stone wall ran from this shed down one side of the garden. On the opposite side, a wooden fence divided us from the grounds of a large empty house and the old estate sawmills. A short distance away there was another unoccupied farmhouse. The three houses stood alone, backing on to the castle estate and screened from the road by the village hall, a rambling Elizabethan building which came alive at weekends, when it hosted a variety of activities ranging from scout camps to church youth club discos.     The sawmills on the edge of the estate were partially derelict. Each evening I disappeared into these old buildings to explore, with Lucy trotting behind, tail erect and whiskers bristling with curiosity. There were no other children of my own age to play with, but I was happy in my own company, climbing over fallen rafters and picking my way through broken glass. A section of roof had collapsed and from this Kent peg tiles spilled on to the ground in untidy heaps. In the areas under cover, the earth had a strange texture, it was soft, dry and fine, like grey flour. In damp areas, mushrooms and toadstools thrived: red, spotty ones, cone-shaped ones with blue-black shaggy edges and huge puffballs, which, when dried out, collapsed when I stamped on them, in an explosion of brilliant yellow smoke.     Fireweed, with its shocking pink flower, covered most of the site and a profusion of wildlife inhabited the nooks and crannies. Feral cats, which had left behind a life of domesticity in the village, stalked the ruins. When we encountered one, rather to my disappointment, Lucy showed no signs of wanting to make its acquaintance. Instead, she turned up her little pink nose and ignored it; but, I noticed, she stuck close by my side until it had made itself scarce. By turning over tiles and rooting through the debris I unearthed frogs, toads and slow worms, which Lucy variously batted with a paw or hissed at. I returned from these adventures dirty but happy, with a handful of wild flowers or some dodgy-looking mushrooms, which were relegated to the bin.     As Bella grew, I began to realize that my initial thoughts about her had been unjust. She was a game little dog who, contrary to my early fears, accompanied me enthusiastically on my outdoor adventures. When I cycled, she travelled in my bicycle basket, front paws propped on the lip of the basket and ears trailing back in the wind. She was obedient and I trained her to a reasonable standard. To my surprise, she could jump like a stag and was soon able to clear the three-and-a-half-foot garden wall with inches to spare. She chased every cat in the district with the exception of Lucy and a huge black tomcat which lived in the sawmills. This victim refused to run, despite Bella's best efforts to the contrary. As she tore up to it, the cat merely sat and looked at her and she was forced to screech to a halt in front of it. There was a brief moment of Mexican stand-off, before Bella sloped ignominiously away. When bad weather prevented Bella and me from venturing outside, I occupied my time by building a course of `jumps' indoors, blocking every doorway with a fireguard, a deck chair on its side or some similar barrier. The construction completed, I tore through the cottage hurdling the jumps with Bella keeping pace at my heels.     During Bella's first six months in the household, Lucy had a litter of kittens. A box was arranged for her in the bathroom, next to the airing-cupboard. Although she was still a puppy herself, Bella took a curiously maternal interest in the kittens. She spent hours on her hind legs, her front paws propped on the edge of the box, peering in at Lucy and her family. In due course, she started to chew the cardboard, and in a few days had managed to eat away the front of the box so that she could stand on all four paws and rest her chin on the chewed edge.     Like all mothers, Lucy periodically needed a break from her charges. Rising to her feet and stretching, she left the box and strolled downstairs to spend an indulgent five minutes on her own. On her return, she was not at all happy to find Bella inside the box, curled up with the kittens. Bella was ejected unceremoniously and, with a small red cut on the end of her nose, she resumed her vigil at the edge of the box.     The next time Lucy left the box, she returned to find one of her kittens missing. Bella had picked it up gently in her mouth and made off with it on to the landing, where she lay, cradling the kitten between her front paws, clearly entranced with it. Not wishing to be on the receiving end of another swipe from Lucy's claws, she backed off as Lucy approached to retrieve the kitten. Thereafter kitten-napping became Bella's chief occupation and the long-suffering Lucy would constantly have to follow her around the house in order to recover her family.     On a wet afternoon in May, two months after we had arrived at Carpenters, I walked home from the bus, which dropped me off from school on the far side of the village square. My mother had gone to visit my aunt in Suffolk the previous day and was due home that evening. I had spent the intervening night with a school friend. Recently, I had taken the bus to and from school quite often, as our ancient Morris Minor was becoming increasingly unreliable. In an attempt to encourage it to start in the mornings, my mother ran a cable with a sixty-watt light bulb out of the dining-room window, across the garden and under the bonnet. This Heath Robinson contraption was switched on every night, in the hope that it would provide the warmth necessary to encourage the engine to fire up the next morning.     It was through this curious device that my mother had come to exchange her first words with Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who owned Chilham Castle and the surrounding estate. We had already heard quite a lot about him, apparently he was the most titled peer in Britain. He was widely known as `Lord Masserati and Fast Car' due to the fact that he had raced at Le Mans in 1937.     We had been eagerly awaiting our first sighting of him and our patience was rewarded when he passed by Carpenters late one afternoon and stopped to look at the Morris with its trailing cable.     `Are you afraid it's going to run away?' he called across the wall to my mother, who was gardening, hindered by me and Bella.     We were more amused by his appearance than his sense of humour. He was the archetypal personification of the British aristocracy, tall, thin and distinguished-looking, but slightly dishevelled. He sported a pair of cavalry twill jodhpurs with a split in the knee, and a shapeless tweed jacket covered in dog hair. Sticking to his chin there was a smidgen of bloodstained loo paper. In the years which followed, we came to realize that although its precise position varied, this adornment more or less amounted to a permanent fixture. Barra, his overweight yellow labrador, walked at heel. Lord Massereene rarely started or finished a sentence, instead he had an annoying habit of delivering the middle part whilst staring vacantly into the distance, so you were never quite certain if he was talking to you or addressing somebody who had appeared behind you.     I was thinking about Lord Massereene as I hurried through the rain that evening. I wanted to get his permission to bird-watch on the estate and to look for badgers. So far, my knowledge of Chilham and its environs was limited to the space between home turf and the bus stop at the far side of the village. I was anxious to expand my horizons. The castle estate beckoned, but I didn't know how to approach Lord Massereene to gain his permission. To my disappointment, my association with Chilham's wildlife to date had been limited to the inhabitants of the sawmills and so far nothing sick or injured had required my ministrations.     It was ironic, therefore, that I should arrive home that evening to find a large cardboard box, liberally punctured with air holes, waiting for me on the kitchen table. Cautiously, I lifted the lid and peered inside. A pair of huge, liquid eyes, fringed with eyelashes which would have done justice to a supermodel, peered up at me. The owner of the eyes snapped its beak several times in quick succession. With delight, I recognized it as a young tawny owl.     Whilst my mother was in Suffolk, a tree adjacent to my aunt's garden, containing a tawny owl nest hole, had been felled. My mother had rescued the diminutive owlet and brought it home for me. We dubbed him `Whitney', after his home village of Whitnesham. He could only have been a couple of weeks old. He amounted to no more than a tiny ball of thistledown, armed with two sets of needle-sharp talons, which peeked from beneath his fluffy bloomers.     We quickly discovered that Whitney's innocent appearance belied an enormous capacity for causing trouble. He couldn't stay loose in the house while I was at school, so with amateurish carpentry skills, we turned a rustic children's playhouse, left behind in the garden by the previous occupants of Carpenters, into suitable quarters for a small owl. With mesh over the window and the top half of the stable door and a couple of perches, it kept him out of harm's way until I returned from school and brought him into the kitchen.     Each evening as I attempted to do my homework, Whitney would explore his new surroundings with a glint of mischief in his seductive brown eyes. He was not yet able to fly, but he could shin up the curtains, using a combination of beak and talons. Once he reached the worktops he stood, head swaying from side to side, until he focused on some object which he deemed worthy of closer inspection. Stalking the object, he would pounce on it with glee. Whatever it was -- some item of cutlery or a kitchen utensil -- would inevitably crash to the ground.     When Whitney got bored with this game, he came over to where I was working and tugged at my hair with his beak, clambering up my arm and on to my shoulder. From this vantage point, he peered short-sightedly at my homework, before leaping off into the middle of my books, leaving little shards of feather sheath and fluff in his wake.     Shortly after Whitney's arrival, I was unwise enough to leave him alone in the kitchen for a short time. In my absence, he came across a bag of mushrooms. I was only gone for about five minutes, but when I came back I found Whitney with his head inside the brown paper bag. He had eaten at least half the contents.     I was horrified. Tawny owls are purely meat eaters and I was sure that consuming a quarter of a pound of mushrooms would do him no good at all. I called my mother, who was equally aghast and we decided that we needed to rid his system of the mushrooms as rapidly as possible. We wrapped him, protesting loudly, in a tea towel and with the aid of an eye dropper, syringed a healthy dose of liquid paraffin down his throat.     That night, we decided that Whitney had better stay indoors. We carefully cleared away anything remotely breakable in the kitchen and retired to bed, knowing that we could do no more for him. In bed, I tossed and turned uneasily. It was suspiciously quiet downstairs -- no crashes or bangs -- and I began to fear that the mushrooms had been his undoing and that I would find him dead in the morning.     In the small hours, I could stand it no longer. I crept downstairs and peered anxiously round the kitchen door. It was still too dark to see clearly, but I was instantly struck by a revolting smell. I switched on the light and was relieved to see Whitney, rudely awakened from a doze, with one eye half open, perched on a pelmet.     Delight at finding Whitney alive was tempered with horror at the carnage which surrounded him. The entire kitchen and every appliance therein was plastered in owl droppings. Smelly at the best of times, these droppings, laced with large quantities of partially digested mushrooms and expelled forcibly with the aid of liquid paraffin, plumbed new depths of vileness. Everywhere -- the curtains, the cooker, even the radio -- was decorated with a slimy, foul-smelling little pile. Recoiling in horror, I turned off the light and crept back to bed where I remained until I was awakened to my mother's grief at the state of her kitchen and the singularly unpleasant task of cleaning up the mess before school.     I had a few friends at Ashford School whom I saw at weekends and occasionally during weekday evenings, but I didn't have a particularly close friend in whom I confided. Tall for my age, and quiet, like my mother, I worked hard at my studies, but lived for the evenings and weekends when I was reunited with my small menagerie. All of my school essays were about Whitney, Bella and Lucy, regardless of the subject set, and as word got around that I had an unusual pet, I received a request from a family of four girls who lived locally, asking if they could come and see Whitney one evening after school. Our mothers duly spoke on the telephone and arranged for the girls to come to tea the following day.     Thrilled to have a chance to show Whitney off, I waited impatiently for school to end that day. The girls' mother collected us from school and in the car on the way home, I told them all about Whitney, promising that they could stroke him and even try to hold him, if he'd sit still. Arriving home, I collected my glove, ran down the garden with the four girls following behind, and picked Whitney up from his perch in the playhouse.     To my amazement and disgust, they were frightened of him. Even Jane, the eldest, who was eleven and rather superior, didn't want to hold him. I simply could not understand why they were so nervous. Whitney gave them the benefit of his full repertoire, weaving and bobbing his head and walking crab-like up my arm and on to my shoulder, but they didn't even want to stroke him.     `He won't bite,' I told them. `Look, he's really sweet.'     `He might have fleas,' Jane warned the others, hanging back.     I was deeply insulted. To my mother's annoyance, I lapsed into silence over tea, while they stuffed themselves with jam scones and chocolate biscuits. When they left, I got into terrible trouble for being rude. I decided I didn't want anyone else to see Whitney. In future, I vowed to keep my friends separate from my animals.     I was still smarting from this incident when, a week later, a removal van arrived at the farmhouse next door and the old house suddenly became a hive of activity. Burning with curiosity, I crept through the undergrowth and peered cautiously over the wall. To my astonishment, I came eyeball to eyeball with a falcon. Copyright © 1996 Emma Ford. All rights reserved.

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