Written Material

Written Material submitted by contributors.

The Fly Locker


This year was the first time my family went back, as grown-ups, to revisit the island where we spent most of our summer vacations, twenty-five years or so ago. My sister and her husband had a baby the previous year, and in order to celebrate the fact that the family growth was now secured, our parents decided to rent a house in the rural part of the island. The north part is famous for its child friendly beaches, its many caravans- and camping places, youth binging and other festivities. Where we stayed though, there were less, or no tourists. There were mostly farmers, summer residents and ornithologists living there. On occasion a German caravan passed by, gone astray on its moose-spotting hunt.

However, renting a house during the hottest week of the summer next to a barn within reach of heaps of manure, was not part of the layout for the trip down memory lane. Everywhere there were flies, flies, flies. My dad put forth the game plan. He struck them one by one, with precision. Then he scratched his back with the swatter. The toddler was eating dead flies off the floor while my dad, my sister and I hunted and smacked flies by the numbers. For every fly we killed, two more entered the kitchen area from some kind of airshaft or hole we could not locate. We had to keep all windows and doors closed at all hours, day and night, in 35 degrees Celsius. I am usually all for giving, and to a certain degree sharing space with non-human animals, but even myself turned into a veritable murder machine in this situation. We all (or at least some of us) laughed and said this is going to be the perfect holiday, in retrospective. In the end, my dad performed his game-plan outside as well, during the evening barbecues. Mysteriously, the only thing the flies did not care for was the Gato Negro bag-in box.
It turned out to be a very liquidious and buoyant week.




Who’s to say who’s allowed? This dog—every dog—loves the beach. She runs to it, gets her claws into it, furiously digging, digging, she wallows, rolls, snorts, rolls, jumps up running for the waves, swims, then hits the sand running again. The routine might be broken by joyful barks, but otherwise it’s always the same.

The time of year doesn’t matter to her. She can be scorching her pads on the sand, or dodging ice floes. It’s the beach! And we’re never alone. People surf-fish around the bathers all summer long. In migration seasons, birds and birdwatchers flock here in droves. Winter brings the seals up the estuary, fishing in the warmer river waters, and deer leave tracks in the sand. But, for this dog, it’s only ever better when other dogs are there with her.

So the signs make no sense. “Dogs not allowed,” they say, during the summer months. That’s when the otherwise empty houses fill up again in this dying—well, no, dead—mill city. That’s when the year-rounders, so many children and grandchildren of Acadians who came to work in the now-defunct mills of The City that Rises Where the River Falls, mothball their Canadian heritage. For one season a year, they suspend that nation’s principle of communal coastal property, otherwise so gloriously extended to us across the Maine shores.

This dog is a Labradoodle. Half poodle, half Labrador retriever, like most of the locals she too could claim French-Canadian roots. Either way, I’d like to see this dog like me as “from away,” as they say here of everyone not born of Mainers. I’d like to think she shares my suspicion of their shifting notions of what’s allowed. Worse, I’ve fast-talked and fast-walked her around the law for too long to stop now. On the beach, we see no fences, no markers, so we just keep going.

We elude the fish police, who issue tickets and use live—well, no, dead—animal tests for toxic algae to determine whether to close the beaches to shell-fishing. Finding high counts of e. coli bacteria, sometimes they also close them to swimmers. But this dog and I are not part of the problem. Steering clear of the beach-house owners, I’m careful to carry poo-bags to demonstrate at a distance that there’s no need to worry about our zoonoses, our shared microbial life, not from this dog. I wonder whether they think about how the city’s wastewater overflows with each heavy rain, then heads directly downstream to mingle with their own septic-system runoff on the beach and out to sea.

Undaunted, today this dog and I cooled our heels by walking the sandbars that the tides are always shifting between river and ocean. I thought about how ten-thousand-year-old burial evidence locates human-dog cohabitation as a constant across so many continents, and what might remain of these shared histories in the six-thousand-year-old firepits unearthed now and then here, where we walk. Heading back up the path later, we met a young fox, skinny and with no brush to speak of yet, who stared back at her, clearly recognizing a sister canid. Who’s to say who’s allowed?

Susan McHugh

choppy urban living


One afternoon I began to hear loud howls of pain from a yard at the back of my house which I cannot see into. On investigation I discovered that my neighbours were housing a rescued, abused dog there awaiting the RSCPA. After a couple of hours of this nerve shattering noise from which there was no escape, I looked out of my front windows to see the abbattoir truck making its delivery to the butchers shop across the road. On the back of the truck were row after row of wheelie bins crammed full with frozen joints of meat. I just couldn’t make any sense of how those two sets of values are reconciled; for me they never could be…




When we were little my sister and I used to go camping to the south of France in a big wood on the edge of a lake. One year we found 2 enormous snails which we decided to keep as pets. My dad told us that french people love to eat snails so we put them in our tent to keep them safe. We used colouring pencils to decorate the shells so that we could tell them apart. One was pink (obviously the girl snail) and one was blue (the boy), imaginatively called ‘pinky’ and ‘bluey’. We took care of them and protected them from the french farmer for 2 whole weeks before we had to leave them behind. (apparently you cant take snails through quarantine ). I wonder how long they lived for?


a crow too close


I have a fascinations with Magpies. I like Ravens too. Now I find myself in Vancouver B.C. were they have neither although a large number of Crows. Now I study Crows to see if there is familiy resemblance. On sunny days I sit by the beach and whatch them get sea shells from the ocean. To get them open they jump up in the air and drop them onto rocks. This usually take a few try´s but they manage. The Seagulls whatch them in awe but to not pick up on the method. Once the Crow is done with a shell the Seagull follows to check for leftovers.


a crow too close (pt 2)


Once on the beach in Vancouver as I sat on my blanket reading, a Crow came very close to me. It stood next to me ca. 1 foot away and looked at me sideways like Crows do. I wanted to put my hand out to see if I could touch it but didnt dare.


a cat encounter


This story happened some years back
I want to tell you about a cat. His name was Primus. He was black but had 1 white patch of hair on his chest. Like he had chest hair. He belonged to my neighbour. We fought once. We had a birds nest in a tree outside our bedroom window and when the 4 eggs hatched Primus discovered where his next meals would come from. During the light Icelandic summer nights he stalked the nest and one by one picked off the new life in the making there. Night after night I woke up to the cries of the parents when Primus had his paws on their offspring and our war was fought. When there was only one chick left in the nest I caught the cat as he was trying to snatch it and with a large swing I flung it over our greenhouse and into the next garden. He didn´t bother the birds for the remainder of the night. The next morning the bird took the chick and made it fly and my husband took the tree away with a saw. I didn´t see Primus for a very long time after that.

Some time later I met him in my garden. I meowed, he meowed back. I went inside my house and started working in the kitchen. He followed. Carefully he examined my kitchen and living room. I gave him few shrimps that I defrosted under the warm water from the sink. He ate them and left. Since then he came regularly to see me. He waited for me when I got home from work. Sat outside, even in the rain. And when I opened the door to my house he insisted to come in. In good weather in the summer we all sat outside on the veranda, him too. He spent hours with us and I fed him some shrimp. He developed very neat tactics in eating them. I wanted him to earn them. I would take out a tall glass and put the frozen shrimp in them. I´d run the hot water and thaw them in the glass. Then I served the glass to Primus. He usesd his claw to latch onto a shrimp and pull it out of the glass. This he would do until all of them were gone from the glass.

For a couple of years I was away for extended periods and he stopped coming to my house. My husband saws him from time to time outside our house but Primus always refused to come inside. When I came home for vacation once I didn´t see him for the first few days but then one day as I was coming home I met him coming away from the house as I was approaching. He took one look at me and turned around and ran up to the house. He received his rations of shrimp and a chat.

This went on for a few years. One spring day he stopped coming altogether and I didnt even see him in his own yard. I was worried something might have happened, an accident as we live very close to the highway. After 2 weeks my husband met our neighbours and asked them about the cat. They admitted having taken him to the vet to have him put to sleep as they felt he was astranged from them and foul tempered and not really a pet anymore. I am still angry…



The swallows, not content with occupying three outbuildings, have been testing the eaves around the house in the last few days presumably for a likely spot for a second or third brood. One of them came inside this morning. While we were downstairs having breakfast this one had come through the open window and when I went up to investigate the growing squeaks and trills I found it flying around the bedroom. Against a very stark white pitched-roofed room it appeared quite beautiful in the morning light, as unlike many bird species finding themselves in similar situations this one was poised and in control as it it negotiated its way around the space…

raven congresses


In Iceland when Ravens gather together it is caller a Raven Congress (Hrafnaþing). I have one in my garden on a regular basis. I feed the birds during winter. Not with corn but with leftovers from our kitchen. I put everything out, meat, fish, stale or moldy bread, rotten fruit, basically everything that would be tossed away as rubbish. The birds become by recycling plant and the Ravens love it when I put a leg of lamb or a rack of lamb outside. It is a good way to study their hierarchy and humour