Friday Free Space: Three Coffees, Three Days A.K.A. Moorhen, King of the World


Hi everybody,

Today is Friday, which means another Free Space Friday post. This one will be kept short and sweet.

Basically, I am the kind of person who finds excuses to get out of almost every social situation ever. I’m the person who needs to have an exit strategy at every party, because they can’t justify splurging on a taxi home, so they just don’t bother staying out late. I might as well have an ankle tag on my leg, because the only time you see me cross the front door after 8pm is to go to the local supermarket to buy chocolate. That’s basically it. But, every now and then I am rudely reminded by this voice at the back of my mind that I’m slipping too much into introverted old lady habits, and so I clear my calendar and try and pack as many catch ups and meetings with friends as I can into a single week.

Today was that week. Yesterday, I went to my local bookstore cafe to grab coffee and cake with a friend, and today I met up with a different friend in a different cafe and had a slightly different coffee order. Tomorrow I will be… you guessed it, going to a different cafe to meet a different friend and get a slightly different coffee. My life is super exciting like that.

There’s really no point to this whole post, except to ask what exactly you’re meant to do when it comes to socializing beyond turning yourself into a caffeine zombie who has to use an actual mountain of change to pay for her flat white because she can’t help panicking at the thought of taking cash out at the ATM and the thought of paying by card makes her break out in hives. There are no art galleries where I live, beyond contemporary stuff which looks a little like something my sister might produce while blindfolded, and so I can’t wow my friends with my astounding knowledge of Van Gogh and Rembrandt while we wander round looking fantastic. In fact, there’s not much here at all to do, except drink that caffeine and maybe wander round some shops you can’t afford to spend money in.

Nottingham is so empty of free entertainment that the other night, me and my boyfriend decided to mix things up by taking a picnic blanket and a bottle of elderflower press we’d won at a quiz, down to the lake to drink it. For some reason, I had images of romantic sunsets on the water and of us cuddling up to keep warm during the slight chill while we shared funny stories.

That isn’t quite what happened.

See, there’s a fair amount of wildlife by the lake here. Most of it involves birds, and there’s a kind of avian hierarchy that can’t be messed with. At the top of this chain there are the swans. These nightmarish creatures nest at the edge of the water every summer, forcing the university to erect fences covered in ‘WARNING: DO NOT DISTURB THE SWANS’ signs so naive students don’t have to use their selfie sticks as self-defence prodding tools to keep the swans at bay when they attack. Next there’s the ducks, who follow around anything on two legs in the hopes that they have food. It doesn’t matter if you don’t, because ducks are determined that you’re lying and your bag is full of stale bread. And then there are the moorhens, which seem pretty harmless in comparison. Or so I thought.

Turns out moorhens are vicious, vicious creatures.

There we were, shivering slightly in the chilly sunset, clutching mugs of elderflower press. Everything is reasonably calm and still. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, the moorhen decides to become king of the lake. It climbs out of the water and struts around the grass at our feet like a model on a catwalk, pausing occasionally to peck at some bits in the grass. The ducks feel this is unfair, so they clamour out after the moorhen, three to one, and waddle over to the little bird.

You’d think that would be the end of it, since it was three to one. But nope. The moorhen stared them down for a moment. The three ducks quacked, somewhat nervously I thought, and pecked around a bit as though they were trying to ignore the intruder in their midst. After a while they got their nerve back up, and decided to do a bit of a surrounding in the hopes of intimidating the competition out of the way. The moorhen remained pretty calm as it noticed the three ducks beginning to cut off its escape. And then, out of nowhere, the moorhen lowered its head and charged at the three ducks.

I swear, I have never heard so many indignant squawks in my life. The ducks suddenly went from being huge, confident bullies to forgetting that they outnumbered the moorhen. They fluttered away, pecked a bit, considered trying him again, only to find the moorhen lowering its head again. I’ve never seen such an angry little bird, and yet every time a duck wandered anywhere near his territory he charged them like a bull at a bullfight.

And it just goes to show how severely lacking we are in entertainment here, because me and my boyfriend promptly forgot all about the romantic atmosphere we’d created, and started watching the War of the Wildfowl instead. We couldn’t take our eyes off them. I actually almost wet myself laughing at the stupid ducks running from the moorhen. I had to walk back home clutching my side because I’d given myself a stitch from laughing so hard.

Please, Nottingham council. If you are reading this, help us. We are so lacking in excitement in our lives that we just watched a moorhen chase three ducks for a whole hour in the cold. That’s not normal, adult behaviour.

Either that, or just introduce more moorhens to your lakes.


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