In case anyone asks, the colour of nothing is “coot.” Irridescent black, and water-loving.

In New Zealand we also have the tui, a similar colour. Not a water bird, but a nectar lover, and a show-off. On the farm in the Hawkes Bay I have seen one fly upside down for a little way. They also can imitate the calls of other birds, notably the Bellbird, so as to confuse everybody, including themselves. Also the seagull, as I have heard myself.

A couple of years back, in Auckland, a tui flew into our garden and sat in the branch of a tree not one metre from me, all for the purpose of giving Mummy Puss a piece of his mind. Maybe it was nesting time. I might have reached over and grabbed him with my hand, but the tui was not the least bit concerned by my proximity.

Mummy Puss, embarrassed by the tui’s audacity and the prolonged invention of his song, moved to the other side of the garden. The tui followed, landing on a twig calculated to give Mummy Puss a fighting chance, four or five feet from the ground. But right there, the tui was flaunting his cleverness. Who was the superior intellectual presence? Again he let Mummy Puss have it in no uncertain terms.

The tui I can admire. The number of languages he speaks. The eccentricity of his dinner suit. The delivery!

And I think it a pretty fair fight-back for a bird a hundred and fifty years ago not knowing one single enemy save fresh air, with the character and gumption to turn around, thumb his nose at the noble homo sapiens (the only enemy anyone ever had), and by sheer good humour, will himself and his kind to survive.

Not all have this gumption. In NZ we have more extinct birds than the rest of the world put together, including six foot penguins and the world’s largest eagle. That’s how stupid we are.

When I was in Europe as a young man and someone asked me what New Zealand was like, I told them it was a country with two main islands and that the people there were so inventive they called the northern-most island the North Island and the southern-most island the South Island.

Every single human being is a world-wide ecological disaster. This we already know.

When I was thirteen I made a pact with every other human being living on the planet, which was: if they would all commit suicide I would too. Unfortunately for all the cuddly little animals, hardly anyone has lived up to their end of the bargain. Except for Kurtl The Turtle who threw himself out of a seventeenth storey window in Vienna somewhere in the nineties while I was in the middle of a twenty five year long coma.

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