Yesterday Clem lost her mate Bunminster. Today I gave her a soft toy dog because apparently it can help solo bunnies with the grieving process – and here's what happened:
Heart is breaking.
On a happier note, Clem has had a lot of fuss and is eating/drinking normally. She is a little subdued but she also did a dramatic bunny flop in the garden today – the equivalent of a human throwing themselves on the bed – which tells us she is relaxed. We wonder if a lot of her edginess was down to looking out for Bunminster, who was oblivious to predators (probably because he couldn't hear them with his blocked ear).
Her nickname is Cautious Clem – she can freak out at planes 20,000ft up – but we may have to change her nickname if her character now changes. Which it might. After Bunzilla died, Bunminster really came out of his shell and turned into a little dictator (he really wasn't good at being the boss of everything). We'll see what happens.
Today I am thankful for the NHS. At 8pm the neighbours came out to clap. For the past couple of weeks a nearby DJ has also set up to play a few lockdown tunes out of his garage. So if you were in the vicinity of Cartland Rd, B30, tonight around 8-8.15, you might have heard Don't Stand So Close To Me, Please Release Me Let Me Go, One Love, Happy and We Will Rock You, and you might have seen a local long-haired loon dancing on the street corner and clapping like Freddie Mercury. The cars beeped, the people clapped and a couple slow-danced on their doorstep to Tom Jones. Pete said: "That's nice, dear."
Last week Mr Garage DJ played the Neighbours theme tune. Same time next week?
Adopted from our niece together with his first bunwife, the late Bunzilla, he was the cutest little bun with a teddy bear face, sable-coloured fur and soft brown eyes. He had the usual rabbit distaste for being picked up, but on the ground he was quite the snugglebunny. He was also known as Dude, Puppyslug, Grumpy Tuftybutt, Idiot, Grumplebunskin, Boo and Bunnyboo. He’s been with us for seven years and we love him sooooo much.
We spent a lovely last day with him yesterday but we've actually been worried about him for several years, having nearly lost him in 2017. This time, it was a lump underneath his ear that kept refilling after being drained. An operation was an option but risky, despite having a rabbit-savvy vet in Rebecca at Oaks Vet in Cotteridge. It would have left him with an open hole in his ear but also there were no guarantees the problem would resolve. Without an op, he was facing horrible middle ear infections and possible brain abscesses. He was in discomfort at this stage, and in pain from the treatment, but still being very rabbity, running around and eating and even chasing Clem (bun wife no3) round the garden a few days ago.
And so we made that terrible decision and we have to hope it was the right one. Someone said it is the final act of love but that doesn't make it any easier.
Because of Covid-19 and social distancing, we were unable to be with him at the end, so I asked Pete to tell the vet that he liked a cheek and head rub, and apparently the nurses gave him lots of cuddles. He passed away peacefully and loved.
We brought him home for burial but also to show Clem so that she can understand what has happened and that her bonded bun has gone. She sniffed delicately at him while he was still warm and briefly groomed him before figuring it out, in whatever way animals understand things, that this was her mate but also no longer her mate. (This tactic is said to help speed up the grieving process in rabbits and she was eating normally afterwards, which is the big worry, when rabbits stop eating.)
At sunset we buried Bunminster under a raised flowerbed – in the same bed as Bunzilla's ashes – with treats and purple aubretia and bluebells. He still looked amazingly cute. We'll plant flowers there in a couple of weeks once it's safe.
We raised a glass to him, shifting up the garden as the shadows drew long, and ended up in a philosophical discussion about whether animals know they are dying, and not having a concept of death, and is it better not to know or to know, and having the power to end suffering. It felt very pertinent to the human situation right now.
We had a lot of lovely, thoughtful messages from friends, family and Bunminster's fans. Every one set me off yesterday. But today was easier and emptier of emotion, kind of like how you feel drained but also free after a funeral.
A couple of messages are worth reposting here in the context of an obit for a beloved furry family member.
"Bunminster that I followed many years on IG gave me such comfort, especially during a few years of personal hardship. Thank you little, handsome fellow. Much love tomorrow. Never forgotten. Always in our hearts."
"I’ve loved the stories of Bunminster since the start, and it’s so sad that his story is ending."
"He really fell on his paws when he moved in with you. Glad he enjoyed his day in the sun. Heartbroken it may be his last."
"So sorry for you both, but so grateful to you for giving Bunminster such an fantastic life."
Binky free over the rainbow bridge, little Dude. x
I wasn't planning on going to the supermarket for another week or two but my elderly friend (84, with vascular dementia) phoned up for help as he had run out of some foods. It's very good that he rang and remembered not to go the supermarket. On the downside going to the supermarket is now the mostly risky thing that we do.
So I'm heading out shortly with the hope that nearby shoppers can keep some distance (two-way shop aisles aren't great for maintaining a 2m gap).
Before coronavirus, we used to know when to go to avoid lots of people. Saturday night was a favourite time slot – nice and empty and quick.
Now? Who knows. Perhaps Saturday night is now the busiest time if people think it will be quiet. Trying to think like a contrarian in this outbreak is impossible.
[Update: it was the emptiest supermarket shop yet and most people were good about distance as a result. Amusing that the welcoming Sainsbury's lady put her hands up when I rounded the escalator in my scarf mask. Should have worn the Stetson too.)
It's becoming more 'normal' to stay at home. The initial panics and claustrophobia have worn off a bit. But the numbers are a good reminder that this bug could be anywhere – on a shopping trolley, on open fruit, on the plastic gloves of the person at the till handling money, on the mask that maybe I didn't properly handle last time I used it.
I've been avoiding the numbers but before going out it's good to remind myself why we are doing this and to be careful. As of today there are:
79,865 confirmed cases in the UK
9,875 hospital deaths in the UK (care homes not included in the stats)
Today I am thankful for having a few more days with our original rescue bun, Bunminster, who is nearly eight years old. He is not well and the prognosis isn't good. The next vet check is Tuesday. But at least today he was eating well and enjoying the sun. In our household, we have learnt a lot about how to live life from rabbits. Today the lesson is to live in the present and enjoy the simple, good things while we can.
An open call was issued by The Holodeck printmakers in Birmingham: submit an artwork for consideration for their new Riso book and exhibition on the theme of 'Weird Science'. The exhibition was scheduled to run from 14 September to 13 October at Artefact in Stirchley.
I've never thought of myself as an artist but I had it in the back of my mind to do something with rabbits so I started playing around with some photomontaging one hot day during this summer's heatwave.
I produced around 20 'weirded' rabbits using black and white printouts of Joy, our rabbit who had died a couple of months earlier, mashed with creatures cut out from various books. In the end I submitted this simpler rabbit/volcanic island collage – and it was accepted, risoprinted and shown. My first artwork to be in an exhibition! As you can see, I looked pretty chuffed.
Emboldened, I decided to try for another open call, this time by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and Mark Murphy (moif_collage) on the theme of 'postcards'. Once more I spent a very pleasant afternoon putting some options together and posted them under the #cutandpost hashtag to my @editoriat Instagram. As a collage beginner, it was no surprise that I didn't make it into the final cut of 24 printed postcards but it was useful practice putting work together to a theme and a deadline.
In the end I framed one of the postcards and submitted it with another piece for the Artefact Winter Group Show. They were both accepted and were hung in pride of place by the toilet queue in the run-up to Christmas. Someone even offered to buy one of them. The Birmingham postcard still makes me laugh, though I'm tempted to collage something more into the bottom right panel. A work in progress maybe.
This all happened because of a) a local collage club that meets every month, b) having an ace local gallery space that is committed to its community, and c) putting my stuff out there when I could easily have left it in a folder in a cupboard at home and said 'nah, they're not good enough'. I'm glad various people encouraged me to go for it and grateful to those who accepted the work into their art spaces.
I still wouldn't say I'm an artist but I enjoy making the artwork and being a part of something bigger. And I've learnt that if in doubt, go for it.