Tuesday, January 15, 2013

15 January 2013 “My Turtle Wins the Race, Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles Drawn from life and My Family and Other Animals”

I have always had a love affair with turtles and tortoises. I once entered a loved pet red eared slider (painted turtle as it was commonly known) in a turtle race when I was five.
All we anxious and hopeful testudinologists arrived with our loving friends in wooden crates, animal carriers or simply stashed in Mother’s best kitchen bowl. A circle was drawn on the blacktop of the playground (then children were thought strong enough to meet the hard black pavement with their helmet-less heads when performing daring gymnastics amid rusted metal ‘monkey bars’) Four contestants placed their shelled friends in the circles center and they were promptly covered with a tinned garden pail. All but the one chosen child in charge of said bucket left the circle. At the blow of a whistle from a clipboard carrying racing official the bucket was raised and off went the mighty steeds to the circle’s edge;well, that was the intent anyway.

Being turtles they basically either took a break inside their portable homes, walked about in circles unwilling to commit to meeting the white chalked circles outer edge or just stood staring at the screaming thongs of children shouting “Come on Timmy” or “Hurry Charlie” and “This way Alderman”.
That, of course, was my turtles name: Alderman. He was so called because of the Beatrix Potter Character Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise from The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. Of course at that age I did not realize Alderman was his position and Ptolemy was his name. I also had a newt I kept in a glass aquarium called Sir Isaac Newton from that self same story. You can see the pair of them meeting Mr. Jeremy Fisher in the illustration below, but I digress.
Back to the heart racing sport of turtle racing. We were allowed to shout and encourage our turtles but no one could lure their respective pets with lettuce or other such turtle treats. Though I am sure there were secreted away bits of carrots or bruised leaves of Swiss Chard in shirt sleeves and hopeful pockets. Their mother’s would have to deal with those stains at home at the end of the day.
Through a series of these “races” the various winners would be put against one another until it was down to the top three. That included me. I still remember when good old Alderman (who turned out to be a female later on laying a clutch of eggs in her outdoor pen) rapidly trundled across that blurred white chalked line to me. And the grand prize was a greenhouse in the shape of a turtle.
I am sure my mother cringed at its ugly plastic haul, as I do now, but at the time I was ecstatic! I could not find a picture of it even online, but it was a large round green plastic base with four legs and a head. Its dome was the clear plastic of the ‘greenhouse glass’. The box was enormous, larger than my five year old frame and I remember looking at the various uses described in pictures on the side of the box. One could take off the dome and use it as sandbox, fill it with water for a splash pool, keep turtles in it of course, or replace the dome and use it as a green house. That was my intention.
I had learned my love of plants from my Paternal Grandfather who always kept such wonderful gardens. He even has a plaque dedicated to him for that very same reason. I remember pouring over seed catalogs with him when I was young and collecting up the odd and fun plants in the fall: the Chinese lanterns, the endless artful gourd varieties, multi-colored pumpkins which were unheard of at the time in the 1970’s before Martha Stewart made them all the rage.
Much of my current love of growing things (both plants and animals) came from him and to this day my heart still races, especially this time of year, when I begin dreaming up what seeds I will start for the coming season.
Now, Beatrix Potter’s Book The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher can be found in the Library under Children’s Books. It is well worth a look even for the illustrations. Download and enjoy it free on your favorite device.
And as I am talking of turtles I wanted to share this well illustrated book, “Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles” as an interesting browse. I think the illustrations would make lovely prints which one could do from the computer quite easily and of course the book is free and available in the Library under Natural Sciences Here.
These illustrations are incredible, don’t you think?
 myfamilyandotheranimals My own childhood recollections made me think of this great book: My Family and Other Animals . It is not free, unfortunately, but I put it in the Store and it is around $10. This book by Gerald Durrell is a wonderful read and definitely should be on one’s ‘read sometime’ list.
Here is a quick synopsis:
My Family and Other Animals is an autobiographical work by naturalist Gerald Durrell, telling of the part of his childhood he spent on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family on the island in a humorous manner, and also richly discusses the fauna of the island. It is the first and most famous of Durrell's Corfu trilogy, together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods.
There is a very well done adaptation of the book done by the BBC in 2005. I have included part one here. And the rest can be watched HERE on my channel.

Now to close on our Turtled and Tortoised day I give you The Hooting Yard website. It is in itself an interesting place and the gentleman who runs it does a splendid job. I love his dry humor and wit. In reference to today’s theme he has an interesting podcast from his 2008 Christmas episdoe. This Podcast concerns the reading of excerpts  from Sylvia Townsend Warner's book the Portrait of a Tortoise which is based on Gilbert Whites 1700’s book Natural History or Selborne. That book will be in the Library under Natural Science. It may not be for all, but I love listening to Hooting Yards Podcasts and this particular episode is relevant today as it talks of Timothy the Tortoise in the Garden. One may find the little snippets from White’s ancient diary concerning the tortoise rather entertaining. I know I did. A good play to have on while relaxing with a cuppa or even doing the housework. Enjoy.
HERE is the podcast. (scroll down and you will see a small play button)
I hope all have a lovely day.


  1. Lovely post. I have always had a tortoise around me. My dad had one for 37 years. It became ill and died. When i was 16 i bought my own who is still around. He is about 85 years old. My dad's was almost 180 years old. Amazing. Loved the turtle race story. :)

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