A white rabbit lives in my garden. An escaped pet. Not my escaped pet. But he is now my pet. Or as close as he’s ever going to be to being someone’s pet. I couldn’t tell you exactly when he started to visit. It seems now that he has always been a part of my life. Every day he comes and sits on the back wall, waiting for me to feed him. If I am in the garden he will bound up to me and sit at my feet until I do feed him. Or a little nose will appear through the plants just to remind me that he’s there. Sometimes he even lets me stroke him.
In this freezing weather The White Rabbit visits every day, twice a day. In the Summer his attendance is more sporadic. Some days he lies stretched out under the plants, contentedly dozing in the dappled shade. Near the water bowl I leave out for him. When it rains I put an umbrella out on its side to shield him whilst he is eating. The little bastard sits on the opposite side from the umbrella to eat and then hops into the middle of the garden, directly facing me in the teeming rain, entirely uncovered and absolutely soaked. I’ve bought him a grass house, put boxes out, hay, straw; he spurns them all. I have no idea where he goes at night, but somewhere safe – this will be his fourth Winter. Not bad going for a domestic rabbit who lives wild.
On the days he doesn’t come, I look for him. I worry that the last time I saw him was the last time that I will ever see him. And when he springs down the garden to see me, I feel a rush of joy that this unexpected and resourceful little creature came into my life. So I took a photo of him. Just in case. One day will be his last visit. And as the Winters pass, I know that that day is getting closer.
I went out for a festive dinner with some friends the other night. Or ‘the girls’ to give them their correct collective noun. We try and do this every so often – see each other long enough to have a conversation and eat a meal that we haven’t had to cook ourselves. Like a lot of people we haven’t had much opportunity to get together over the past few years. This has been further complicated by work, children getting older and going to different schools and one of our number having had the audacity to move half an hour down the road. On having a chance to talk, it transpired that three of the six us have the joy of children taking GCSEs this Summer. What a delight. Another has the thrill of ‘A’ levels to look forward to. Three had children start secondary school in September. Two started new jobs. Three lost someone we love in the last twelve months. Another is enduring watching a loved one undergo chemotherapy. Comforted by the survivor sat beside her. Life. Rolling on. Relentlessly.
As she ordered a second glass of wine, Petite Blonde Friend asked the waitress if she would take a photo of all of us. There was a murmur of protest from the assembled company, which was completely ignored. Rather than cause a last-minute dash to check hair and make-up as may have been the case for others, for some inexplicable reason, with the girls, the prospect of a photograph caused a furore of tidying. I am considering asking them all round to my house on Christmas morning and threatening them with a Polaroid. So there, on a ‘phone and preserved for posterity is a photo of six middle-aged women in paper hats, drinks aloft an exceptionally tidy dining table.
Like The White Rabbit, I don’t really recall precisely when the girls came into my life. It was around the time Childerbeast Number One started primary school, as that was the place that we all had in common at one point in time. But it was more random than that. And my goodness we’ve all lived a lot of life since then. At this time of year, we all raise a toast to absent friends. We miss them. God, it aches to miss them. But we should also toast our present friends. Our white rabbits. Whilst we have them.