The recent, severe cold spell that drew a line down from Finland, through the Baltic States and raged eastwards made for some challenging times. Tallinn’s homeless shelters were at full capacity, commuting and traffic were disrupted and line-ups for car batteries were long, as was the wait to get help to repair frozen pipes or faulty wiring. A total of 7 people in Estonia have succumbed to the cold and at least 16 others have lost their lives this month in house fires, caused mostly by overheating wood-burning stoves in wooden houses.
Since the cold set in as of mid-January, which is traditionally considered the peak of winter, or period when its back is broken so to speak (talihari), I have started having a visitor come round to my kitchen window every day at around 15.00 – 15.30. It’s rather ironic that I continue to feed my favourite chickadees (tihased) as well as this one, very large, beautiful seabird, who arrives each afternoon with a loud kaplunk! (The outer window ledges of my 1980-s, Soviet-built apt. building are covered in a fairly noisy sheet-metal.) Unable to completely forget the idea of bird flu, I carefully slip Tormi manageable strips of dark rye bread through a barely opened window – he/she’s a quick-draw and is not into chewing, to say the least.
On a particularly cold day I slipped him/her some rolled up sliced ham (sink), but the idea of many local people not having the opportunity to enjoy such meat made me regain my senses. I felt better today, seeing how much s/he enjoyed the pasty, starchy Millerighe giganti pasta I had rejected (ruined).
Tormi can be a boy’s or girl’s name, which is great, since my visitor’s sex remains a mystery. Although not very common, it’s an extremely poetic name, befitting a majestic Herring gull who is also commonly known as TORMIKAJAKAS – storm gull and MEREKOER – sea dog.
I don’t want to tease the poor beast, who sometimes seems more like a cat than a sea dog, crouched down on the window ledge, feathers puffed to the max, but s/he has insisted on hanging around, watching me eating heeringas (rollmops with an olive centre no less) and kasukas (like rosolje, beet salad with herring, potatoes and other goodies served in layers).
While I work at my computer, clutching a mug of steaming hot coffee, I can see Tormi’s breath against the glow of the setting sun. S/he is not demanding enough to tap on the window, but inevitably grazes it while turning his/her head since s/he is almost the size of a goose and must weigh over a kilo. On the afternoons of around -22 degrees, a drop of condensation would form on the tip of Tormi’s beak, marked with a characteristic Herring gull red spot. This vesistamine (sniffling, crying) has resulted in the formation of a rather interesting criss-cross ice pattern across my window at beak level. I have absolutely no objections to Tormi leaving his/her mark in this particular manner. Thankfully s/he’s a big bird, whose back-half extends out past my window ledge and I have started to look forward to admiring (let’s say HER) light-green Carmen Kass eyes at such close range.