IT'S dangerous telling some people that you've seen magpies swooping already, as, like hearing the symptoms of a rare tropical disease, they'll start noticing they've got the exact symptoms they're afraid of - in this case, swooping magpies.
I was once playing golf on a rural golf course that formed part of people's backyards, when a young woman - screaming and streaming tears - grabbed me and gasped: "He's coming for me! Save me!"
I figured I'd just strolled into a domestic violence situation. I put my "don't mess with me" face on, but what if this dude after her is bigger than me? And what if he's got a knife? No wonder they call golf a good walk spoiled!
Then appeared the object of this woman's fears ... a magpie.
I chased away the evil villain with my golf club, and thus became the hero of this small community for about five minutes.
Don't worry. as a Collingwood fan, I couldn't bring myself to strike the bird.
And besides, when I play golf, I never hit a birdie.
But what is a suitable deterrent this time of year against magpies and plovers?
I fought off a magpie the other day with a plastic bag full of priest's clothes, so you might want to try that. But put your own clothes in the bag - not a priest's outfit - as that might also look suspicious to police.
I wasn't happy with the magpie that swooped me, but it was only defending its young. It's got me musing on the original Doctor Dolittle movie (1967), in which the eponymous character decries in song "why do we treat animals like animals?"
The truth is, animals only ever use their instincts to protect themselves and their own. They don't act out of cruelty, and so an animal can never be 'evil'. But we humans sure can be. As psychology professor Dr Jordan Peterson said: 'Only man could conceive of the rack, the iron maiden and the thumbscrew.'
"A man of ill repute is called a weasel or a rat
A woman you dislike becomes a vixen or a cat
A family that is blessed
With healthy reproductive habits
Occasions the remark,
"Well you know them, they "breed like rabbits!"
He's as stubborn as a mule!
He's as stupid as an ox!
He's as slimy as a snake!
He's as crafty as a fox!
The truth is, animals only ever use their instincts to protect themselves and their own. They don't act out of cruelty, and so an animal can never be "evil".
But we humans sure can be. As psychology professor Dr Jordan Peterson said: "Only man could conceive of the rack, the iron maiden and the thumbscrew.
"Only man will inflict suffering for the sake of suffering. That is the best definition of evil I have been able to formulate.
"Animals can't manage that, but humans, with their excruciating, semi-divine capacities, most certainly can."
As legendary Australian singer Kamahl often asked: "Why are people so unkind?"
Why are people mean even to people they claim to love? Perhaps the people you know who strike out at you are protecting their "nest egg", which is kind of a compliment. Perhaps they perceive you as taking something away from them, even their place in the nest.
So, what should you do the next time someone swoops down on you? Well, I've been musing on two options.
You could keep being your kind self - I'm presuming here that you are a kind person - and be good to them regardless.
This isn't easy, but they'll become ashamed of their attacks and thus, you have disarmed them.
If this doesn't work because your magpie keeps swooping, it's not unkind to shoo them away and let them know they're flying too close for comfort.
Don't be afraid, for peace of mind is not an option.
It's a right - perhaps even an obligation.
I don't know anybody who has been injured by a swooping magpie.
But I have met many people who have injured themselves while trying to duck them.
Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And lo, no one was there.