Monthly Archives: Dec 2016

Attenborough Nature Reserve

We decided on Attenborough Nature Reserve for an expedition a few weeks ago. It had come up in conversation with visiting birdwatchers on the farm and it occurred to me that I hadn’t been there for about 10 years.

I started to remember why very soon after arrival. For one thing, the reserve is a series of gravel pits, and gravel pits on a murky December morning can be a bit bleak. For another, there isn’t much else to it. There’s no ruin or old trees.

First stop was the cafe. It’s so long since I’ve been to Attenborough that they hadn’t built it last time I was there. It wasn’t very welcoming. Some people who arrived after us started moving chairs around, including a couple on our table. They seemed to be regulars from the way they spoke to the staff, and clearly felt we were in their way.

After that one of the staff members started telling them that despite her years of experience nobody listens to her, and they had put the Christmas tree in the wrong place.

It’s a decent cafe (with shop, toilets, classrooms and a sand martin nest bank/hide) but after our experience on the farm we just don’t want workplace politics with our scones.

The nature area at the back of the cafe has several things of interest, including three sorts of bug hotel, all pictured below.

Add that to being trapped in the sand martin hide whilst a lecture was delivered, loud conversations, brightly-clad joggers and a man letting his dog chase ducks. It all adds up to  an uncomfortable experience.

It seems, from postings on the website, that the bustle doesn’t upset the wildlife and the habitat is some of the best in Europe. It’s also clearly well-used by many people for a variety of recreational and educational purposes.  You can’t really fault it when you look at it like this.

It could have been so good…

Ah well, we’ll just have to give it another try in the New Year. I’m sure it has lots of good points, but the last thing we needed at this point was cafe politics (read previous posts if you want to see why).

 

 

 

 

Wodehouse, laughter and Kipling

I’ve been reading Wodehouse recently, which is always a good thing to do when convalescing. I’ve always thought laughter is good for you, and there seem to be other people who think so too.  In the gaps I’ve been reading a history of the Irish Guards in the Great War and the Wikipedia list of Prime  Ministers of the UK. Neither of them make particularly cheerful reading, though you can’t base all your reading on its capacity to induce laughter.

I have an interest in the Great War, though I’m not one of those experts who talk knowledgeably about divisions, Army Orders and such. I’m more interested in the human element such as the history of watches and why the government set children to collecting conkers.

The wrist watch became much more popular as a result of the Great War, as a pocket watch isn’t very practical when you are lying face down in mud whilst somebody shoots at you. There had been various attempts at wrist watches over the years but the war was the beginning of the end for the pocket watch.

The conkers were a bit of a distraction, as it turns out.

When I saw that I could get the Irish Guards book for 49p on Kindle I thought I may as well have a go. Apart from my interest in the subject, I was interested in seeing what it was like as it’s written by Rudyard Kipling. Sadly, despite the quality of the writing (and the frequent insertion of light relief in the form of interjections from a comic Irishman) it’s only as interesting as the subject matter allows it to be. It also contains the news that Lieutenant J Kipling was posted missing after the Battle of Loos in 1915. Those must have been hard words to write.

That just leaves the Prime Ministers. I thought I’d brush up on them as I’m a bit deficient in my knowledge of PMs but after a quick run through I realised that I’d discovered an antidote to Wodehouse. I don’t need that, so I’ve left them for the moment – a monument to my ignorance. Well, one of several…

 

 

The Perils of Self Diagnosis

Guess where I spent the day after Wednesday’s party?

It had occurred to me during the week that my diagnosis of man flu wasn’t exactly correct, as the fever was linked to an infection rather than a cold. The infection, in turn, was linked to some painful swelling. I think that’s all we need to say on that matter, as this is a family blog. If I was on TV this would be the foundation for half an hour of post-watershed hilarity based on the embarrassment of a middle-aged man, but I’m not sure I should inflict material of such dubious nature on my readers.

Once the party was out of the way I thought I’d better see the doctor about getting some antibiotics. Generally I avoid the doctor as bad things happen to middle-aged men who visit doctors, but the pain, and the inability to walk without impersonating John Wayne, persuaded me.

Googling “The Perils of Self Diagnosis” shows that self diagnosis really isn’t a good idea. There are two ways it can go – one is the Cyberchondriac route,  where people decide they have rare and interesting diseases and scare themselves to death. The other way is the one used by most men – treating serious conditions by gritting their teeth and taking ibuprofen.To be fair, it often works.When it doesn’t work the consequences can, however, be quite serious.

Shortly after seeing the doctor I was in hospital for a second opinion, where they insisted on me filling in lots of forms and having a cannula fitted in case they decided to operate. They also labelled me “nil by mouth”, which made me very unhappy as I’d starved myself in the morning in case of blood testing. Even so, it didn’t make me as unhappy as the prostate examination.

Finally they fed me, which was very welcome after 22 hours without eating. It was an excellent meal (Somerset Pork with mixed veg and mash, followed by a creamy rice pudding with a hint of nutmeg), and they eventually remembered to remove the cannula, just as my antibiotics arrived.

Currently I’m having a quiet Christmas, and wondering what 2017 will bring.

 

 

 

 

The Captains and the Kings depart

I was going to title this post The tumult and the shouting dies but the post was’t quite right and when I wiped it out by accident (yet again!) I couldn’t be bothered to retrieve it.
That’s how it came to be rewritten with a grander title. It’s not quite as accurate, because we had plenty of tumult and shouting, but a distinct shortage of Captains and Kings. As the memory fades a little I’m feeling distinctly more upbeat about it. It wasn’t all singing and sandwiches (though I admit that they did form a large part of the proceedings), we also had dancing and two different slideshows from Julia.
It took her several weeks to perfect the slideshows – I will never get Chariots of Fire and The Magnificent Seven out of my head. At one time I was hearing them so often I was waking up humming them.
I missed some of the events because I was confined to the kitchen after forgetting to put the snacks in the oven. That’s also why there aren’t many photographs.
Fortunately I was on hand when Santa called and gave out the memory boxes Dave and Jayne had made. They’ve been beavering away in Dave’s shed making the boxes and putting individual names on them.
There were a few tears towards the end. There was also a certain amount of unsuitable competitiveness from one of the teams in the Christmas Quiz. I’m not saying which one, but my constant viewing of quiz shows seems to have paid off…
At the time it was all a little sad, but as I write a couple of days later it seems a lot more upbeat. With parents and group members and various other people (in person or by email) we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We couldn’t have done it without the group, so can’t take all the credit, but it does make you feel better.
I can’t think of a tidy way to end  the post, but in real life we did the washing up.

 

Get that party started

First event of the day – phone call from Number 1 son enquiring about the chance of a lift on Friday. Seems he’s bought so many presents that he won’t be able to carry them all. It’s his first Christmas since he started working full time. You can’t fault his generosity, but as a parent, I’d rather he invested it in National Savings Products for his future. (Yes, there’s no pleasing me, is there?)

We posted the last of the Christmas cards this morning – I’ve decided I really should stay in touch with more of my family rather than just meeting them at funerals, a sentiment expressed in several of the cards I’ve had this year.

When we drew up at the farm we had a phone call to tell us the taxi would be late. It seems the driver had managed to reverse in Vicki’s drive, put his back wheels on the lawn, and then get stuck by dropping the clutch and spinning the wheels.

Dave was here when we arrived, unloading the Christmas presents he has been making in his shed. Santa has many helpers at this time of year.

I’ve just been reminded that it’s nearly 11.00 and people will be expecting to eat at 12.00 – so I’m off to do the sandwiches.

Time flies…

 

The Final Countdown

Yes, it’s a song title today. I did think of a variation on the TV show Countdown but at 58 I’m not ready to admit that I’m part of the Countdown demographic. (See later comments on age).

I bought a new knife today. I’ve been meaning to get a proper boning knife for some time and the one I spotted in the cash and carry had all the attributes I wanted – a good handle and a cheap price ranking higher than the quality of the blade. I don’t tend to wear knives out – they simply disappear (thrown away by family members, I suspect, as I never lost a knife before I was married) or get left on top of a cooker ring. Yes, I’ve destroyed a couple of good knives like that. I suppose I could build a new handle from exotic hardwood as recommended in various specialist magazine, but I’m really not that good with my hands.

From the cash and carry (having bought drinks and snacks for the party tomorrow) I went to the supermarket to buy the rest of the stuff we needed.  It was stressful, as the nearest supermarket to the cash and carry isn’t one I normally go to and it was crammed with coffin dodgers all doing their best to either get in my way or ram me out of their way.

Now, I don’t mind the former (in moderation) as we all dawdle a bit, but the latter drives me mad. If I responded in kind, with a quick flick of the trolley and a spot of wheel to wheel charioteering I would (rightly) be castigated as a hooligan and a bully, but give me a cardigan and a blue rinse and I’m instantly allowed to carry on like Genghis Khan. I was actually rammed by a shopping scooter on Saturday when a woman of only middling years decided she wanted the space I was occupying.

Mentally I dragged her off the scooter and gave her a good kicking. But in real life I just moved, with a subdued “Tch!” to indicate disapproval.

 

I’m off to cut cabbage for the coleslaw now.

It’s nineteen hours until the party starts and twenty five hours until the project closes.

That must mean it’s also twenty five hours until my new life begins.

Seems a good time for a poem, and as Dylan Thomas conveniently died over 60 years ago I think I’m right in say he’s out of copyright so I can quote it in full.

Tomorrow, I will be blogging in a more kindly and cheerful manner.

🙂

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

In which the day improves

This is the promised Part II, in which the day improves. The morning wasn’t too good but the day improved as it went on. The group has baked mince tarts and iced the cake, so the party food is underway.  Our fully-qualified and licensed Santa Substitute has collected the suit and is going to practice tonight (he has already grown his beard at the sides ready for the Big Day). I can’t post a photo of Santa yet as it will spoil the surprise.

I managed to get a few Fieldfare photos, but with only one skittish individual as a subject it proved difficult. The bird was intent on eating hawthorn berries and when it was in the tree it was either moving or partially obscured by branches. When it was on the ground it spent most of the time in various hunched positions eyeing up berries. I did get a shot of a Yellowhammer, but it was small and blurred. It’s only the second one I’ve seen this winter, which is a bit annoying when you think they were regular visitors to the allotment during the summer.

And finally, after worrying that the guinea fowl had been absent all morning, they finally appeared, waddled across the yard and started to eat all the food under the bird feeders. I suppose it saves waste, but I’m not sure the Chaffinches were happy. A word of warning to the guinea fowl though, if people consider you good to eat it might be a good idea not to eat too much in the run up to Christmas.

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Guinea fowl on the prowl

Bad start to the week

It’s been a bad start to the week. For one thing, I was confined to bed for most of yesterday with a bad case of man flu and self-pity. I resorted to viewing soup as food, so you can guess how bad this was. As a result I started Monday morning with a bad back from too much time on a mattress that really needs replacing.

At the centre we found three things.

One, broken paper chains and other evidence of something happening at the weekend. As usual, we get left to tidy up. Julia soon had half the group standing on chairs with sellotape to mend the chains as the other half stood by to catch falling bodies.

Two, a card from one of the group thanking us for the time they have spent here. At that point the man flu made my eyes a bit watery, but it soon passed.

Three, an email from Australia calling me  “very unprofessional and disrespectful of both copyright and intellectual property rights”. That cheered me up, I love a good fight. I had to check the meaning of intellectual property rights as I wasn’t sure where they differ from copyright. In this context I’m not sure they do, so the depravity of my crime was immediately reduced by half.

So – “unprofessional and disrespectful”? I have other traits too, and the reply I framed in my mind certainly showcased my talent for “rudeness” and “sarcasm”.

You see, one of the group has copied an article from the web. They have typed it out, not used cut and paste, and they have worked hard on it. I’m not sure how it got on our website, but I don’t think they even realise that there is such a thing as copyright.

We’re a team and if you cut one of us, we all bleed, so I didn’t hold back.

Then I thought, this person (I’ll say “person” so I don’t upset anyone with my language) probably doesn’t realise that they are being rude, and certainly don’t know that they are abusing a person with learning difficulties, so is it fair for me to give them a hard time?

Having recovered my manners and sense of balance, I’m now feeling better about the day. It’s not been a good start, but there’s a silver lining to every cloud, even an insulting antipodean cloud. As I’ve often told my kids, you shouldn’t let the rudeness of others dictate the way you behave.

I am now going to write a polite reply telling them to contact the farmer. You see, it’s possible to be irritating even when you’re being polite.

Part II of the day’s doings, with pictures, will appear later.

 

 

Another day at Rufford Abbey

We had a disappointing day at Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday so we decided another trip to Rufford was in order. (I’ll write about it in a day or two when my good humour has re-established itself).

As usual, we have enough for two posts, so I’ll do the birds first. I started off with a sore knee after yesterday’s walk so we weren’t quite as ambitious as last time. We concentrated on the bridges by the lake and then looped back through the woods. There are bird tables at various points in the woods and we spent some time sitting quietly and watching.

I’m gaining in confidence after a decent flying Greenfinch photograph earlier in the week, so I was hoping to carry on the good work today.

The sitting quietly approach has worked wonders in the past when watching birds, but it can be difficult on a busy day.

It amazes me how many people think it’s appropriate to talk like a bugle whilst walking in the countryside. If I can hear them 25 yards away I don’t know what it must be like when you are walking next to them. It also amazes me the details people are prepared to broadcast about their lives, relationships and health.

Whatever happened to reticence?

As you can see from the Featured Image I found a Marsh Tit again. It’s tricky watching a bird table and snapping a shy bird when you only have a screen to work from. I ended up with a selection of shots featuring either blurs or emptiness. It all fell into place nicely when the Nuthatches arrived, but even then it wasn’t plain sailing as I managed several blurred shots and several with them facing away . Julia was away at the time so she missed them, though she did get back in time to see one pecking at a nut it had wedged in a crevice in a yew tree. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a shot.

As you can see from the other shots we got two unusual birds on bird tables. Moorhens can be quite adventurous when feeding (as I found when they used to rob my bait box when I used to fish) but I’ve never seen them on a table before. Note that the squirrel has a fly on its back – what a photobomb!

Final shot is a Coal Tit – the best shot from about 20 I took of Coal Tits. You can’t see the distinctive white nape in this shot but in the ones where you can see all lack something else.

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Coal Tit at Rufford Abbey

Julia got some good shots  today too so I may use some of them later on.

We also saw Goosanders, Siskins and a (very distant) Kingfisher plus the usual suspects we saw on the last visit. The Goosander and Siskin pictures are poor and the Kingfisher was too far away.

First video!

This is the first time I have added video to the blog, so let’s see what happens.

It features Dave, who founded Quercus Community with Julia five years ago.

To call him a man of many parts would be an understatement – after many interesting careers he’s currently reinventing himself as a carpenter,  but, as you can see,  he makes a passable choreographer.