8.30: Arrived at City Hospital – damp Victorian red brick and escaping steam being the motif of the morning
8.45: Found parking space and stood in queue behind lady who couldn’t work the ticket machine
8.50: Walked into automatic door, which turned out to be broken and thus not automatic
8.55: Booked in
8.57: Seen by Anaesthetist, who provided clear and practical information
9.15: Back at the car, feeling reassured, but also £4 poorer for car parking (I’d allowed for up to 2 hours) and wondering why the Anaesthetist I saw five days ago couldn’t have given me the information
9.25: Back home eating healthy cereal (see, I have been listening to the doctor) and croissants. OK, so I’m leading into this health stuff gradually.
I’m generally at peace in three places. One of these is when I’m out in nature (though a cold day at a gravel pit doesn’t work the magic as much as a spring day in the woods. Another is in church. The third one is among antiques.
We seem to be wired to respond to nature, and I suspect church builders knew more about promoting tranquility a thousand years ago than we do now. As to the third, I’m not sure why it happens, but it does. It might just be that I’m strange.
One place I find it hard to be relaxed is in hospital. That probably starts in the Workhouse. They weren’t meant to promote relaxation, which is fine when you are building to scare the poverty-stricken and the elderly. When they were turned into hospitals, as many of them were, a change of emphasis might not have been possible. I’m not saying this is the reason, but it might be.
There is also the well known “white coat effect”. I used to be able to control this by imagining sunlight streaming into a wooded clearing. These days, I can’t hold the picture in my mind and I frequently find myself having discussions with doctors about my blood pressure.
I don’t know why it should be so. I’m overweight, so as far as I’m concerned that gives the blood more room to spread out. I should have low blood pressure, not high. Unfortunately this, according to my doctor, is not how it works.
Plan B then, should surely to go back a few hundred years and do a bit of cupping and bleeding. Looking at it logically this will reduce the pressure, just like letting air out of a tyre. Simple.
I shall have a word with my doctor when I see them on Thursday.
It’s the end of January and the first day of a new week. Being accurate, I suppose it’s the second day of the week, but it always seems like the first. It’s certainly the one that I treat as being the first working day of the new week. Julia, working from 6.00 to 16.30 on Sunday, doesn’t really share my enthusiasm for Mondays.
We originally said we’d have January off, and without us actually doing anything it seems like it’s going to work out just right.
Julia is looking about 10 years younger with the responsibility of running Quercus and the Centre lifted from her shoulders and is slowly becoming more cheerful. Meanwhile, I can feel my enthusiasm returning.
Julia has already had a couple of enquiries from people about her availability for work, but we’re taking things slowly and making sure we only take on work that suits us.
Nobody has asked me if I’m available yet, but I’m trying not to take it personally.
Julia decided to do the laundry this week as she doesn’t altogether trust me with delicate whites. I don’t either, to be fair, which is why I don’t own any. I do own a white shirt, which I wear with one of my two ties for special occasions. White shirt and black tie for funerals. White shirt and rugby club tie for weddings etc.. Everything else can be taken care of by a coloured shirt. (For these purposes lightish grey counts as white).
I went to the park and then shopping. They have been cutting trees on the island in the duck pond. Moorhens, Black Headed Gulls and Wood Pigeons were feeding on the grass around the pond, whilst nothing much was happening on the pond. The Mandarin, the Greylags, the Heron and about half the Tufted Ducks were all absent. I’m not sure where the next nearest pond is – I will have to look into it.
Black Headed Gull
Tree cutting on the island.
I’m currently perfecting some new recipes as part of my new commitment to eating a better variety of healthy food. We had tragically under-seasoned bean burgers bean burgers on Saturday, excellent sweet potato, ginger and chilli soup on Sunday (even if I do say so myself) and Welsh Rarebit for lunch today, which (after three weeks of trying) was just about right.
Now all I need to do is make it again, note the measurements and write the recipes. That’s the worst bit of the job. Apart from eating badly made bean burgers…
Back to Arnot Hill Park and the duck pond again, with two interesting ducks.
One is the Mandarin drake. He wasn’t about last visit, and on the visit before that it was so dull I couldn’t get a good shot.
We have a population of around 2,300 breeding pairs in the UK, with more in Dublin and mainland Europe. In winter there can be as many as 7,000 individuals, including migrants from Europe. All were introduced, either deliberately or from accidental escapes. In its normal range habitat destruction has reduced the population to around a 1,000 in China, and about the same in Russia. The only stable population is Japan, with 5,000 pairs. It is listed as “declining” worldwide, but is still a species of Least Concern.
Greylags browsing the remains of garden plants
Little and Large!
The Heron is back again. Arnot Hill Park
The one I saw today, though small, is quite capable of holding his own against Coots and Mallards, two species that are currently getting a bit lively as the breeding season approaches.
The other duck caught my eye amongst the various Mallard hybrids is a pleasantly coloured individual with a longish tail that resembles a Pintail. The shape of the neck ring, from certain angles, also resembles a Pintail.
Mallard x Pintail Arnot Hill Park
Mallard x Pintail
I looked up hybrid ducks and found several records that look like this, plus an analysis of how they happen. Mallards have a bit of a reputation for overly enthusiastic mating and this is one of the results.
The photograph of the duck lacking head was a mistake, but is the only one showing the green speculum which is a feature of this cross-breed.
It’s amazing what you can learn from looking at a duck pond.
We had a walk round the outside of Southwell Minster yesterday. We’ve never looked round the outside properly before, and we didn’t have time for a full tour.
The Minster is actually the cathedral for the Diocese of Nottingham, but it keeps the old title as part of what seems to be a policy of keeping itself hidden. Even its own website refers to it as ” the best kept secret among the forty-two English cathedrals”.
As The Association of English Cathedrals lists 44 on its website I have a suspicion that there are two English Cathedrals that are kept even more secret than Southwell. This might be explained by the presence of Royal Peculiars in the longer list. But it may not. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is full of examples of why it’s a good thing to keep out of church business, so I’m not going to dig any deeper.
Pig Gargoyle – Southwell Minster
Ram’s head gargoyle – Southwell Minster
Seen from the winding country roads that serve Southwell, it is a breath-taking building. I will cover it more fully in the Spring, when the light is better for photography, but for now, here is a selection from the carvings scattered around the outside, some from the 12th century, some from more modern restorations.
The ones at ground level are on the wall of the Bishop’s Palace, though I’m not sue if they started off there.
The ones from the Minster look quite crisp so I suspect they are from recent restoration work.
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Carvings on the Bishop’s Palace – Southwell
Carved head – Southwell Minster
Carved head – Southwell Minster
To round off the visit we visited the tearoom for parsnip soup with artisan bread from Welbeck. Unfortunately, for a man looking forwards to a chunk of traditional bread, it was a rather thin panini that arrived, cut to a point at one end then baked crisp before serving. It was more like a crusty weapon that a meal. The soup was excellent though.
Soup and a dangerous panini
The misty effect was unintended, it was actually condensation on the lens as the warm air of the cafe met the cold of the camera. The perspective makes the bread look bigger than it really was, and the soup bowl look smaller. That’s what happens when a hungry man decides to photograph his food.
These are the bird photos from the trip to photograph the oaks in Sherwood Forest. It was a bit dull and the birds were quick (unlike the oaks) so they aren’t quite as sharp as I’d like. I missed a couple of Coal Tits that came down to feed, plus Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Dunnocks that lurked in the undergrowth. There were two pigeons too, but I ignored them as I don’t want to encourage them to steal food from small, cute birds.
Nuthatch – Sherwood Forest
Blue Tit on feeder – Sherwood Forest
Great Tit on feeder – Sherwood Forest
Nuthatch – Sherwood Forest
Long Tailed Tit – Sherwood Forest
It’s a lot better than Rufford from that point of virw, as there are more pigeons there, plus a lot of gulls which can polish off a handful of sunflower hearts like magic.
I filled three feeders in the car park and heard a clattering behind me, as birds started feeding before I’d got out of the way.
I need to work out a better way of doing this. Do I just fill one so I can stay focussed on it all the time, or do I fill six so they don’t chase each other away all the time? Even with six there were probably enough Great Tits to chase everything else off.
They were changing places so fast that once I pressed the button to take a Great Tit and ended up with a picture of a Nuthatch! OK, my frozen fingers were moving quite slowly, which would have helped.
Squirrel stealing bird food
Robin of Sherwood
Marsh Tit in Sherwood Forest
I presume the cold was one of the reasons they were feeding so eagerly.
I’m having difficulty working it out, to be honest. I did spend several hours in hospital having tests and filling in forms. I was also weighed, bled and patronised. The good news is that I am lighter than I was when I was weighed before Christmas and I will be able to replace the blood. As for the rest of it, they probably interpret it as me being irascible and curmudgeonly. They aren’t wrong.
The diagnosis is that I’m riddled with poor health, if not actually at Death’s door, and I need lots more pills, tests and treatment. This is strange, as I’m feeling pretty good and doing more exercise, so you’d think I was OK. It’s just that if you give doctors equipment they are going to look for a reason to use it.
Worst bit of the day was the taxi service. Their new automated system locked me out twicwe and I ended up being late, which raised my heart rate and blood pressure despite my best efforts.
On the way back it cost me more than the journey to hospital. I’m not sure why this should be, maybe it costs more going up hill.
The photos are from last year, just to remind us of what is to come. Unless you’re in the Southern hemisphere.
After preparing the last Sherwood post I realised I didn’t have a very good selection of trees. This was partly because I hadn’t taken enough pictures, partly because I needed to visit more trees and (to be honest) because I’ve mislaid some photos.
I can’t do much about the last point, apart from a lot of boring searching, so I short-circuited that by making another visit and taking more photos.
Sunset at Sherwood
Can you see the face?
Can you see it now?
It was an admin day today so we’d lost the best of the light by the time we started, but there was enough to get a good selection of photos. Many of them look like they are dead, and some are, but many of them will have leaves when spring comes, despite being hollow. Hollow trees are often quite vigorous as the material from the middle rots down and feeds the remaining parts of the tree.
Oak in Sherwood Forest
Ancient oak of Sherwood
Oak tree in Sherwood
A walk in the woods
Smaller holes are good too – providing nest holes for various birds and roosts for bats. The population of Great Spotted Woodpeckers has increased 400% since the late 60s due to a number of factors, including more available nest sites. Nest sites are important to hole dwelling birds. In Sweden half of their Red Listed birds are hole-nesters who are declining due to a lack of tree holes. Meanwhile, Swifts, House Martins and Sparrows are all finding it difficult in the UK as people close holes in buildings.
When I say “The Trees of Sherwood Forest” I really mean the ancient oaks. At the moment when people quote a figure they seem happy with the figure 997 – 450 of which are living. About 250 of the 450 are healthy and 200 are in various states of declining health.
They say an oak spends 300 years growing, 300 years in maturity and 300 years dying, so this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, though in 2007 they did lose seven trees – including four in one particularly blustery night.
There is a plantation in Dorset that contains 260 saplings grown from acorns of the Major Oak, but it was only planted in 2003, so they are still 287 years from maturity. I know that you have to take a long view when dealing with trees, but planting for a time 300 years from now is hard to take in.
Oaks support more species than any other tree, being host to around 350 species of insect and 30 species of lichen. The insects are food for birds: acorns feed jays, badgers, deer and squirrels (and, traditionally, pigs) and the flowers and buds are the foodplants of the caterpillars of the purple hairstreak.
Even the dead trees provide habitat for insects, plus nesting and roosting sites for birds and bats.
Holding up the Major Oak
Ancient oak in Sherwood Forest
Strapping to hold an oak together
ncient Oaks of Sherwood
The most famous of the ancient oaks is the Major Oak, voted Britain’s Favourite Tree in 2002 and England’s Tree of the Year in 2014. It is something of a celebrity and will always be associated with Robin Hood. The story that he hid inside it is unlikely – at an estimated age of 800 – 1,000 years it was, at best, a young tree in Robin Hood’s time, and possibly just an acorn. Such are legends…
Here is a link to a site detailing some of the other famous oaks of Sherwood.
We had a late lunch at Carsington Water after a dropping off Number Two son in Sheffield and taking a trip through the misty Peak District. There weren’t any decent photo opportunities, and when I did stop to try I ended up depressed by the fly-tipping in the lay-by.
View through the screen
Lunch would have been a bit earlier but the satnav disgraced itself by taking us into an Industrial Estate and trying to send us up a cul-de-sac. It’s not the first time.
I may have to rethink my newly found confidence in technology…
The meal, supposedly cheese and pickle sandwiches with a side order of chips, came with an unexpected extra – salad. It was excellent salad (better than the sandwiches if the truth is told) and to my surprise I quite enjoyed it. However, I can’t help thinking that there should have been more warning that the salad element was going to be more than a symbolic garnish. You have warnings for allergies and for Vegetarian and Vegan foods, why not a big green “H” for “Healthy”?
I appreciate that healthy is good, and that I have to alter my diet, but you can’t just spring it on me. The shock isn’t good for a man of my age.
The salad was crisp and full of flavour and the chips were crisp and tasty. There was plenty of tea in the pot. The sandwiches fell slightly short – the rocket garnish was good, the onion relish was good (though without the promised bite of chilli) and the cheese was OK, though it could have been a bit stronger without overpowering things. It was just a little disappointing that the bread was slightly dried out on the surface.
As for the birdwatching, we managed to avoid all the interesting birds that were listed on the board in the RSPB shop and I also missed a good photo of a male Reed Bunting.