Monthly Archives: Nov 2017

Snow

We had some snow today. That’s English snow – measured by the flake rather than the inch. After two attempts we have a very sparse scattering, which will no doubt freeze overnight and, as our street gets no sun in winter, stick about for a week or so causing problems.

That’s how we deal with snow in England, acting surprised, being under-prepared and letting a few flakes close down the entire country. No doubt we will have train delays and car accidents tomorrow. I can’t help thinking that other places do it better. It’s unlikely, for instance, that Canadians or Scandinavians would even recognise this sprinkling as snow.

Fortunately the urban population of the UK is plentifully provided with Chelsea Tractors.

I will keep my opinion of such things to myself. It’s not that I’m short of opinions, but Julia has given me a list of jobs to do ready for her Open Day tomorrow.

A Walk, a Weasel, but no Wren

If I ever write a novel about Time Travel, and I’m not saying one way or the other, I’m going to need a way of making my protagonist travel in time. One way I’m considering is making him write a blog which gets behind, a bit like I often do, so that he trips over his metaphysical feet in trying to catch up.

It’s taken me three days to write about Monday, and nothing much happened on Monday. If it had been a day filled with incident I’d still be writing. As it is, I’m just about to start writing about Tuesday.

I loaded up the camera, put a handful of bird food in my pocket and set off round the lake at Rufford Abbey.

It was an interesting day and after taking nearly 300 shots I’ve already deleted over 100. The problem is that birds just don’t cooperate. They move too fast, they hide in shadows and they lurk behind twigs (which prevent the autofocus working).

At one time I did consider a post based on near misses – the blurred Goldcrest, the fence rail recently vacated by the Dunnock and the twig where the Wren had just been perching. Fortunately I had second thoughts, or this could have been one of my less popular posts.

The best bit of the day was when I was photographing at the woodland bird tables, and fighting off squirrels. Suddenly there was a flurry in the leaves and the squirrels scattered, closely pursued by a weasel. I was too slow to get anywhere near it with the camera, but it was very funny, and what they deserved after stealing most of the food I put out.

 

 

Lagging Behind, and Misery in Derbyshire

It’s Wednesday today and I’m still blogging about Monday.

Eventually we reached Carsington Water, where I discovered I had left my stick at home. Though I have a spare one in the car it is one of my Dad’s and is about two inches too short. It actually causes more problems than it solves and is only there for emergencies.

It was a handy excuse for not walking round and freezing. So we went to the shops. Julia spent the points off the RSPB loyalty card on crackers and cards and I poked through the books and bird food before deciding that I didn’t feel like spending money.  I never feel like spending money, but at Christmas I can at least get into the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge and claim I’m entering the spirit of Christmas.

We went into the Air Ambulance charity shop after that. It was a miserable experience.  They seemed to have taken delivery of a new consignment of stock, and most of it was stacked in front of the books so I couldn’t see the interesting books.  To make things worse, the staff member who was on duty seemed to go out of her way to obstruct Julia as she tried to look round. It takes a lot to wind Julia up but she wasn’t very pleased by the time she’d finished.

We like the air ambulance, and though the kids never needed it, we have been at events where other rugby players have been whisked off for treatment. We also like charity shops. Things are bad when I use the words “miserable experience” about a visit.

I was able to look at a cookery book – James Martin’s Great British Winter Cookbook. I won’t add a link as that might tempt someone to buy it. None of the recipes grabbed me, and one, Tomato and Cumin Soup, didn’t seem particularly British or wintery. I mean, where are all the winter tomatoes? In Spain.

Then we went for tea and cake. A day that features tea and cake can’t be all bad can it? And the restaurant is always good. I say “always”…

Julia liked her mince pie. I thought my raspberry and orange cake was a bit dry. And deficient in raspberries, though as I served myself I only had myself to blame. Then I started to think I detected the aftertaste of artificial sweetener. It may not have been, but it was definitely an unpleasant aftertaste.

To cheer things up I suggested a trip to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar.  I wasn’t expecting much, but as we were on the doorstep thought we might as well go.  To be fair, some of the book stock does seem to be improving, after a bit of a slump, as does the card stock. However, we bought cards and stationery and no books, which doesn’t look good for the future.

We couldn’t even eat cake as we are dieting and had already had our daily ration.

In my dreams of next year I see myself standing outside the shop with my nose pressed up against the window looking in at the bright lights. Inside, people enjoy tea and cake, buy expensive bird food and select books that I wouldn’t enjoy.

Sadly, I cannot participate and I gradually fade away like the ghost of readers past…

I will leave you with that picture.

The next post will be more cheery.

 

More Red-crested Pochards

Here are a couple more shots of Red-crested Pochard in Arnot Hill Park. They are interesting birds as many of them are escapees from wildfowl collections, but at this time of year others fly in from wild populations in Europe.

There was a group at Idle Valley Nature Reserve last autumn and another small flock when we visited Rutland Water earlier in the year. In fact there are 39 there now, according to the latest sighting reports.

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The three photos below show various birds at Arnot Hill earlier in the year – as you can see, the females are much drabber, and one of the drakes has a light back – a sign that it is an escaped bird from a collection (domesticated birds tend to be lighter).

The third picture shows a Red-crested Pochard and a Common Pochard.

More New Words

We were in Derbyshire yesterday, and had a thoroughly miserable day. The weather was cold and grey with outbreaks of drizzle and, as we climbed higher, wintry showers.

And that is where the new words cut in. “Wintry showers” is, it seems, a term mainly used in the UK. It’s an undefined mix of rain, graupel and snow where the ground temperature is above freezing and nothing settles. In the USA, according to Wikipedia, a “wintry mix” is a mix of  freezing rain, ice pellets and snow that occurs when the ground is below freezing and things do settle.

I say “in the USA” with all the assurance that it’s one country, though now I come to think about it if you are reading this in New Mexico you probably aren’t that interested in snow.

On the subject of differences between the UK and USA, how about sleet? In the UK it’s another part of the rain/hail continuum, as it is in Canada. But cross the border into the USA, according to Wikipedia (and I stand to be corrected by residents of Maine) and sleet becomes ice pellets. For ice pellets and graupel (see – I didn’t forget) see this link.

I now know the difference between hail and ice pellets, where I never even knew there was a difference until this afternoon.

I think that’s enough for now. More on Derbyshire will follow once I have the pie in the oven…

Monster of the Deep

Forget the Blue Planet, look what I photographed in the depths of the duck pond at Arnot Hill Park on Sunday morning.

It appears to be a grey plastic supermarket trolley. If my memory serves me right these were used in Wilko’s. I’m going to have to go in next week and see if they still use them.

It was a bit chilly so I resisted the temptation to dive in and photograph it in its natural habitat.

There were also a few ducks and moorhens about.

 

Mallard/Pintail drake cross

Mallard/Pintail cross drake

The Paranormal Investigator

Yesterday I met a paranormal investigator. I’ve never met one before. In fact, when I got up in the morning I hadn’t realised I was going to meet one that day.

When he’s not investigating the paranormal he does a variety of odd jobs, which was why he was visiting someone at the same time I was there for something else.

When you see them on TV paranormal investigators seem to be completely normal to the point of being boring – not a top hat, garlic clove or skull in sight.  This was pretty much the case in real life too, though he did have a beard. As it’s a well-known fact that beards are good this was a plus point.

He didn’t even seem as mad as a box of frogs when he spoke.

It seems he’d recently been hanging round the site of an old monastery with a friend, detecting the psychic energy of  monks who died 500 years ago, using something called a K2 meter.

Before that he’d had some trouble in a cemetery one night when “something” hit him in the face. It seems the thing to do in  these circumstances is to tell them to stop it in a polite but firm manner. You must also avoid walking into them in case you become attached.

A really good way of avoiding an attachment, in my mind, is not to go walking around graveyards at night.

Problem solved.

You must also, it seems, avoid attracting ghosts into your car and driving them home. If you get one in the car you have to stop and tell them to leave. I’m not sure what happens if they refuse to leave, particularly if you aren’t packing holy water, a cross or a clove of garlic.

Again, if you don’t want to be haunted, don’t go messing in graveyards.

That’s it. I’m not going to say any more. You must make your own mind up whether you believe it or not. All I will say is that it’s a wonderful life when you can meet a faith healer and a ghost hunter on consecutive days.

 

Sunday Morning Catch Up

I haven’t been particularly fluent in the last week and I’ve missed a few things out.

The anti-coagulant blood test came and went. They managed to get the blood first time and the next appointment is in two weeks time so things are back on track. I’m hoping to extend the interval so I only need monthly tests. I know someone who has quarterly tests, which would be even better.

We went to the farm on Friday, as I mentioned and found that Evie the sheep dog had died at the weekend. The general view is that she had eaten poison, though I’m not sure where she would have found any as all the rat poison round the place is put out properly in bait boxes. It’s not the best run farm but they do get that right.

She was bred to herd sheep, and as I mentioned when she first arrived she immediately tried to herd the Quercus group, but she was never properly trained and I’m not sure if she had a fulfilled life or not. She didn’t seem overly happy at times, which is a shame.

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The new puppy

The men in sheds were saying how good my bread was on Friday. This isn’t linked to any proper measure of quality, they just used to like getting free bread when I was practising and made too much. I said I didn’t bake these days as the kneading plays havoc with my arthritis. Next thing I knew I was being offered healing.

I’m not much of one for faith healing and that sort of thing, and was prepared to feel no benefit, but can’t say that was the case. There may have been some improvement for a couple of days, but it might just be wishful thinking. The jury is out, but I’m certainly not going to dismiss it. The improvement may show more about my imagination than about my arthritis, but even an imaginary improvement is worth having.

Then on Saturday I met a paranormal investigator. You’ll have to come back later for details, as I need to get down to the launderette now. Suffice to say that if I had doubts about healing…

 

Five and a Half Hours

As I said yesterday, Julia had a job lined up for me in the afternoon.

It involved going to the farm to collect some stuff for a Mencap Open Day.  There we found geese, a couple of men in a shed and a Ferguson tractor. The tractor had all four wheels on, which was something I hadn’t seen before. It always seems to have one off for some sort of work.

From there we went to the Garden Centre for a late lunch (both having Bacon Stilton and Mango Chutney paninis with salad and vegetable crisps), dropped stuff off at the gardens then took an hour-long tour of the Ring Road. I didn’t enjoy that last bit.

I took the opportunity of taking a couple of night shots while we were at the gardens – they seemed to work out OK although the autofocus seemed to struggle a bit with the moon. I don’t think it’s ever had to work at a distance of 384,000 km before, so I expect it had a bit of a surprise.

Cold Garden, or A Man’s Time is Not His Own

I’ve been taking some photographs for Julia this morning, showing the progress she’s been making in the garden (helped by her merry band of volunteers and the garden group).

They have revamped the compost bins, cleared a large area of scrub, put in some raised beds, discovered a variety of plants, loaded up the leafmould cage and found some garden equipment (including plastic compost bins and an incinerator).

I also sorted out the lighting procedure for the gas heater in the site hut and checked the way to remove the spool on the new battery powered strimmer the group has been given. I am a man of many (uncommercial) talents.

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Revamped Compost Bins

After that I was despatched on a job for Julia. I am often sent on jobs for Julia, as regular readers will know. I did the job then I picked her up and I spent the next five and a half hours doing another job for her.

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Hazel catkins

As I say, a married man’s time is not his own.