Cold warnings

With warnings of more cold weather on the way I’ve wanted to ensure I leave a supply of food out for the birds during this vital period. Currently birds will be building up reserves ready for the breeding season. Already I’ve seen a few birds investigating my nesting material. But with the temperature dropping they will be needing high energy, high fat sources of food.The ground is frozen making many natural food sources hard to get.

I have several seed feeders, but these get drained in two or three days. So if I have a busy week at work I don’t always get out on an evening to restock them. The suet feeders and fat balls usually take longer to get through ensuring even when the seed runs out the birds still have food supplies in my garden.

As I was low on suet I went on Haith’s website to see what they had going and found a good value suet starter pack for £14.82. Haith’s have previously given me freebies to review, but this was not. I use Haith’s as the quality I do believe is better and when buying in a reasonable quantity it isn’t badly priced. In this starter pack I received suet fat balls and feeder, pellets, suet block, a coconut feeder, and a bird cake.

Getting out to put it out though meant separating Alice from her new Gruffalo costume, courtesy of the charity shop for £1.50. She has also been spoilt by her granddad with a set of binoculars after a previous blog. Though she hasn’t quite got used to which end to look through.

She had a few phone calls to make on her chocolate phone.

Now Alice was ready we got out to put out the new fat ball feeder and restock the feeders.

The coconut feeder has string on just to put up on a branch.

The cake, block and other pellets went up at the far end of the garden.

Alice was excited by a fir cone she found in the bug hotel.

My snowdrops seem to be running behind the schedule of other locally.

Blue bells and tulips are poking through further with each week.

Now I can sit back inside to do my school work watching the birds enjoy their feast.

Rock hunting

Today saw my parents visiting. After a trip for lunch at the Floral Hall  we headed out for a walk along the seafront.It was a nice day for it. The sun was out and the day was was calm. No chilling Winter winds today.

Alice enjoyed walking with my mum along the sea wall. Increasingly she wants to run.

We got down onto the beach. Just a few months ago Alice was very reluctant to walk on the sand. Now she’s trying to throw herself into the water.

Each time we go along the seafront she finds a couple of stones she doesn’t want to part with. She is very particular over which she takes. I can’t see any particular reason she wants the ones she takes, but she clearly does. In each photo you will see her hands are tightly clutching a pile of stones.

Some other visitors had made a good rock circle.

A distant bird, possibly a dunlin.

A more accommodating photogenic gull. I think it’s a black headed gull, but with the gulls all being white with some black I still haven’t got my eye in on identification.

A nice stroll along the front and an ice cream on the way back. It’s good to see Alice becoming more adventurous. Then with parents gone I still had time to work in the garden to finish the seeding from yesterday.

New Year at the Bay

For New Years Eve we had a quiet night in as Alice isn’t quite ready for parties. New Years Day we headed up the coast to Amy’s dad’s house at Robin Hood’s Bay where we had a lovely meal at the Hare and Hounds in Hawker. Amy had the trio of pork and I had the home made burger with goats cheese. I just expected a few pieces crumbled on the top, but it was a solid slice of grilled goats cheese. It was all delicious. Alice had a good wait, so had walked back and forth across the pub multiple times before food. But she did quite well for her age. She has decided to reject booster seats now. She wants either a chair to herself or my knees to sit on. She knows her own mind for a one and a half year old.

The next day saw a good sunrise over the bay with breathtaking skies. I think I said it last time I went, but photos don’t do it justice.

The next day we got out for a walk. I was taking photos as we went for the New Year Plant Hunt organised by the BSBI. The aim being to monitor what wildflowers are in bloom in Winter.

A few seen on the way.

Red Valerian

The winter heliotrope. A rather delightful low laying wildflower.

Plenty of gorse along cliff faces.

We had a nice walk along the beach. We didn’t quite make it to Boggle Hole, just down the coast. Boggle is a local name for a hobgoblin, a mischievous little person. Boggle Hole was one of the spots the smugglers on this stretch of coast used, thus the name.

Alice was keen to get in the howdah today trying to clamber in before we were ready.

Continue reading New Year at the Bay

The wonder of the Lost Words

In my Christmas Round up I mentioned my main present deserved a blog of its own. Having had time to reflect and enjoy reading it I now feel ready to comment on this book of wonder. I’ve only wanted to read a few pages a day so I could prolong the joy.

For Christmas Amy bought me The lost words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I’ve been aware of the book before its release and had held off on buying it hoping I would receive it as a present. The concept of the book is brilliant for nature lovers and as a teacher who promotes outside learning irresistible. The Oxford Junior dictionary took out 50 nature related words and replaced them with words considered more relevant. These were mainly computer related words such as, “chatroom,” and, “broadband”.

I remember the news story back in 2015 informing us of this decision. While I can understand the reason it saddens me that it is considered more use for children to know what an attachment is rather than an acorn. Many of the changes were seen as a continuation of the disintegration of childhood. Children increasingly have more solitary lives, less time outside and a disconnect form nature. All of this adds up to less resilient children and potential increases in mental health issues. While an argument could be made that the computer time still allows children to interact with people on a global scale it isn’t the same as face to face interaction. This coming from an avid blogger and twitter reader. I appreciate the use of the internet in creating new communities, but it isn’t a replacement for being outside with your friends.

The lost words takes these nature words to use as a basis for an acrostic poem. One poem for each word. Then each word has a title page of the word and then an illustration page. Presented as a beautiful A3 hardback the artwork gets the space it deserves. It feels like a quality package, but is selling at a very reasonable price for something that feels so special. I’ve been a fan of Jackie Morris’s artwork after buying, “something about a bear”. I went onto buy many more of her beautifully illustrated books. The style is perfectly matched to Robert MacFarlane’s words. MacFarlane’s nature writing has been nominated and won many accolades over the years. The partnership between the two on the lost words is a perfect blend. The poems are written as spells. These poems are wonderful fodder for the imagination.

While Alice is currently to young for understanding the poems I like the idea that in the future we use the book as a basis for a wildlife treasure hunt. A fieldguide for childhood lost. We’d attempt to find all the items from the book. Some are readily available in our garden, some would require hunting. A book to go back to again and again. It’s currently making for a perfect fireside read during the cold Winter nights.

And as if by magic a goldfinch has been summoned to my garden.

Christmas Day

Now the gluttony of Christmas day is done I can sit back and reflect on the last two days. For once, Alice decided to sleep in on Christmas day. However both me and Amy were up as we no longer sleep, having had our sleep patterns ruined by a year and a half of parenthood.

Alice started with a box of in the night garden figures. As a result she lost interest in the idea of opening others for a while. She still isn’t at an age where she has a full understanding of what is happening, so present opening is a slow laborious process. But well worth while as she was over the moon with what she has been given. We’ve been storing things from charity shops, sales and second hand sites, so haven’t gone mad on how much we’ve spent. I can’t say Alice has missed out as a result. She loved her second hand in the night garden toys giving them all many kisses.

Her second present needed some assembly, but she enjoyed pushing it around the kitchen. I can now set her on moving the weeds I dig out to the compost bins.

The process, of opening presents, was so slow we had to pause for breakfast, some of it eaten out of the new wheelbarrow.

Before returning to one of the biggest presents.

Having got the idea she was able to help open Amy’s presents.

We relocated to my parents where Alice enjoyed a day of eating everything she likes: fruit, cheese straws, chocolate and flapjack. Presents were opened with the rest of the family. The nephews gave the toblerone game away to Daz of what his triangular prism shaped present would be. Alice liked my mums star decoration. Star is currently one of her favourite words.

Alice received a picnic set and doll accessories from her Aunty Em. She’s loved feeding her baby and pretending to put nappy cream on her.

We finished the last of the presents. My dad was excited for some of his favourite French mustard brought back from my sisters trip to France. My sister, brother in law and nephews departed to the other side of their family for dinner. Alice went down for a nap for the start of Christmas dinner, but only stayed asleep for the starters.

She did enjoy her beans though. No traditional dinner for her yet. After she chilled with granddad. She’s loved staring at all of his moving Christmas scenes and has been very good about not grabbing hold of them. She’s happily laid and watched parts moving around.

Boxing day we chilled at my parents for the morning, before going to my sisters for dinner.

Alice enjoyed some quiet time with her new crayons.

Aunty Em liked that they’d both gone for dungarees.

Two lovely days. My mum and sister did splendid jobs on the food front. We’ve been surrounded, as with last year, by love and affection again this year. 

Alice has been very lucky with friends and families generosity and I’m sure she will enjoy much of what she got for a good while beyond Christmas Day. We got too many wonderful things for her to mention them all, but thank you to all who have given her a fantastic day.

I haven’t talked about my main present, but I think I’ll leave that for another blog to discuss its delights. I hope everyone reading has had as lovely a Christmas season as we have had.


The dark is rising-day 6 Street names

In TDIR Will is protected from the witch Maggie as he walks on one of the old one’s paths. He is reminded to be aware of the names of streets. Cooper ties in protection with what has been there a long time bringing another aspect of landscape to the story. The older landscape being associated with the light. Since reading I’ve been keeping an eye on my local street names. It’s not looking hopeful for me. No street names that suggest old ways for protection. There all a bit too modern. At least if you take 200 years or so to be modern.

Alice has been excited for jumping in puddles on our town exploring, now proffering her wellies to other forms of footwear.

I’ve had a lovely Christmas day, but that will form the subject of another blog. Hope everyone else had super days.

The dark is rising-day 5 contemporaries and influence

Today’s question poised by Robert MacFarlane: 24 December: Day 5 of #TheDarkIsReadingTo which other books/writers do you think TDIR is related? Alan Garner, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Holdstock; also The Mabinogion, WG Hoskins, Jacquetta Hawkes…

And – where is Cooper’s influence visible in recent/contemporary (YA) writing?

The most obvious contemporary writer to Susan Cooper would be Alan Garner. Both wrote books based on Arthurian lore. Their stories were heavily based in the British landscape and folk traditions of the land. Other connections could easily be made to T.H. White and his story of Merlin compiled as the once and future king. Much like Cooper and Garner they all have a good understanding of the land and animals present in the British Isles. 

But looking at their work in isolation with regards to literature seems a mistake. The late 60s saw a folk revival in music. Much of this with a pagan nature. Bands like the incredible string band and pentangle form a backdrop to Garner’s and Cooper’s work. Many of these bands drawing on the same source material of Arthurian legend and the Mabinogion. Within movies the 70s saw many darker horror movies with similar rural backgrounds. The Wicker man being the most famous, but Robin Redbreast and Penza’s fen deserve a mention too. 

Kids TV took similar dark turns with the ITV children of the stones. A wonderfuly scary show that would never be made now. The TV adaptation of Garner’s the owl service didn’t go quite as dark, but deserves a mention.

Reading the twitter thread on this question many people are linking Cooper’s work to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. While these are based in magical worlds within modern day settings I’d say the magic comes from a more contemporary setting. The world of folk tales and legend plays a role, but there are other authors more strongly following Cooper and Garner’s work. Not that I’m critising Harry Potter. I just don’t think they have the same grounding in landscape, the myths and legends of the British Isles and nature of the Isles. Diana Wyne Jones with a smattering of Merlin through her stories seems more of a follow on. Albeit with a bit more humour. Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s spiderwick chronicles come through in similar ways. There is a background of folklore placed in the contemporary setting.

But however you look at TDIR, in terms of influence or not, it’s a very enjoyable winter read.

Tonight is Christmas Eve so our family traditions were observed. In TDIR Will and family head out carol singing. In my family we stick a candle in a potato cut in half to light the way for Father Christmas. Who knows where these traditions come from, but they must be observed each year.

Tomorrow will be full of excess so if I don’t get a chance I’ll say it now; Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. May your day be full of joy.