Sunday, 1 August 2021

Hello Sweden

I don't think I know anyone in Sweden but if any Swedes are reading this then please say hello back because you've been visiting my blog an awful lot recently. 

I realised something strange was happening to my blog stats a few months ago. They have soared from an average of 300 to 400 visits a week to around 4,000 visits. On closer examination I discovered that the exceptionally high numbers are coming from Sweden. But why is Sweden interested in my blog? 

I spoke with my blogger friend Vallypee who blogs at Rivergirl. Val, like me, uses Blogger to support her blogs. We had a chat about it and she loaded up her blog stats to investigate. Sure enough, exactly the same thing was happening to her blog. 

Here is a screen shot of the hits on my blog for the last 7 days:


Val and myself noted that none of these additional viewers have opened any of our blog posts so were they scanning blog titles or was it some kind of bot? I'm very confused. What would a bot want with my blog? I rarely mention politics or religion and even when I do there's nothing there that could have a major effect on International relations, life and the universe so what on earth is the bot activity all about - or if it's people scanning my titles then what would be the purpose of doing that?

My stats figures may show Sweden as top but for quite some time Russia has been up there with the top countries to visit my blog. I might not know anyone from Sweden but I definitely don't know anyone from Russia. It's all very strange and, although it does me no harm whatsoever (well none that I know of!) if anyone reading this can throw some light on it for me then please do. I'm starting to get obsessed with my stats figures and that's never a good thing!

 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Cat news

Betty and Sophie have been with us for over two months now. Betty has just about healed from all the flea bite scabs that covered her poor little body when we collected her from the rescue centre so that's good but they do both have some very odd ways. 

Betty has so far refused to join us in the living room. She is happy to go into the garden, dining room and conservatory but she is acting as if the rest of the house is out of bounds. It's a great shame because she runs full pelt to join us if she sees us sitting in the garden or conservatory. She loves the company and yet she has this self-imposed isolation when we are in the rest of the house.

Sophie also has a few odd quirks. She refuses to eat anything other than dried food. I've never had a cat who won't even eat a piece of cooked salmon or chicken and she panics if we go to pick her up, even though she loves having her ears and tummy tickled and her panic levels soar if anyone visits. Hopefully she'll grow to trust us given time. She spends most days sleeping in an unidentified part of the garden - we've yet to discover her hidey-hole. We only know that when we search for her she emerges from somewhere near the house - a proper little Mrs Mistoffelees.

These cats have history and the sad thing is that I'll never know what happened in their lives before they came to us. (They're both seven years old.) One thing is for sure, they're loving their new garden and I think they're starting to realise that they've well and truly landed on their paws.

Sophie is the patterned puss.
Betty is the one in the black suit and white tie.



Monday, 12 July 2021

Warning: This post rambles...

A few days ago I spent a number of hours writing a blog post, checking it and viewing it on Preview to make sure it looked presentable. I then had an odd feeling... a kind of deja vu. I did a search on the title, Onion, and realised that I had produced an almost identical post two years ago. I have put this down to the general confusion of multiple lockdowns and Covid anxiety. It has nothing to do with getting older, nothing!! I just did a bit of a Google search and found a mental health site that said I need to do a variety of activities including new activities in order to keep my brain healthy - groan.

On the subject of getting older, and while writing the above-mentioned duplicated blog post, I started to think about my Dad and his electrical prowess. In the early 1960s the only way to listen to music at home -  apart from on the wireless which is what we now call the radio - was to play records on the record player. Records were fragile. The really old 78 rpm records were heavy and would smash if dropped. They could also be heated up and turned into fruit bowls if we got bored with the song! The light-weight vinyl 45 and 33 rpm ones got easily scratched which meant all our songs had a background of clicks and so Dad made us a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He made it from a kit and it worked perfectly. Now we could borrow records and record them. We could also record music from the wireless but that was illegal so I'm not going to mention it here!! No one else I knew had a tape recorder. We were lucky.

It wasn't long before those tiny cassettes took over but the cassette players used to chew them up and then CDs appeared with pure sound and no clicks or chewing ups. Today we can listen to any song we like with online streaming. I would have loved that as a teenager.

In order to take seriously the suggestion from the above-mentioned mental health site I have just gone into the garden and taken some nature photographs. Here is a rose. You can even see a rain droplet on it. Isn't it beautiful! 



Thursday, 1 July 2021

Nature's Closing Down

I received an email today from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). I receive a lot of unsolicited emails and usually scarcely acknowledge the content before moving it to Trash but this one caught my eye. In large letters on a mock shop sign it said:

Nature's closing down

There's a lot of information on the internet about the climate crises and I'm afraid I am becoming quite blasΓ© about it all but this touched a nerve. It says that the natural world we are living in is dying and points out that we have lost nearly 38 million birds in the last 50 years. It says that life as we know it could disappear within the decade because nature is closing down.

I don't want that to happen but I don't know what I can do about it other than sign their petition, which I have done. If you would like to sign the petition then please follow this link:

RSPB Information and Petition

On second thoughts there must be more that I can do so I've drawn up a list. Send me a smiley face either here or on Twitter @RosalindAdam if you already do, or are planning to do, any of the following:

  • Recycle and don't throw things away if possible. (We have a recycling bin and I feel quite righteous when I fill it up.)  πŸ˜€
  • See if there are community groups cleaning up parks etc and volunteer to help. (I may not do this due to arthritis etc.)  πŸ˜€
  • Don't waste water (I always turn off the tap while cleaning my teeth and that's a start!)  πŸ˜€
  • Don't buy disposable items and try to avoid plastics where possible. (We now have milk delivered in glass bottles and we put out the empties like in the olden days.)  πŸ˜€
  • Keep reminding each other to do the above.  πŸ˜‡
Have I missed anything out? I was going to add 'plant a tree' but our garden has all the trees it can cope with and our local park has lots of new trees recently planted so I think that locally we are succeeding in that respect.

Wouldn't it be awful if nature starts to close down over the next decade. I'll finish this blog post with the following disturbing image, courtesy of Analytics Insight.





Friday, 18 June 2021

Swimming, Poetry and Radio 4's Off The Page

Having to book a slot for swimming has an effect on numbers. A group of people have to enter and exit together. Consequently the days of me swimming in a gloriously almost-empty pool are no more - at least until restrictions are lifted. I've just returned from a swim where I had to share a lane with a woman who had a particularly worthy style of front crawl. Each time we passed I expected to be knocked out cold by the power of her arm action. I may have to write a poem about it.

I am still plugging away with my poetry submissions. I am getting rejections but I keep having to remind myself that this is an expected part of the procedure. Right now I have twenty-one different poems out there. One thing is for sure, if I get an acceptance you will be among the first to hear about it!

Still on the subject of poetry, I was listening to an old episode of Off the Page the other night. The episode was called Poetry Shmoetry and it's from 2010 but is available as a BBC podcast for a limited time. I've tried adding a link to this screen shot so you can have a listen if you fancy. Hope it works...

At one point they were talking about whether poetry is a waste of time or not. As Andrew Motion was on the panel, and had only recently stepped down from the role of poet laureate, I expected it to be fully in favour of poetry but even he conceded that not only poetry but much of what is written down is not of particular value to us. They went on to consider whether most poetry is merely for tortured souls to fling their miseries far and wide - my words not theirs. 

This made me take a long hard look at my own work, including the above-mentioned twenty-one pieces. As I suspected, I do not fling miseries. In fact a lot of my writing leans heavily on the nostalgia of how things once were and how they are now and there's absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia, now is there?

Friday, 4 June 2021

New clothes and bring back hats!

I have nothing to wear. This is not a stereotypical female whinge. This is for real. I have spent over a year slouching about in old joggers and sloppy tops (I bet you have too). Those joggers and tops are now only fit for the recycling bag. I need some smart clothes, ones that fit me. I can't be the only person to have changed shape slightly over the last year and a half! And so I am trying to decide what to buy. 

Skirts: I'm fussy about skirts. Fixed waistbands drive me crazy but elasticated-waisted skirts tend to be uninspiring. Above the knee length looks tarty on me these days, mid-calf looks frumpy and full length often means full width too and so I drown in volumes of material.

(While I'm on the subject of skirts, why do some men wear kilts? And while I'm on the subject of men's clothes what is the tie all about? Why would anyone wear a strip of cloth tied round their neck?)

Dresses: Same problem as skirts re length and don't get me started about the cost. Dresses are so expensive.

Trousers: I have five pairs of smart jeans hanging in the wardrobe. Can't get the zips to do up on any of them, even if I suck my stomach right in. I have several comfortable trousers but they look like pyjama bottoms.

Hats: I do wish hats would become fashionable once more. (I think I've moaned about this before but it bears saying again). I want to wear a different hat each day of the week: beret, fedora, cap, pill box, sombrero, cloche, panama... I feel elegant in a hat. I know I am perfectly free to wear whatever hat I fancy but I'm not confident enough to totally go against the fashion of the day.

Fashions from the 1950s were so elegant and back then my Great Auntie Alice made clothes for all the family. She didn't need to use any kind of pattern but these were some of the styles she would create. What a shame I was too young to benefit...

Oh well, back to searching those online fashion pages...

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

New cats, first hugs and a personal struggle

New Cats
Last week we adopted two cats. Our old cat, Mabel, died last December and it's been very quiet here. It's not quiet anymore! According to their chips they are both seven years old. Their owner was an elderly man who died so we don't know anything else. It's early days for them - not allowed out - two litter trays - constant whiff in the air. It's a good job we're still not having house guests! 

Sophie has discovered the joys of the settee but Betty is obsessively staying within a few feet of her food and, in the words of Desperate Dan, she could eat a cow pie... the whole time:


First Hugs
On Sunday we did something that we hadn't done since December 2019. We met up with Son and family. I have to admit that there were tears. We met at a halfway point, Cromford Mills in Derbyshire. It's a fascinating historic site where Richard Arkwright developed his idea for spinning cotton using the power of water but we were almost too busy catching up on chatter and hugs to take it all in. It was a very special day, it was beyond lovely and I never want to go that long again without seeing them.

My Struggle
I don't often talk about my health on this blog but it was mental health awareness week recently so maybe it's right to say something especially as a lot of people who know me outside this blog think I'm totally self-assured and 'together'. 

As a teenager I suffered from bouts of agoraphobia. It has never completely left me. I'm always aware of the struggle to keep it from taking over BUT I always manage to get out and do the things that I want to do. I force myself. It's hard work but preferable to hiding away. I've tried all manner of counselling and hypnotherapy but it's always there - always.

Lockdown was a safe place to be which means that now, after over a year of hardly leaving the house, I am finding it seriously difficult. My stomach churns and my legs tremble at the smallest of outings. Yes, I managed to get to Derbyshire on Sunday and I will continue to get myself to places but my body is constantly in full fight/flight mode and it is exhausting. 

Sorry to moan and thank you for letting me share that. 


Thursday, 13 May 2021

Have I invented a new word?

Antecovidian

I think I may have invented a new word but if you've seen it used elsewhere then do let me know. This all came about because I keep referring to things that happened, 'before the pandemic'. It made me think of the word 'antediluvian' - 'before the flood' - and so I decided that the word 'antecovidian' would be extremely useful over the next year or so. 

Now I shall use my new word...

I used to have a rail card for antecovidian train travel. I was about to use it to go to London when the first lockdown hit. The rail card has now expired and although I'm not planning to go anywhere by train at the moment, (there seems to be a major problem with our trains, something to do with cracks in carriages) I was hoping to use the train some time during the summer. It would seem that, although we were told by the government not to travel, there will be no carrying-over of rail cards to compensate. 

This is not a major issue, it's not life or death, but it is yet another thing that makes me feel dissatisfied as I try to come to terms with our strange face-masking, hand-gelling world. 

And now I shall use my new word again...

Antecovidian appointments with the GP almost always involved going to the surgery, sitting with other ill people in the waiting room, catching goodness-only-knows-what from them before being called in to see the doctor. This was an experience that I always dreaded.

Now the system has changed. Consultations take place over the phone or on video call if the GP needs to look at a particular part of you. For many things this is good but they say that a lot of serious conditions are being missed. They also say (not sure exactly who 'they' are!) that there are not enough GPs to see all their patients in person any more. I'm not suggesting GP practices return to antecovidian days but surely there must be a compromise to be reached.

I shall now sit back and see if my new word can find its way into regular parlance. What fun!! 





Thursday, 6 May 2021

My latest poetry publication


Thank you to The Copperfield Review for publishing my poem...

Dancing across canvas


This has spurred me on to spend a bit more time on my poetry. I've visited blogs where people list poetry publishers who are calling for submissions, scoured Twitter and Facebook and spent some considerable time on Google. I now have a list that's so long it's almost unmanageable. It would seem that there are seventy poetry magazines, some online and some in print, who accept submissions. Some offer payments, some offer a free magazine if you get published, others offer nothing other than the kudos. Some have specific submission windows, others accept work 24/7. None of the seventy require payment to read my work. I deleted all of those. 

I have all seventy names and their specific requirements in a spreadsheet - how organised am I!?! I also have a file full of work-in-progress poetry and I'm working my way through the two lists to try and match poems with magazines. A lot of my writing draws on history and there is, as you can see at the top of this post, a market for this. 'Dancing across canvas' is the second of my poems to be accepted by a historical literary journal called The Copperfield Review. You can read it here: Dancing across canvas 

I know, I know, I've posted the link twice. It only seems fair to give the site a double promo!


Saturday, 1 May 2021

A Mouse Tale

Several days ago I had settled down to write a post about happiness. I'd been listening to a radio programme that discussed the power of our minds and the way we have the choice to think happy thoughts rather than sad or anxious ones. 

As you can see, that post never materialised. I was thrown into a panic of negativity that began with this blog. Everything I typed showed up in machine code. It was baffling until some Twitter and blog friends came to my rescue - with special thanks to Joanne Faries of Word Splash who I messaged but forgot about the time difference! (Hope I didn't wake you up, Joanne.) There is a button top left that restored my screen and my sanity - well not quite my sanity because my blog was, as it turned out, the least of my worries.

I settled onto the sofa to start my blog post once more when a mouse ran across the floor and into the corner behind the TV. I've had cats all my life until my lovely little Mabel died last December. I still miss her very much but I never appreciated her mousing skills until now. I managed more by luck than skill to usher the mouse into the kitchen and out through the open door to the back garden. Goodbye mousey!

We searched for signs of mouse habitation and found, under the kitchen sink, mouse droppings, piles of them. We set to removing the bottles of cleaning fluid that we keep there but the mouse had nibbled corners. Liquids of all colour and smell poured out down our clothes, over our shoes and across the kitchen floor. After considerable cleaning, order was restored and that was that - or so we thought.

Yesterday morning I was walking into the kitchen when I almost tripped over a cheeky mouse scuttling across the floor. I grabbed a towel (if you throw a towel over them they stop running) but the mouse was considerably faster than me and it slid behind the fridge/freezer. It took nigh on an hour to move the fridge/freezer out far enough so that I could scoop the mouse up in the towel and release it into the garden. That release was quite a moving moment. I opened my hands and it looked up at me. 'What? You mean I'm free to go?' it seemed to say. 'Yes,' I said. 'Go on. Run.' And it did - they would be quite cute if they weren't vermin. 

We doubted that there would be any other mice in the house but just in case we went out and bought two humane mouse catchers. You put food in them and when the mouse goes in to get the food the lid drops down and you can carry them out and set them free. I baited them and set them up in the kitchen for the evening. At bedtime the lids were still propped open but - I did say they were cheeky - the food was gone.

It looks as if we will be getting another cat. Well, as I said, I've always had cats, always rescue cats, and I do miss having a cat around. I've already contacted some local catteries so watch this space. 


Sunday, 18 April 2021

Swimming will never be the same again...

...in fact, nothing, for me, will ever be the same again.

Ok, so I'm being over-dramatic, some may even say hysterical, but there's some truth to be found in my neuroses and I'm going to use swimming as an example. 

On Friday I went swimming for the first time in over a year. I hadn't realised quite how much my body had missed it but here's the thing. There were always rules like no running on the poolside and no taking photographs in the sauna, only now there are major rules. 
  • Book ahead for your 45 minute slot
  • Arrive 'beach ready' (which means wearing bathing costume under clothes and remembering to take underwear for the journey home!)
  • Only two people per swimming lane
  • No sauna, jacuzzi or steam room
  • No showering afterwards
But here's the proof, if proof were needed, that, for me, nothing will ever be the same again. About three years ago I ended up in hospital with pneumonia. I know where I caught it. I'd been swimming and went into the steam room afterwards. A guy in there was sneezing and coughing and he wasn't using the crook of his arm to catch the droplets. I should have covered my face, held my breath and dashed out of there but in typical British fashion I sat with stiff upper lip. I put up with it. I won't ever put up with anything like that again.

In spire of all the rules I did enjoy my swim and it's good to show my face out of the house at last, but I must remember to be careful... you know... hands, face space, all that sort of thing which reminds me of a recent altercation with a Twitter idiot and so:
A warning to a denialist: If you are the person who told me on Twitter that there has not been a pandemic and it was all a government plot then I am afraid you are misguided at best, an idiot at worst. I have a family member who works in an Intensive Care Unit of a large hospital so do not tell me that hospitals have had no extra patients. End of matter. I have heard more than enough of your denialist rantings. 


Thursday, 8 April 2021

My Top 5 Pandemic Positives

We surely must be able to glean some good from this last year of death tolls and lockdowns so here are my top five pandemic positives, things that I would like to give thanks for. They are, in no particular order:

1.  Not having to scrape the frost off the car or even get dressed properly to attend a meeting ...thanks to zoom.

2.   Not always ending up in the slowest queue at the supermarket ...thanks to Ocado (and all the other online food suppliers).

3.  Not having to hold tightly to my bag for fear of pickpockets in a crowded area ...thanks to all the 2 metre signs and one way notices.

4.  Not having to handle cash - maybe never having to handle cash again ...thanks to contactless swiping (I know this was around before the pandemic - as was zoom and Ocado - but contactless payments are more generally accepted now even for small transactions.)

Last but most definitely not least:

5.  Not having to receive uninvited hugs plus kisses on both cheeks from men I barely know ...thanks to social distancing (and if that makes me sound like a miserable so-and-so I'm sorry but it's how I feel).

Have I missed anything? 

Are there pandemic positives that you would like to give thanks for? If so then do please share...


Monday, 29 March 2021

Worm Moon plus lots of Festivals

Last night was the Worm Moon, the third full moon of the year. I didn't see it. The clouds were thick, the wind was vicious, but I knew that Worm Moon was there, somewhere above the swirling nebulae. (Did you know that every full moon has a name? I thought that only applied to the Harvest Moon.)

Apparently it's called Worm Moon because the earth has warmed up enough for the worms to come to the surface, providing a culinary perk for robins and various other small birds. I only have to watch our resident robin and his partner to know that this is correct.

This year the Worm Moon is also called the Paschal Moon because it's the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. This got me thinking. Paschal is from the Aramaic 'pasha' and the Hebrew 'pesah'. It means 'the passing over'. The word refers to both the Christian festival of Easter and the Jewish festival of Passover/Pesach, (it's in Exodus Chapter 12 verses 13 to 23). If I'm interpreting it correctly both festivals, although very different in practice, are about freedom and salvation. 

They're not the only festivals occurring this time of the year. It is rather a busy time for festivals. So here's the festival run-down. I hope that I've illustrated them appropriately and that I haven't missed any:

Last week the Spring Equinox was celebrated by Pagans.


The Spring Equinox is the new year in Iran and is called Nowruz.


The Jewish festival of Passover began on Saturday evening and lasts for eight days.


Yesterday (Sunday) was the first day of the Hindu festival of Holi. 


Today is the Muslim festival of Shab-e-Barat. 


Today is also the Sikh festival of Hola Mahalla.


The Christian festival of Easter begins this week with Maundy Thursday followed by Good Friday. 


I don't pretend to understand the finer nuances of all these festivals but I have a feeling that incorporated in all of them is a hope/prayer for freedom, peace and security. If we all hoped/prayed together then maybe our joint voices would have an effect. Now, wouldn't that be a result!

Whatever festival you are observing right now, have a good one.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

My contribution to World Poetry Day

March 21 is World Poetry Day.
I do hope you’ve all taken time
to ensure that your writing and clever word play
is exploding with rhythm and rhyme.

Record your to-do list in long ballad form,
leave the milkman a note in Haiku.
Your limerick emails will go down a storm.
Why not tweet out a tanka or two.

I’m planning to talk in rhyme all of today
chatting sonnets and ballads and more.
I will rap and give rhythm to all that I say
using couplets and triplets galore…

…except Mr A has asked me to please stop as it’s a tad annoying!

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Looking forward - fire pits and all

There's nothing like seeing your name in print to encourage a return to the keyboard. I had been suffering from lockdown lethargy but when The Pomegranate London magazine landed on my mat last week I was proud, excited and enthused. It's a lovely magazine, quality print, illustrations, varied reading material and of course it includes my poem, The Circus Barker. Not bad for £5. As a result of this renewed enthusiasm I've submitted four poems this week and have several more just about good to go.

That doesn't mean I've not had time for other activities (with apologies for the double negative!) In the UK from March 29th we should, as long as the virus doesn't re-spike, be allowed to invite friends into our gardens for socially distanced afternoon tea - or indeed morning coffee. Leicester in April can be bitter but I'm desperate for social interaction so today I ordered a fire pit for the patio. 

Initially I thought it sounded like something from a Roman arena with battling lions and slaves but internet images have put my mind at rest. I might also order a chimnea - those pot-bellied affairs with a little chimney. I need to see how effective the fire pit is first. 

I must say, I am normally a careful and conservative shopper, taking days if not weeks to decide whether or not to buy new items but with the sniff of lockdown-relaxations I am afraid I have become totally reckless.

The rest of the day was spent helping Mr A with the rubbing down and painting of the patio table and chairs so that they're ready for the onslaught of visitors. All I have to do now is to find people who would like to visit!



Wednesday, 10 March 2021

How to keep a gratitude journal...

...or should that be 'how not to'?

A few weeks ago Daughter gave me a gift of a pink journal. It has a soft, leathery cover and is compulsively tactile. She told me it was for recording daily gratitudes. She said that this method of dealing with negative thoughts has now replaced the old 'dumping of baggage' journal, explaining that writing negatives down every night was reinforcing them in your mind. Writing gratitudes down every night will reinforce the positive. 

Reinforcing positives certainly makes sense but it took me a few weeks to get the hang of it. For a start I began by picking out events that had previously been a negative in my life but had now improved and so I could record my gratitude, for example the Covid rate going down to below 100 per 100,000 in our area. Daughter told me that this was not the idea at all. It was to find pleasing, gratifying moments. She saw the blank look on my face - I'm afraid I am something of a 'glass half empty' person - and so she gave me examples. 

    "Look Mum, how about writing it down next time you see that woodpecker at the bird feeder and the way you told me how he sends showers of seed all over the place for the smaller birds to clean up... or... or you could write about that daffodil bud in the garden, look, the way its yellow petals are just beginning to unfold. That's positive. That's gratitude."

I may have remembered the conversation slightly wrongly. Daughter will probably read this, roll her eyes and say that I've still not quite grasped how to keep a gratitude journal but I think I'm getting there. 

I saw the woodpecker again today and as for the daffodils, they're looking lovely and I had to smile at the pretty pink hellebore photobombing my daffodil shot...


Have a good week.



Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Max Out In The Lake District

Recently my daily breakfast has been transformed. While I munch on my toast I 'walk' through Cumbria's stunning Lake District with Max the springer spaniel, his two siblings and their owner, Kerry Irving.

It was only when Max the Miracle Dog was awarded an animal OBE last month that I found out about him and his Facebook Page, Max Out In The Lake District. Max is a therapy dog and has helped thousands of people overcome depression. Kerry Irving explains how his dog Max saved his life after he had a road traffic accident. He was unable to walk and sank into a serious depression but Max helped him through it. You can read the article from the Guardian newspaper of 19 Feb 2021 here: Guardian article.

Kerry Irving creates live posts of his daily walks on his Facebook Page and that's how I'm able to join him and his three springer spaniels as they walk through the breathtakingly beautiful countryside. 

Photo of Max from the Guardian article


On a personal note: I very much miss my cats, Charlie and Mabel. When Josh the dog died in 2011 I said 'never again' to another dog. I said 'never again' to more cats when Mable died a few months ago. I still miss her very much and hate living without animals but I don't know if I can bear the pain and worry of living with them. And this pandemic isn't helping me to make a sensible decision as we still can't get out and about. So in the meantime, while I decide what to do about pets, I'll carry on walking with Max and his two doggie siblings. I hope you enjoy their videos as much as I do.


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Counting birds

Every year when I begin my hour's count of garden birds for the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch I think of that TV advert, the one where the man is trying to take photos of pandas in a zoo. Nothing appears... nothing appears... nothing appears... so he turns round and eats a KitKat. Unbeknown to him pandas appear on roller skates and do crazy things behind his back. When he has finished his chocolate he turns back again and, inevitably, nothing appears. 

OK, so my bird count is not quite as bad as that but I'm convinced those birds know that I want to count them. They willing pose and posture for me as I hover by the kitchen window on any other day of the year but on bird count day the numbers are always down. 

Thankfully Woody made an appearance. He's our regular Woodpecker. He visits at least once a day with an entourage of small birds. It's soon obvious why the small birds faithfully follow him. He positions himself sideways on the bird feeder and pecks like a mad thing while his entourage sit on the ground beneath him pecking at the windfall... or should that be woodpeckerfall?!

I've contributed to the RSPB survey for many years and in the past it's always been a bit of a squeeze, juggling my many weekend commitments in order to give myself an entire hour to sit and watch and count. This year there was no such problem. I could have spent the entire morning on my hour's count...  but of course I stuck to the rules and counted for precisely one hour. My full hour's tally is below.

Once the time was up I got a tripod, the binoculars, my mobile phone and some gaffer tape. I wanted to try out something that I'd seen on last month's BBC TV Countryfile programme. It is possible to take a zoom-lens photograph using an ordinary phone camera and a pair of binoculars but the binoculars have to be securely in position, hence the gaffer tape. You move the phone around until you can see a clear dot of the image and then very slowly move it towards the binocular lens. One hand shake and the image is lost so it took me some time to get it set up. My next task was keeping still enough so that the birds returned but was it worth all the effort? I'm not sure it was.

Woody returned before I'd got the binoculars set up so this is just a click and crop photo:


And this is a coal tit who kindly posed while I faffed around trying to line up phone and binocular lens:



Verdict: It could be worth the effort but I guess I need to practice quite a bit more!!

Has anyone got any other tips for capturing images of wildlife without getting the full zoom-lens-expensive-camera kit?

My bird count tally:

  • Blackbird 2
  • Blackcap 2
  • Goldfinch 1
  • Dunnock 1
  • Blue tit 2
  • Robin 2
  • Coal tit 2
  • Woodpecker 1
  • Great tit 1
  • Pigeon 3
  • Magpie 1
  • Chaffinch 1

Not bad for a suburban garden.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Keeping amused during lockdown number 3

Lockdown number 1 was surreal. No one could quite believe what was happening but it was a glorious sunny spring and we all thought this virus nonsense would be over by summer. 

Lockdown number 2 saw me full of excitement welcoming Daughter back to Leicester. After living over 90 miles away for the best part of 20 years it was and is a joy to have her just round the corner. Once she had done the necessary isolating we bubbled and were able to help her settle in to her new home. 

Lockdown number 3 has arrived. Daughter is busy working, there's no sign of our vaccination call (not that a jab would release us instantly back to our old ways) and the weather is wet, cold and grey. So I'm trying to keep myself amused with:

The predictive text monkey: Most of our conversations are now conducted over various messaging services and so the predictive text monkey is having a field day. My friend messaged this morning to say she was off to her dramatist. There ensued a lengthy thespian exchange... Oh for a muse of fire... let slip the dogs of war... Of course it should have read dentist not dramatist but I rather fancy having an appointment with a dramatist right now. I was so meant to tread the boards, dahling!

Number awareness: I think I may be mildly dyscalculia. I've never been good with numbers but my immediate problem - and one which my Facebook friends will already be aware of - is working out sizes of food packages when doing online orders. Last week I ordered 2 kg of oats. I would never have believed that a 2 kg bag of oats could be so big or so heavy. I've made flapjacks, muesli and plenty of bowls of porridge but the bag is still so heavy that it requires both hands to lift it safely... and I'm still trying to forget the recent purchase of a large mixing bowl...

Puppy love: Yes, I've fallen in love with two dogs - two adorable internet dogs. They are Andrew Cotter's Olive and Mabel. If you haven't seen his videos on YouTube then I strongly recommend you seek them out. He is a sports presenter who, during the first lockdown, posted a video of his commentary on his two labradors eating their breakfast, building tension as to which dog would wipe his bowl clean first. It was an instant YouTube hit and he has posted many more hilarious videos since. This is a link to that first video called The Dog's Breakfast Grand Final.

Anything that makes us laugh is worth sharing right now so what is keeping you amused during Lockdown number 3?

* Update: Within an hour of publishing this blog post we were offered Covid-19 vaccination appointments for this week. Gulp!

*Update 2: I've just spotted that this is my 600th blog post - surely an excuse for some kind of cake related celebration!