Red

Definitely red, definitely a blueberry plant. It’s quite a few years old. I bought it from a local garden centre about 13 years ago. It was heavily discounted and looking very damaged. Clearly it was close to being binned. I kinda felt sorry for it. Since then it’s been a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s nice to have those things that give you so much in life. I tend to find that the best of these often come from quite unusual routes. Not the way I would naturally imagine they would come from. That kind of makes them even more special.

This blueberry came into my world at about the same time as Hawklad. Both were about 1ft tall. Thirteen years later the plant has trebled in size – Hawklad is now double its size. Well at least I’m still taller than one of them….

This morning I was thinking about some of the other changes the plant has seen. Yes the obvious one with the loss of a key team member. Aspergers. Much less visitors. Much less hair on my top. Too much hair on top of Hawklad. A mad dog. The Apple Tree is more unkempt. A mole and badger have become nighttime visitors. Some nutter starting doing yoga next to the poor plant. Far too frequent storms battering it these days. The nutter sitting outside talking to the plant but now with a decaf coffee – just not the same. People walking their dogs in the farm field but now wearing masks. Hawklad talking about 4 generations of Xbox’s now. Four different cars. Three different lawnmowers. A sandpit replaced with a football goal. A garden shed replaced with a weed patch.

Yet the blueberry plant is still here. Still giving. Not bad for something that was close to getting rejected and binned.

Definitely red, definitely special.

A thought

Wonder what these cows are thinking?

Hawklad has always loved listening and making stories up. One particular story line has been a common theme. We call it the Mr Mole Stories. It’s a world we’re talking animals live alongside humans. The story started back when Hawklad was a toddler. He was not the greatest of travellers and when he looked out of a moving train window – it was asking for trouble. It came to a head one particularly train journey. In a full carriage Hawklad decided to be sick. I took the full impact. Amazingly everywhere else was spared. I remember my walk of shame up the length of the crammed carriage to our suitcases. A now very distinctively marked black T-shirt needed changing urgently and wow did it stand out.

We needed a plan B as we soon had a long train journey from Geneva to Bern to navigate.

A plan was hatched. I would distract Hawklad with a story. A random story was told. A taking mole was walking down a street. He would happily talk to the various humans he would bump into. Problem was that Mr Mole had a spectacular sneeze. Tornado Force Sneeze. So when he did sneeze things happened. Clothes would be blown off washing lines. Cakes would fly through the air and hit people in the face. Umbrellas would take to the air. The poor postman even lost his trousers. Hawklad loved it – he nearly wet himself with giggles. For two hours Mr Moles sneezes caused increasing levels of mayhem. The Mr Mole Stories were born.

Since then the stories have moved on from sneezing to a self contained world filled with various weird animal characters. Over time the stories became increasingly Hawklads. He would help frame and tell the tales. Over the last 10 years I dread to think how many stories have been made. Hawklad can remember virtually all of them.

Last night was no different. A wild tale was told. Mr Mole with his friends Mr Cheetah and Olive the Ostrich we’re trying to explain wrestling to the legendary Mr Crocodile. A very special Crocodile. A vegetarian. He is scared of water. Actually scared of most things. A crocodile who finds most things confusing. A crocodile who does not always comply with the general laws of space, time and physics. A couple of actual wrestlers had been enrolled to help. Sasha Banks and The Undertaker.

Then the thought hit. We live in a world of over 7 billion people. With almost incalculable numbers of other living creatures. At that particular time. With such a bizarre story. Almost certainly we were the only 2 living creatures in the planet telling a story about talking mole, a mad crocodile and wrestling. Maybe the only 2 living creatures thinking those thoughts in the entire Universe.

That is such a cool thought. It really is.

Scary creatures

A good blogging friend was taking about finding a big spider in her garden. That friend is on a different continent. A place where you get spiders that are big, scary, poisonous and they even jump at you.

Did I ever tell you that I am not great with spiders.

So the prospect of scary spiders brings shivers down my spine. A movie comes to mind – Arachnophobia. Give me Jaws and Sharks anytime. Sharks need our love especially as Trump has decided to bully them as well now.

Scary spiders. No, no, no.

Hawklad loves to go to the zoo and handle spiders. The bigger and more deadly the better. The last trip I just about heard him say as he handled a Tarantula- ‘Isn’t she lovely….’. It was difficult to hear him as I was stood 30 yards back, hiding behind a wall. That’s great parenting……

Fortunately for me I live in Yorkshire. The land that time forgot. We don’t really do scary animals. Those cows can look at you in a funny way. Ferrets can nip a bit (especially if they are in your trouser pockets). Don’t get in the way of a squirrel and his nuts. Those Scarborough Seagulls are hooligans when you have a bag of chips. Get on the wrong side of stick of rhubarb and it can very awkward.

But we don’t really do scary spiders or insects. A few small and timid spiders. This is as big as it gets. A Daddy-Long-Legs. The most delicate creatures going. We end up desperately trying not to hurt or damage them. Even I can get up close to them. That’s the kind of spider and insect I like. Friendly and most definitely not one that is going to eat me.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland.

This week let’s find the usual alpine landscapes mixed with a few animal ones as well. All from wonderful Switzerland.

As a toddler son loved animals. He still does… One day he would love to have a falconry or zoo. I so hope he does.

Every visit to Switzerland gave him an opportunity to get close to animals.

AND as we always arrived on a Saturday a trip to his favourite shop in the world on the Sunday. A shop in Interlaken with a huge range of Schleich toy animals.

He would get to buy 4 new ones. He was always careful to pick toys which he couldn’t get hold off in tour Yorkshire shops. Then the new members of the team would then get a 7 day guided tour of Switzerland.

A guided tour which would take in at least one zoo.

Happy days and definitely hungry work….

Angry clouds

It’s just been days of angry weather.

When I see this type of stormy clouds I remember back to my childhood. As you got older you started to realise that in our seaside town the weather would always seem to come from over the hills and follow the river to the sea. For us that would mean the weather would first appear to the north west. That was in the direction of one of our neighbours gardens. So the following weather expression was frequently heard from my parents.

It’s luking black ower Mr Homans Potting Shed, aye get thy washing in.

When means you have just a few minutes more footy before your summoned in as the heavens have opened. If the weather ever came from over Eddie Cook’s Pigeon Loft then it was time to get the paddling pool out.

Strangely parenting forecasting from the 70s was far more accurate that the current UK Meteorological Service best guesses. Currently the weather scientists are telling us that we have light cloud and less than a 10% chance of light rain. Well tell that to the paving stones which are currently being jet washed in the nonstop monsoon.

So let’s ditch the UK’s dodgy weather science and go old school. So here are a few other old weather laws that were passed down to me.

  • Red sky at night fisherman’s delight, red sky in the morning fisherman’s warning,
  • Mackerel Clouds in the sky then the weather is going to change,
  • The Sun or Moon saying hello means that rain is on the way (saying hello means having a halo around it),
  • The greener the Rhubard leaves the worse the weather will be,
  • Wet seaweed means rain is coming (I never bought into this one as surely that just means the tide has been in recently),
  • Rain at lunch will be gone by tea (basically saying the UK weather is changeable),
  • When rain is coming the spiders will disappear,
  • Rainbows before lunch tells us that rain will be here all day,
  • Cows sit down when rain is due (must admit this is clearly true as I was watching an episode of Ben & Holly where the wise old elf foolishly took shelter under a cow when it started to rain),
  • When smoke rises the weather will be good. When it fails to rise them bad weather is due,
  • Expect a bad winter if the hedgerows produce loads of berries,
  • If you want a dry day best to have dew on the grass in the morning.

One last weather law. I had a friend whose dad was a complete nutter. So funny. I remember him telling me once about his rabbit. He explained that his rabbit would only eat carrots when it was raining. I asked what it had to eat when it was sunny and he told me with a smile – I don’t know, will tell you when we get the sun, patience lad I’ve only had the rabbit 3 years.

So that’s me out of weather law. Can anyone add to my knowledge?

Looking at this photo I think I can confidently predict no need for sun protection….

Kinda day

Surely it’s that kinda day.

The alarm rings and I drag the body out of bed and stumble towards my gym kit. Before exercise the important stuff. Feed the pets.

Start with the Gerbils. They will only eat one type of small animal feed and strangely it’s not the cheapest. Trying to change the food and water is always a challenge when you have three little white chaps scurrying up your arm.

Then it’s the big boy cat. He suffers after years of substance abuse. He has had far too many trips to the vets after sampling various harmful items – usually from the farm. Now he’s banned from going out and has to go on a strict diet. He can only eat gluten, grain and dairy free food. Special food which happens to be three times the price of normal cat food. He’s far from impressed and he is surprisingly fleet of foot which he eyes other food opportunities – usually my dinner.

At least the dog has cheap food tastes. He will eat anything. So he dines out on cheaper branded food. Anything works for him. Cat food, our food, vegetables from the garden. His favourites are particularly healthy options

Yorkshire Puddings

Chips and crisps.

Although cheap to feed he does have his very own foible. He can’t and won’t eat food direct from his bowl. He picks up each individual biscuit and carries it to a chair or the sofa. Munches it there and then returns for the next little piece of food. The process repeats for hours. Takes him ages to eat anything and the mess…..

Here’s the key thing. Yes the pets cost money, add workload and create so much mess.

BUT

They bring so much joy to our son. They bring life to the house. Bringing them into our world was the best parenting decision ever.

Ants

The little Apple tree is springing into life. This is the time of year when you can gauge what type of crop it will produce in 5 months. This apple tree does have different yields. Sometimes too much fruit. Sometimes hardly any fruit. This year looks like an ok year.

Sometimes you can get a feel for what a day is going to be like by just looking at the first few minutes.

Dragging myself back into the house after the early morning workout. Desperate for that first warming brew of the day. A particularly zombiefied version of exercise today. Very tired today. So nothing better than entering the kitchen to find ants. Lots of ants. Reaching for the ant poison is not an option with pets. Especially with our big boy cat who is the cat version of Ozzy Osbourne. Any substance is getting sampled. So out comes the one part lemon, one part water spray. Apparently ants don’t like lemon. If that doesn’t work then it’s time for the pepper and the inevitable sneezing cat. A few years back ants was no issue. We had a lovely but psychotic girl cat. The ultimate apex predator. Only creatures with a death wish came in the house. But now it’s up to me to sort this issue out.

So by the time schools version of homeschooling started – I was already feeling like it was way past my bedtime.

Then within minutes the first school crisis. Son has failed to submit a project in time. To be fair to him he was not in the lesson when it was given out to the class. That’s not a valid excuse for school as the child or parent should check the school emails and online files for assigned tasks. We did eventually find the relevant document hidden away in a random class file. To be fair to us – it was like searching for a needle in a haystack – when your not aware that a needle has gone missing. The teacher has granted a couple of days extension but that means son will have little free time this week. At least it gives me another excuse not to start any DIY projects. Not that I need much excuse these days.

The rest of the school day passed in a groggy haze. Trying to explain the vagaries of the English Language and working out why so many marks have been deducted for spelling mistakes. Trying to fathom out why a subject is seemingly asking questions about a completely unrelated area. And finally trying to understand what precisely is the teacher wanting the class to do. I think there is still a lot of merit in putting the questions at the end of a document. The teacher referred to 9 questions in the text but after much searching, we could only find 5.

So it’s back to the kitchen and THE ANTS. Clearly our ants are immune to lemons. So now I must resort to using up my dwindling supply of salt and pepper as weapons of ant destruction. Failing that then it’s testing various other kitchen supplies as ant repellents. Curry Powder, Chilli flakes and Turmeric. Let’s hope ants are not fans of spicy cuisine.

Safety

Today’s out of focus wildlife action shot is of someone who lives in our roof. Actually taken yesterday when the sun was shining. Our housemate is about the only member of our household who gets out these days.

This is the seventh week of Son’s own version of the lockdown. A few dog walks in the early weeks but then going through the garden gate became increasingly difficult for him. Even in the security of our car, a simple trip out onto the road becomes an anxiety crisis. When he returns he immediately washes his hands for minutes then has to have a shower and bath. These are genuine fears. Fears that effect his life. The excessive need to wash is not new. He has been shown how to clean his hands like a nurse. He has hand washing drills that set time limits. But sometimes it’s best to let these lapse as the excessive cleaning is often more about ridding his soul of anxieties rather than purely removing germs from his skin. Especially when a virus surrounds him which has so many unknowns.

He won’t be alone in these fears and feelings.

A chap in London with a little NHS badge announcing that the lockdown is being eased or lifted is not the end of the matter. It’s not as if it’s a water tap which we can instantly turn on and off. That’s also assuming that the virus remains under control and doesn’t spike again. Under Control is a rather worrying definition these days. It appears to mean keeping daily infections running into thousands and deaths below 300 a day. That’s just hospital based deaths not including the huge numbers occurring in care homes or in the wider community. For many the easing of restrictions is just the start of a long and painful slog. No sudden street parties for them. It’s about trying to repair bridges between the safety of their homes and the wider world. Picking up sufficient confidence to walk past that front gate. To meet people again. That’s going to be so tough with no guarantee of success.

So for the foreseeable future, our little starling will be the only one venturing out.

Village life

It’s almost time for these biscuit munchers to move to another field. The cows are massing, waiting to hit the field for the summer months. Hopefully the three cow friends of our dog are still here. Dog is wagging his tail at the sight of the herd in the distance.

That’s country life for you right there. That’s as exciting and as racy as it gets here. It’s such a different life pace than living in the city. It took me a couple of years to adjust. Life never stands still in the city. Constant noise, constant movement. Even at night it never stopped. So much light pollution, sirens wailing, so much human nightlife. Yes immediate access to facilities and entertainment but it comes at a price.

Here we get a chip van that comes once a week. A cycle race comes through maybe every couple of months. Once a year a vintage car rally might stop off. That’s it for the days. With the spaces and high hedgerows you hardly ever see signs of human life. That’s such a good thing somedays…. Son and I have our little challenges with forfeits. Basically it gives Son an opportunity to torture his Dad. I remember one challenge where the loser had to run round the garden ten times – naked. The inevitable happened and I found the whole experience most liberating. In a city that sort of behaviour would have got me quickly arrested. Here in the village all it produced was much chuckling from Son and bemused looks from the cows.

At night no street lighting or light pollution. No pub to foster human nightlife. Wander into your garden and it’s pitch black. The only noise is from the wildlife. I’ve told the story from the first night before. Stood outside looking at the stars. Amazed at how many I could see. Then a deeply unsettling feeling. I am not alone. I am being watched. Suddenly countless eyes appear at the fence. I of course took it in my stride. Screamed and ran. The eyes later revealed to be many sheep clearly waiting for biscuits.

But over the years it’s all changed. Now I find cities claustrophobic and unsettling. I’m not sure I could ever go back to living in one again. Certainly Son would struggle. He enjoys his space and the quiet. City life would be too many people in too little space. Too many sensory distractions. I remember my partner saying that we will never return to urban life. We might end up being in this house for the rest of our lives. She was right, sadly far too quickly right.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.