A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.

Robin:

Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!

They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.

Dunnock:

I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.

I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #24

I thought I’d scrape some pictures together and participate once again in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie.

Baking: I ended last week’s Sunday Sevens with a picture of David’s endeavours. I’ll begin this week with another of his creations. It took five hours to make, baking in the oven for 1.5 hours but the result was a bouncy sponge with soft coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache to decorate.

Reading: This week I finished Katherine Webb’s The English Girl. Susanna from Fred the Needle asked if I would review the book, so here’s some of my thoughts. Despite the story not being as strong as Webb’s first two books The Legacy and The Unseen, The English Girl was a far better story than The Night Falling. Webb used the Jebel War of 1958-59 as the backdrop to the novel. It is another of those weaving dual narratives. The two protagonists are Maude Vickary in the 1900’s and Joan Seabrook in the 1950’s. The main theme is adventure, of two women breaking the bonds of society and finding themselves (or losing themselves) to the desert wastes of Oman. I found Joan’s character rather wishy-washy and I wished she would stop faffing about and make a decision. I preferred reading the story of Maude and her adventures of trying to be the first woman/Westerner to cross the Empty Quarter. Her struggle across huge dunes and facing sheer exhaustion was well described. I had my hand to my mouth when she encountered a camel spider (look them up) and shocked at her betrayal, but I won’t spoil the end for you! All in all it wasn’t a bad read. It took me a whole year to read The Night Falling. I read The English Girl in a fraction of that time. If you enjoy Arabian adventures then this novel is for you!

Have you read it? Let me know what you think?

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Walk 1000 miles: I’ve walked 21.4 miles this week, a touch better than last week. While on my daily walk to the bus stop to work, I noticed the central reservation was awash with the golden heads of daffodils. It certainly brought to mind the iconic William Wordsworth poem. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

Wildlife: On Thursday my eyes spied a small green/brown bird flitting around the yarden. It was the size of a blue tit, but it wasn’t a blue tit. It was a chiffchaff. I only see these birds once a year. They must pass through the city on way to woodland for the summer. I reached for my camcorder but the camera wasn’t charged, so an old video I took in 2013 will just have to do!

Pets: This weekend has been a stressful one! On Saturday I witnessed our new parrot finch, Leaf attacking our other newbie, Gouldian finch, Set! Afterwards, David managed to pick Set up and noticed the damage Leaf had done. His feathers around his head and eyes had been plucked, leaving red skin exposed. Poor Set was scared so much he just sat in David’s hand. We noticed that Set still had his baby mouth. He must only be as young as six months old!

I have read that if there is an aggressor in an aviary, then the only course of action is to take the aggressor away. That was when our problem began. We managed to isolate Leaf and his other parrot friend, Forrest from the aviary, but the only other cage we had was the hospital cage which was where Set was recovering in. Our other cage, the one in which our aviary had begun five years ago was at David’s Mum’s housing their two budgies.

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Leaf and Forrest’s new home

Kindly, David’s Mum and Dad said that we could have our cage back as they had one which could house their budgies until they got a bigger cage. I was so relieved, more so when back at home the two parrot finches explored the cage and were soon housed in it.

Set has recovered from his ordeal and though still looking a little worse for wear he has been reintegrated into the aviary with the more placid finches. Leaf and Forrest are flitting about their new home, they never keep still for long, hence needing a bigger cage to house them.

Who would have guessed such small birds would cause so much distress!

Cooking: For Saturday’s dinner I cooked a three bean quinoa chili. The recipe was very versatile and I substituted a few ingredients to what I had in the store-cupboard. I served it with oven baked tortillas and a crisp glass of white wine. It made for a healthy and filling meal. Definitely one to make again.

Gardening: This Sunday David and I spent some time in the yarden planting our Centurion onions. I snapped some pictures of Stellata magnolia and dwarf rhododendron flowers. The yarden is definitely awakening!

So that was my week. How have you spent yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #21

Since I’ve managed to snap a few photos this week, I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Last Sunday was a hectic one! Not only did we visit Warrington looking for Christmas presents, we also managed to acquire four new friends for the aviary! Welcome to the Connor-Evans family, Forrest and Tarn, the Blue- faced Parrot Finches and Bill and Silvie, the Chocolate Silverbills.

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White Poinsettia

On our travels we also popped into Bents to purchase a Poinsettia. I have been after a white Poinsettia since David gifted me one last Christmas. All the shops we visited had red ones, but at Bents they had a selection of red and white! Poinsettia’s can be poisonous to pets, so I’ve kept Artie away from mine.

Taking about Artie, he has been enjoying his Advent Calendar this month, as can be seen in the video below. 🙂

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, Friday 16th December was Christmas Jumper Day. As I don’t have a Christmas jumper, I wore my winter themed t-shirt to work! I also managed to (finally) purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. It’s festooned with pine cones and even has festive lights! I think it looks quite fetching on the door!

Earlier in the week the yarden was visited by a pair of Great Tits. I managed to film one on the feeder.

Mid-week, while out walking the family dog, Riley I counted:

  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Dunnock
  • Numerous Goldfinches and Pigeons
  • 1 Sparrow
  • 1 Grey Wagtail!

To fill the dark, cosy nights I have returned to a book I started reading last year! The Night Falling by Katherine Webb. It’s a pretty grim read but I will persevere.

On Saturday, David invited his family around for a curry night. He served his signature dish with naan and sides.

To finish off this post, I will share with you a snap I have taken of some home made mince pies. They have just come out of the oven! I will sample one later with some cream. 🙂

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Mince Pies

Have you been doing any cooking for Christmas? What are your favourite traditions at this time of year?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

 

Wild October – Week Four + Three Days!

20161022_075401-2It’s the finale of my Wild October!

Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!

Phew, what a week it’s been!

Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!

This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.

Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.

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Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oIn the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!

There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!

Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!

Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!

Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.

And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!

So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild October – Week One.

Huge thanks to Sharon from the wonderful, Sunshine and Celandines, for bringing this little initiative to my attention. The premise, to do something wild every day for the month of October. It’s a bit like 30 Days Wild, though this is a celebration of all things autumnal! I thought I would give it a go!

The lovely Louise on her blog is also embarking on Wild October, as are a host of others on the Facebook 30 Days Wild page! Go check them out for inspiration!

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Autumn seems to be slowly creeping into my yarden. The Japanese anemone has flowered, a shore sign of autumn and the salvia ‘mystic spires’ are as tall as me!

Sadly summer for the NW of England wasn’t quite as nice as it was in other areas of the country. This has had an effect on the vegetables I have attempted to grow in the yarden. There are three tomatoes still green on the vine and I noticed the other day that I have two peppers also growing!! Think I’ll need to bring them both inside to grow and ripen more.

Since I have become a sort of recluse these past few weeks, there isn’t really much wild going on! Mid week while washing the dishes I stood watching in awe as a garden spider reconstructed his/her web.

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I am happy to still report that the flock of 6+ sparrows are continuing to visit the feeders, as are a pair of blue tits, charms of goldfinches, hoards of starlings and pigeons! The dawn chorus has been replaced by the cackle of corvids!

This week, with the weather being settled, I have seen some lovely sunrises. So today I managed to snap a picture along with the condensation clinging to the windows! Brrrr… it’s getting colder!

Today, while doing the laundry I noticed the garden spider had a fresh kill, all wrapped up in thread. It was fascinating watching the spider tuck into its meal!

Since this is a rather impromptu post I’ll sign off now and finish with a short poem.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves are falling,
Falling all around,
Floating softly to the ground,
Like tear drops falling,
Without a sound.

Autumn leaves are scattered,
Scattered all around,
Tossed upon the ground,
Like dreams torn and tattered,
Lying all around.

Are you joining in Wild October? What do you enjoy most about autumn?

Christine x

The Lovers (a story fragment).

the-lovers-art-nouveau-tarotThe wind ruffled his hair. She liked how it sent his fringe tumbling over his eyes. This would be the last time she saw him looking like this, strong, handsome, his skin glowing with the last rays of a dramatic sunset. As if sensing her gaze he turned to face her. Sadness tinged his eyes. ‘Are you having doubts?’

‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘Though it is a long way down and the river fast flowing.’

‘It is, but we are together. That’s all that matters.’ He reached for her hand. Their shoulders touched as they sat on the railing of a bridge. They looked down at the raging river below them. The breeze smelled sweetly of honeysuckle. ‘Scared?’

‘A little,’ she tried to look nonchalant, swinging her bare legs over the gorge.

‘We don’t have to jump you know.’

‘But you’ll think I’m a coward.’

‘No I won’t,’ he laughed. ‘Anyway, other people have done it, and survived.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ he leaned in to kiss her. ‘You do trust me?’ A flicker of apprehension crossed his face.

‘I do, I love you!’

‘Good,’ she felt him squeeze her hand.

‘Let’s do this!’ She followed his lead and slid her body over the railing. She screamed into the cool evening as her foot slipped, threatening to send her over prematurely. He threw an arm out to stop her, though she lost a shoe, and watched as it somersaulted towards a watery landing. Nervously they turned to face the tumultuous waters below. Holding hands grimly and with sirens blaring in the distance like birdsong, they stepped out into the air.

24 hours earlier…

He still held the gun. His hand shook as he pointed the smoking barrel towards the man who lay at his feet. ‘Put the gun down, Jack!’ His girlfriend shouted, her voice cracking with tension.

‘I can’t, Aimee,’ Jack’s face had turned ashen grey.

‘Oh F**k I think he’s dead! Oh F**k!’ Jack looked at the body slumped face down before him. ‘Let’s go. I’ve already called the police!’ Moments earlier Jack and Aimee, were stepping out of a restaurant laughing freely at an inside joke. The smell of grilled fish lingered in the air. ‘You are awful!’ Aimee playfully punched Jack’s arm before feeling his hands around her waist pulling her towards him. She closed her eyes as he nuzzled her neck.

‘Just give us your f**king money, lovebirds!’ Aimee opened her eyes to the contorted face of a man. He pointed the muzzle of a gun angrily at their faces. ‘Your money, now!’ Aimee clutched at her bag which the man eyed covetously.

‘I don’t think so,’ laughed Jack, moving his body in front of Aimee’s to shield her.

‘Jack!’ Aimee nervously placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘I’m not afraid to use this!’ The man waved the gun carelessly.

‘I think you are.’ Jack edged closer to the man. He was a scrawny, runt, it would be easy for Jack to overpower him.

‘I mean it!’ The man cocked the gun and aimed it at Jack’s chest.

‘Jack, let’s just do what he wants.’ Deaf to Aimee’s pleas, Jack rushed forward. He reached for the gun with one hand and used the full force of his body to unbalance the man. Aimee shrieked! Both men grunted as they struggled. Reaching into her bag, Aimee pulled out her mobile phone. She started pushing at numbers, hastily talking to the operator.

‘Police please, an armed robbery.’ Aimee finished the call as Jack spun round, in his hand he triumphantly waved the weapon.

‘Unlike you, I am not afraid to use this!’

‘You wouldn’t dare!’

‘Jack! Don’t be stupid!’

‘Yes, Jack, don’t be stupid!’ The man mimicked. ‘Look,’ he supplicated. ‘Let’s all go our separate ways. That way no one get’s hurt.’

‘What? And let a snivelling c**t like you, continue to roam the streets!’ The man looked offended.

‘It’s not like I wouldn’t follow you. Find out where you live.’ He eyed Aimee lasciviously. There came a flash of light, like someone had taken a photograph. A loud crack reverberated around the car park. Aimee watched as the man crumpled to the ground like a demolished building. He lay still. A deafening silence followed.

‘Why did you pull the trigger?’ Aimee cried.

‘It just went off in my hand.’

‘Oh f**k!’ Aimee watched as blood pooled around the body. ‘We’ve got to get out of here before the police arrive,’ she pulled at Jack’s arm. He blinked like he had just woken up from a dream.

‘Let’s get to the car.’

‘What are you doing with the gun? You can’t take it with us!’ Jack had flicked the safety catch, tucking the weapon into the waistband of his jeans.

‘Just get in the car.’ He fired up the engine.

‘How do you know how to handle a gun like that!’

‘We handled lots of firearms on the farm. It’s no big deal.’ He sidled the car onto the main road, switching the headlights on when they were away from the scene. Bumper to bumper in traffic they both watched as a cavalcade of sirens flashed past them, heading in the opposite direction.

‘What are we going to do?’ Aimee dabbed at her wet cheeks. ‘Can we even go home?’ Jack shrugged.

‘Damn there’s cameras everywhere! We’re going to have to ditch the car.’

‘Where?’

‘We can ditch it somewhere near my brother’s, then borrow one of his cars.’

‘My grandmother has a place in Snowdonia, we can go there for the time being. Lay low for a bit.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘Do you think someone saw us?’ Jack sighed.

‘I have no doubt.’

© Christine Lucas 2016.


The story behind the story: 

I was inspired to write the above after reading Taya’s short fragment of dialogue (the bridge scene) on her blog page, Dragonition. She has some fantastic ideas on her blog for writers of any ability. Go check it out!

I found the task quite challenging. To take someone else’s idea and change it into my own was harder than I imagined.

I read quite a lot but not everything inspires me to tinkle on the keyboard. Yet, I have so many characters and scenes flitting around my head at present; so this exercise came at the right moment for me. It’s been very cathartic. Who knows, I may even try and add to the narrative and elaborate on why I’ve used a tarot card for the title.

I hope you have enjoyed reading it? Let me know in the comments any thoughts you may have.

Christine x

‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

To coincide with David’s few days off work this week, I planned a nice little day out to (you guessed it,) the Lake District.

The day started all bleary eyed at 5am. We drove the two hours to Rydal’s, White Moss car park and arrived a little after 8am! Just in time for an early morning swim!

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We took the path towards Rydal Caves, which meandered past Rydal Water that looked calm and magical.
20160915_085012The sun burned through the morning mist, promising a beautiful early autumn day. Rydal Water has become one of my favourite swims of the year! At 9am, not many dog walkers/tourists were about, at one point it was just the lake, myself, David and two swans! Bliss!!

After a good hour at the lake side, David and I headed on towards Rydal Caves.

From there we walked Loughrigg Terrace with beautiful views of Grasmere.

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It took another hour of sweat and toil to ‘climb’ the steep pathway towards Loughrigg Fell. When we got to the top, sadly low lying cloud drifted over, obscuring the views, though Windermere glistened golden in the distance.

After a relaxing picnic we headed back down to Grasmere, where the clouds dispersed and the sun came out again!

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Wearing a fresh swimsuit, I waded out into the waters for my second swim of the day! Grasmere is a busier lake than Rydal Water but it didn’t dispel from the enjoyment. Also, I wasn’t the only one splashing about the waters that day! It was nice to see so many people (and dogs) enjoying the lake.

20160915_144456-2I have desired to bag two swims in one day for a while now, and to achieve it was an amazing feeling! On leaving the shores of Grasmere, I had the biggest grin on my face! We took the riverside walk to the car park, that had a car-number recognition camera, £7 for the day. The path followed the River Rothay, which was dappled in golden afternoon light. The day couldn’t have been more perfect!

I think it will be difficult to better such a day, but we’ll see!

Christine x

Afternoon Tea at Browns – Liverpool

20160908_143323On Thursday I met up with an old ‘boss’, and friend, Sue and her guide dog Cath, for afternoon tea.

All week I had been perusing the British Afternoon Tea Guide for places to ‘lunch’ in Liverpool. With not having afternoon tea before it felt a sort of mine field! At first I booked what I thought was a nice cafe Patisserie Valerie. Then I started to read reviews and recently their customer service has been somewhat lacking. Not wanting to book a place where we’d have a ‘terrible’ experience. I cancelled the booking and went in search again.

browns-bar-brasserieThe last link I clicked on was Browns in Liverpool One. They can be found in many locations across the UK and their website states that the restaurants are housed in historic or listed buildings. Their afternoon tea menu sounded nice and at £12.50 per person. I thought it was reasonable.

I booked ahead, although at 2.30pm they had tables available. We were seated quickly and even Cath was given some space to lie down. The restaurant had a light, airy feel to it, though this played with the acoustics and I found it hard to hear with other background noise. What I did like was the addition of a grand piano near the entrance, though when we were there no one was playing it!

20160908_143319Sue ordered a coffee and I a pot of loose tea which filled approximately four small cups. When being served, Sue was kindly told where the milk jug and sugar was placed on the table, a nice touch by the waiter.

The afternoon tea arrived on a chrome cake stand with three tiers. The bottom had six small buns with soft fillings. The second tier had the cakes and the top had scones with pots of preserve and clotted cream.

The revelation of the afternoon was how gorgeous the red velvet cake was. One slice was not enough!

red-velvetI was looking forward to the scones, but they seemed a little dry. Indeed the whole menu made you want to drink tea by the gallon. Cakes are thirsty business!

If there were any negatives from a pleasant afternoon it was mainly due to personal preference. The tea on offer for me was a little weak, even after an hour it remained bland. They need to address their pot of tea to a cup of coffee ratio. Sue felt like she had been short changed. Luckily I shared my tea with her, even though the pot went cold very quickly.

Overall I’d give Browns a 7/10. The serving time was good, we were made to feel welcome and the afternoon tea wasn’t of poor quality. We even got to take home some uneaten cakes, though they don’t do doggy bags! Maybe we should have chosen the champagne afternoon, then the score would have been a little higher! :p