My February

Following on from my January post, I thought I would continue the monthly update theme as a new series for 2021. February can sometimes be the coldest and darkest of months. This year’s February began cold and frosty with frigid days and bone chilling nights but the month ended with mild winds and the scent of spring on the air. 🙂

David had a well earned few days off work in February. Whilst still in lock-down we stayed local and took a walk to Liverpool’s Sefton Park with an excitable Riley. David managed to feed a few squirrels and crows with the monkey nuts we had brought with us, while I had a captive audience of geese, coots and gulls enjoying the bird seed I offered them. I love feeding the birds on the lake, it makes me feel such a child again!

In January’s post I commented that I had seen the first, brief visit from the chiffchaff. Well he/she visited again, enjoying the insects on the laurel bush! David didn’t grab his camera quite quick enough, so I had to make do with a grainy photo I managed to get off my phone. Isn’t he so cute? The harbinger of spring?

Even though the mornings and evenings are getting lighter, these February nights seem cold and dark for some reason. This month I’ve been snuggling up in bed most nights and have managed to rekindle my reading. I’ve just finished Cilka’s Journey (a semi-fictional account of a survivor of Auschwitz who was imprisoned in a Russian gulag) and have begun The Glass House a mystery by Eve Chase.

I’m still only working one day a week, so using my free time to watch some series I’ve not seen before. I know I am very late to the party but I’ve been enjoying watching the 90’s American sitcom Friends. I’ve also caught up with the second series of The Bay and the Netflix sensation, Bridgerton.

I know Valentine’s Day is very commercial but I still like to celebrate it none the less. When I was single I would buy myself something nice as an act of self love, and now I’m in a long standing relationship, I celebrate the day by ordering a nice curry so we can both enjoy it. As a little token I bought David this cute little bumblebee (or did I buy her for myself?) She’s so sweet! 🙂

I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine the end of February and I had a few side effects, like shaking and sweating and aches and pains. Thankfully these were short lived and I’m feeling much better now.

To end the month, we got a new patient, Elliott a feral pigeon, who we spotted sitting in someone’s front yard while on a walk with Riley. On our way back from the park, the pigeon was still vulnerable so David caught him and brought him home with us. He’s being treated for canker and coccidiosis, let’s hope he gets better soon!

How have you spent February? Do you like the long, dark nights or looking forward to spring?

Take care,

Christine x

Signs of Spring in the Yarden

With the weather warming up this week (and the days finally getting longer), I took the opportunity to have a wander around the yarden to see how the plants had fared over the cold winter. Sadly my fuschia isn’t looking it’s best, but hopefully it will pull through, as it’s a great autumn flower.

Throughout winter the herb rosemary has flowered it’s delicate blue flowers and I noticed its colour was joined by flashes of purple and yellow from the crocus and the green leaves of perfumed hyacinths, which I thought had been overshadowed by an azalea. I even spotted the leafy promise of bluebells that will hopefully flower in April/May. I’ve two hellebores, one I thought was being swamped by a dwarf rhododendron and cotoneaster, but I noticed it’s purple and white flowers bending in the breeze. There are also an abundance of buds on the star magnolia and camellia.

The pond also seems to have braved the frosts and the oxygenating plant within, is still vibrant. Hopefully we will have lots of aquatic life enjoying our tiny pond this year.

Calls from the visiting birds has also changed in recent weeks. The goldfinches have moved on from the winter chatter to their now playful chirp and waggle of their tails in the hope of attracting a mate.

What signs of spring have you noticed recently?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming with Christine – My Top 10

Since we are still in the grasp of a third lockdown and I am far from the Lakes, I have been musing on making a top 10 video of my favourite wild swims. It’s taken me a while to finish the video, and it has gone through a few revisions since its inception, but here it is!

I thought I would write a little paragraph about each swim and why it made it into my top 10!

10. Blea Water

Blea Water, the deepest tarn in the Lake District, at 63 metres deep, had to make an appearance in this list due to the quality of the swim. It takes just about an hours walk to the shore from the Mardale Head car park, Haweswater. There is only a small beach area in which to access the water but the peacefulness of the area is astounding. Blea Water is on the route towards High Street and is a perfect stopping place to rest and recharge.

9. Llyn Dinas

Llyn Dinas is another llyn that could very well be further up the list. Though not our first choice for a swim on a very hot August day, it quickly dispelled any disappointment with the quietude of the surroundings and the 20° waters! It was another body of water I’d swam in with lots of tiny minnows in the shallows.

8. Loch Lomond

My first Scottish wild swim! I’d planned a short break to the Scottish Highlands in 2018, with wild swimming at the core of the itinerary. The weather wasn’t kind to us, deciding to unleash a tropical storm our way, but Loch Lomond was the least wild of the swims and was a joy. With easy access from the A82, the beach I entered the loch was lovely and soft with an easy incline into the water. I would definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area.

7. Derwentwater

One of my loves in the Lake District. Derwentater was the first lake I swam, and I have been back several times over the years. The footage in the video is from my second swim at Derwentwater, when at 9am, it was just David and I and a cool sun rising. It’s a beautiful lake to visit for a walk or swim and we will probably revisit again in the future.

6. Loch Etive

One of the best swims during a brief holiday to the Scottish Highlands. Loch Etive is a sea loch and was shrouded in low lying mist on a drizzly morning the day we visited. We hadn’t been favoured with good weather but the mist and rain added to the atmosphere of this beautiful loch.

5. Llyn Idwal

Idwal was the llyn where all this wild swimming malarkey began in 2016. On that cold winters day I stood at the shoreline and wondered what it would be like to swim there. Fast forward three years and I visited Llyn Idwal again in 2019 with a swim buddy in tow to finally swim in its mythical waters. It was a fun swim and the llyn is very popular with day trippers due to its accessibility.

4. Alcock Tarn

I have many happy memories of our visit to Alcock Tarn, that is almost made it into the top three! Two friendly ducks and a beautiful early autumn day made this swim so memorable. Nestled in beautiful, peaceful scenery above Grasmere, Alcock Tarn was one of those perfect swims. I’d definitely recommend a visit for swimmers and walkers alike.

3. Rydal Water

Rydal Water is a lake I want to return to so desperately. It may be one of the smaller lakes of the Lake District but its atmospheric charm and quaintness makes it so unique. This was the only lake where I shared the water with swans, (at a distance of course) and have visited several times with Riley. Not far from a car park and with a wonderful walk into the fells or around Grasmere, it’s a place I would definitely recommend to other swimmers and walkers.

2. Buttermere

Buttermere has always been a lake close to my heart, and it was a tough decision to put this in second place. My final swim of 2020 was at Buttermere, and it was a spectacular day! The sun was out and for an early October it was pleasantly warm. There was no wind, creating a mirror sheen on the lake that reflected the rugged mountain tops. The water was silky smooth, and the view from the water was breathtaking. It will be a swim I won’t forget in a hurry!

1. Glaslyn

Of my many swims, the beauty of Glaslyn has been unparalleled. On first sight, Glaslyn took my breath away. There was the imposing peak of Snowdon mirrored in water so turquoise I’d never seen anything like it! To have this beautiful llyn all to myself while I swam in its soft waters was pure joy. All other walkers seemed to prefer the Pyg Track to the Miners that day and David and I enjoyed the peaceful tranquility.

Do you agree with my selection? What is your favourite swim of mine, or indeed your own? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Bird Count for RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021!

This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.

I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.

Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2021

During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.

How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?

Thanks for popping by,

Christine xx

A Year in Film: December 2020

The final post in my Year in Film series. I’m not sure whether to continue into 2021. What do you think? Should I continue reviewing films on here or find another challenge? Let me know your thoughts below.

Even though I blogged daily for 24 days with my Christmas film advent calendar, David and I still had time to watch a further 16 films. Here’s what I thought about what I watched.

Christmas with the Kranks ✩✩✩

The Kranks scandalise everyone when they declare that they won’t be celebrating Christmas. But, when their daughter decides to visit home, they get off on a mad rush to organise a spanking Christmas.

David’s hairdresser suggested this Christmas film to us. So on a quiet weekday we snuggled up and gave it a watch. I enjoyed it more than David but it got us in a more festive mood.

Oceans 13 ✩✩✩

Danny and his gang of thieves have to pull off their most risky heist to defend one of their own. However, they are going to need more than luck to break the ruthless Willy and his casino.

A sequel to Oceans 12 but with a more star studded cast. Was an enjoyable heist and less confusing than the first movie.

Honest Thief ✩✩✩

Hoping to cut a deal, a professional bank robber agrees to return all the money he stole in exchange for a reduced sentence. But when two FBI agents set him up for murder, he must now go on the run to clear his name and bring them to justice.

Liam Neeson is back terrorising criminals in this revenge movie. Watchable.

Four Christmases ✩✩

Lovers Brad and Kate plan to go on a vacation to Fiji to spend the holidays. However, when their vacation plan is foiled, they are forced to visit all four of their divorced parents for Christmas.

David and I saw this film when it was released in 2008, when we where holidaying in Louth, Lincolnshire. I recall there being an interval and the cinema selling ice creams. The film was less memorable.

Ant-man ✩✩✩

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

A watchable super-hero film. We only tuned in because Cinema Therapy on YouTube reviewed the movie. If you’ve not seen their channel, give them a go. They review films from the standpoint of a film maker and a therapist, look out for lots of emotion.

Zootopia ✩✩✩

When Judy Hopps, a rookie officer in the Zootopia Police Department, sniffs out a sinister plot, she enlists the help of a con artist to solve the case in order to prove her abilities to Chief Bogo.

Another Cinema Therapy review, this time with the implicit bias that is in Zootopia. I hadn’t heard of this movie before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Carry on Camping ✩✩✩

A pair of likely lads trick their girlfriends into accompanying them to a nudist colony, but it turns out to be a family campsite. After they are persuaded to stay, the boys manage to find more mischief to occupy themselves when a coachload of teenage schoolgirls arrives at the site.

David suggested this film, I think it was in response to the passing of Barbara Windsor whose iconic bra bursting scene is so memorable. It was one of the better Carry On films.

The Great Outdoors ✩

It’s vacation time for an outdoorsy Chicago man and his family. But a serene weekend of fishing at a Wisconsin lakeside cabin gets crashed by his obnoxious brother-in-law.

David said that Kevin Hart was starring in a remake of this 1980’s John Hughes film, so we ended up watching the original. It wasn’t as funny as hoped. Perhaps the remake will be better?

The Holiday ✩✩✩✩

Two girls from different countries swap homes for the holidays to get away from their relationship issues. However, their lives change unexpectedly when they meet and fall in love with two local guys.

At the core of this film is the theme of love, in all it’s guises. I enjoyed the movie more than David and with a funky score by Hans Zimmer, it couldn’t possibly fail to entertain.

Runaway Train ✩✩

Two escaped convicts head full-steam for their freedom and inadvertently jump aboard a freight train. To their dismay, they discover that the train is barreling out of control without an engineer.

This film could have been so much better if the acting was any good, but it wasn’t. Forgettable.

The Switch ✩✩✩

An unmarried woman uses a sperm donor to conceive a child, much to the dismay of her best friend Wally. She remains in the dark for many years unaware that Wally had replaced her sample with his own.

How many films has Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman done together? Maybe five? Either way, you can see the friendship and respect they both have for one another. The Switch may not have been the greatest movie, but it was fun to watch.

Get a Job ✩✩

After college, Will is having problems getting a good, lasting job, as are his roomies, his girlfriend and his just fired dad.

This film irked me somewhat. I like Anna Kendrick but this film didn’t really showcase her talents. Perhaps one to miss?

Wonder Woman 84 ✩✩✩

Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

A bit of a confession to make. In the 1980’s I wanted to be Wonder Woman! As a six or seven year old, I watched reruns of Lynda Carter battling criminals! I used to prance about the house in shorts and boob-tube, wearing a paper tiara and bracelets. A skipping rope acted as my lasso of truth. The world stretched as far as my imagination, and I could be anything I chose to be.

Watching the new Wonder Woman films sadly to me are not the same. I preferred the 2017 film to this 2020 release but not by much.

Soul ✩✩

Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.

In the run up to Christmas I saw billboards advertising Soul. I like my Pixar films so managed to get to see the movie. Again, I enjoyed it more than David. I liked the message of the film, life is worth living, even just for the small things!

Circle ✩✩✩

Fifty strangers facing execution have to pick one person among them to live.

My brother suggested this film for us to watch. Circle is a study of human psychology, for better or for worse. I enjoyed the experience and wasn’t really surprised at the finale.

The Platform ✩✩✩

In the future, prisoners housed in vertical cells watch as inmates in the upper cells are fed while those below starve.

Another film my brother suggested. This Spanish sci-fi, subtitled film really made me feel sad for the protagonists. The premise; in this vertical prison, there is enough food for everyone. However the greed of those on the above levels means that the ones further below have less and less to eat. Another film on the human condition. I enjoyed it none the less.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

#walk1000miles 2020

Welcome to my fourth and final #walk1000miles post!

2020 has been the fourth year I’ve participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine. For the past 12 months, I’ve been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the cross-trainer, walks to work (they’ve not been many this year!), exercising the family dog, Riley and of course holidays and days out with David!

Though 2020 has been a challenging year in itself, my overall mileage for 2020 has been 1,495 miles, only five miles from the 1,500 milestone, but some 484 miles from 2019’s total. However, I’m pleased with my tally for 2020, what with lock-downs, not working for eight months and not going on many holidays, I’m amazed I walked as much as I did!

This year I’ve also been counting the miles Riley has walked with me. My daily Riley walks have kept me sane. His grand total for 2020 is: 792! Well done Riley!

As in previous posts, I’ve split the year into seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year and how it differs per season and against previous years totals.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

Before the chaos that was Covid-19 and of people stock pilling the likes of toilet paper! David and I managed to go on a few day trips: the first to Grasmere, the Lake District, the second to Snowdonia, Wales. Then lock-down, part one was initiated and I was (eventually) furloughed. I made the most of the days off work and walked Riley every day.

Total miles for spring = 379. 2

Previous year totals: 2017 – 332, 2018 – 481, and 2019 – 495.

Summer: (June, July and August)

Thankfully lock-down was phased out and it felt like life was getting back to some semblance of how it used to be. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild eased David and I back out walking at local nature reserves and in July we took a day trip to the Lake District to tick off some wild swims. My swim tally this year has been abysmal! We took our one and only weekend break in August to the Lake District once again, and chose walks/lakes that I knew would be less crowded.

Total miles for summer = 384.5

Previous year totals: 2017 – 382, 2018 – 442 and 2019 – 461.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

Sadly there was talk on the wind of a second lock-down and the country was put into tiers which limited travel. David and I kept local, save for a perfect swim/walk to Buttermere with 500 miler (Proclaimer), Riley in tow. A cancelled birthday trip to Scotland was replaced with a laughter filled walk to Formby Beach.

Total miles for autumn = 348.1

Previous year totals: 2017 – 321, 2018 – 479 and 2019 – 457.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The beginning of 2020 was a bit slow adventure wise, a broken toe did little to aid walking. Daily Riley walks were the only highlight of this dark, damp season.

Total miles for winter = 383.2

Previous year totals: 2017 – 281, 2018 – 469  and 2019 – 566.

Grand Total for 2020 – 1,495 miles.

Previous years totals: 2017 – 1,316, 2018 – 1,871 and 2019 – 1,979.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying and addictive, why not give the challenge a go yourself?

#walk1000miles also has a fun, supportive Facebook group. Through participation in this group my name was among the many others on the We Did 1000 Miles page of the January 2021 edition of Country walking Magazine.

I’ve not signed up to 2021’s challenge, however I am continuing my walking but just not counting my miles as religiously as I have in the past. Walking is such an easy, free activity, much underrated if you ask me. I will continue walking the miles I do and see how I go. How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join thousands more, walking that little bit more than they did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk

Thanks for reading, Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2020

What an unprecedented year 2020 has been! From a stormy beginning to the new year to a global pandemic the likes no one had seen in a hundred years. We were told to work from home or be furloughed. The roads were quieter and the air felt fresher for it. Then we were allowed out but it wasn’t for long as we were soon all told to stay at home, again! People lost their jobs, their homes and small businesses suffered. It has been a year of struggle and stresses untold. Every day blended into one and mental health issues took its toll. Now Christmas is upon us but there’s not much cheer to be had. This year in photos has been the hardest blog to write. How has your 2020 fared?

January

Our 2020 started off slowly with lots of walks with Riley. If I knew what lay ahead I would have gone on more adventures.

David and Riley

February

Our aviary welcomed a new friend in the form of Nova, a Star finch.

Nova, the Star Finch

March

If I’d have known that this was the last time I’d see a live concert at the Philharmonic Hall, I would have made an effort to enjoy it more. However I was less than satisfied with this performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.

The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

April

With all the uncertainty around lock-down it was nice to escape for a while. A favourite RPG of mine which I last played in 1997, had been remade and was released in time to save lock-down.

Final Fantasy 7: Remake

May

Social distancing meant that we didn’t see family as much as we would have liked. So we had many family quiz nights to catch up and have a much needed laugh.

Family Quiz Nights

June

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Evie, the family cat who passed away aged 18.

Evie

July

Once Covid-19 lock-down restrictions had been relaxed, we took a day trip to The Lake District. Wild swimming at Beacon Tarn was a reset button to all the anxiety of the year.

Beacon Tarn swim

August

A visit to a local sunflower maze with family was enjoyable, even though the sunflowers themselves had passed their best!

Sunflower Selfie

September

One of the best days of 2020 was when we took a visit to Buttermere in The Lake District. The weather was perfect, just like a summers day!

The Lone Tree

October

Like many who had plans this year, I had to cancel my birthday holiday to Scotland. I settled for a walk at Formby Beach with David and Riley instead.

Riley at Formby Beach

November

During the summer, on a walk with Riley, I spotted the Google Maps car. Fast forward to the end of the year and during a search I spotted Riley, Mum and I on Google Maps!

On Google Maps

December

With the country in differing Covid-19 tiers, there seems to be less hope and cheer this Christmas. Whoever you celebrate the season with, I wish you all the best.

2020 Christmas Tree

I’m keeping everything crossed that 2021 will be a kinder year to us all!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

A Year in Film 2020: Advent Calendar – Day Twenty-four

It’s day twenty-four of my Christmas film advent calendar. The final film tonight is:

Elf

Christine’s rating: ✩✩✩ David’s rating: ✩✩✩✩

Buddy, a human, is raised amongst elves at the North Pole. When he discovers that he is not an elf, he travels to New York to search for his biological father.

Christmas fun on the streets of New York in this 2003 film starring Will Ferrell.

Do you like Elf? What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Thanks for following my advent calendar of Christmas films!

Merry Christmas!

Christine x

A Year in Film 2020: Advent Calendar – Day Twenty-three

It’s day twenty-three of my Christmas film advent calendar. I can’t believe how fast this month has gone. Tonight I’m watching:

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Christine’s rating: ✩✩✩✩✩ David’s rating: ✩✩✩✩

One year after Kevin McCallister was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself stranded in New York City – and the same criminals are not far behind.

I love this Christmas movie! I don’t know which is best, the first or the second Home Alone film? We visited New York last year because of this movie. It was nice to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Do you rate this movie?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Year in Film 2020: Advent Calendar – Day Twenty-two

It’s day twenty-two of my Christmas film advent calendar. Tonight’s film is:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Christine’s rating: ✩✩ David’s rating: ✩✩✩

Grinch lives in solitude just outside Whoville. He hates the townsfolk and despises Christmas. Cindy Lou, a six-year-old girl who believes in the spirit of the festival, sets out to reform him.

Not my favourite Christmas movie. The Grinch I feel was clinically depressed. He needed a hug.

Have you seen this Christmas movie? What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x