A Close Up with Red Pandas

Recently a friend shared a picture of Red Pandas being fed grapes on my Facebook wall. It made me reminiscent of when I fed Red Pandas in 2010 at Paradise Wildlife Park. I paid £99 for 30 minutes with their then Red Pandas, Ros and TJ. So I decided to write a post about the experience.

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Feeding a Red Panda

Looking back at the memory I believe I was very fortunate to have got so close to one of my favourite animals. As you can imagine the 30 minutes went past so quickly. Part of the experience was to collect the pandas’ dinner, a bowl of fruit, vegetables, pellets and panda cake, which is a mixture of essential nutrients added to their meals. We then visited the Red Panda enclosure. The Red Panda’s habitat had tall trees in which they could rest among the boughs or seek privacy from one of their nest boxes on a purposely built platform.

On our arrival both Red Pandas were looking eagerly for their lunch. It gave me such a buzz seeing both cute faces peering down at me. Ros seemed more used to human contact than TJ, who was much more reserved.

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Feeding Red Pandas

While I fed each panda, the zoo keeper, Matt gave informative facts about Red Pandas, where they come from etc. I was surprised to learn that they have adverse effects to anesthetic, so any operation carries a higher risk for Red Pandas.

After feeding slices of pears and apples to the pandas, it was time for them to have their favourite food, young shoots of bamboo! I held the leafy branch up to TJ while Ros bravely came down to feast on the lower leaves. I even got to stroke Ros. I was ecstatic! I had read before the encounter that touching was not allowed, but I was offered the chance to feel how coarse and dense a Red Panda’s fur really is. They need the insulation for the cold climes of the Himalayas.

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Feeding bamboo to Red Pandas

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Stroking a Red Panda

More recently there are many other UK zoos and wildlife parks offering the chance to meet their Red Pandas. Paradise Park in Cornwall have a similar experience where the Red Pandas can even sit happily on your lap. Something to think about in the future. A possible present for me next year David? :p

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing? Has there been a time when you came face to face with your favourite animal? Do share your experiences with us below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

P.S. If you are interested in more information on the Red Panda, a past post, My Love for the Red Panda, has many facts about the history of the Red Panda, anatomy and conservation.

 

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An Apple Festival – Gorse Hill Nature Reserve

This weekend David and I visited Gorse Hill Nature Reserve in Ormskirk. The attraction was their annual apple festival. Since 2005 an organic orchard has been established with heritage varieties such as the Ribston Pippin and Worcester Permain.

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Worcester Permain

The 2017 apple festival ran from Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th September, with opening hours of 11 to 4pm. We arrived around 12 noon after a half hour drive from Liverpool. There was free parking. Sadly Saturday was a bit of a wash-out weather wise. It was cold, wet and dreary all day. Though there were a good number of people enjoying the cakes and coffee in the cafe.

On the day, there were regular tours of the orchard with interesting histories of the heritage apple species grown onsite. An apple press demonstrated apple juice production with the opportunity to purchase the juice at £2 a bottle and there was even access to a short woodland walk.

Firstly, David and I headed towards the barn where the main attraction was, the produce of some 100+ fruit trees from the orchard. There was an apple tasting table where you could taste samples of the likes of Sunset and Katy. I tried the Ribston Pippin but found it too hard. I then tried the Ellison’s Orange and it was a much softer, sweater texture.

From the taster table we perused the produce, there were varieties such as Egremont Russet with its rough skin, Brambley and the humongous Mere de Menage.

The main reason we went was so I could obtain some Discovery apples as they are a personal favourite. However for the past two years I have not been able to buy them in the supermarkets. Sadly they are a seasonal early, are usually ripe during September and unfortunately spoil very quickly, hence only seeing them early autumn. Indulgently their taste and smell conjure up memories of childhood, the nervous excitement of returning to school after the long school holidays, (still felt some 30 years later). Of sitting in a darkened room with the curtains open, the street lights outside making the room glow orange, the gas fire burning warmly and children’s programmes blaring brightly on the TV. The sense of safety is overpowering. I’m still wearing my school uniform of royal blue cardigan and navy skirt while biting into an apple that has soft flesh, the pulp bruised pink and the taste sweet yet tart. I’ve been following this echo for so long….

We went on the short woodland walk along Cabin Wood. Since the weather was against us, there was no head nor tail of any insects and the air was silent of bird song. I can imagine of a spring or summers day the air teaming with life. Instead, we wrapped our arms around ourselves and enjoyed the many sculptures along the path.

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Ellison’s Orange

Returning to the apple barn I decided to buy some Discovery and Ellison’s Orange, both had the scent of autumn to me. In all I bought 12 apples and at 4 for £1, the total cost was £3. I felt that was really cheap. I was ready and willing to pay more.

In hindsight I wish I had bought more of a variety, but I had intended to get Discovery apples and Discovery apples I got!

I am happy I have discovered this little gem of an orchard and will definitely visit again.

Have you visited a fruit festival? What is your favourite apple?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Tomorrow Isn’t Promised

daf69acd5b56a7e615a891b2cd2769d8Recently I have been thinking of my own mortality. It’s not a topic many people want to discuss. Whilst contemplating the end of life, the phrase tomorrow isn’t promised, cropped up. This made me think of being mindful. To live life in the present. It is a mantra I have been trying to follow every day this year; to take each day as it comes and not to think too much of the future. However much we may plan, life has a way of throwing spanners in the works! So enjoy today and be thankful for the people we share our life with and of the places we see along the way. Life is like a journey. It’s not the destination that matters, but our route along the way!

So as a little recap of the year so far, here’s some of the people and places that have made my journey through 2017 a joy!

I am thankful to have David in my life. He is quietly strong, someone who you can depend upon and a wonderful friend. I love you with all my heart! We have been on many walks this year. Lake District walks to Thirlmere, Dodd Wood and a walk through the bluebells at Rannerdale.

We have shared walks along hot, sunny beaches, picked our own strawberries and visited nature reserves. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be on these walks than with you, David!

On many of our local walks, to Liverpool Festival Gardens, Sefton Park and Crosby Beach, we have taken bubbly, lively Riley with us.

If I have to mention Riley, I have to mention Artie and Evie and my wonderful aviary of foreign finches.

My mum has been a constant support over the years and I thank her for her love. We shared a special afternoon tea at Jam, Liverpool in March.

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Mum and I

Music has such a big place in my heart, and the music of Hans Zimmer is right up there with the symphonies of Mahler and Rachmaninov. In 2017 I luckily saw Hans’ World Tour visit Liverpool. To say his music is electrifying is an understatement, just listen to his Dark Knight medley from his live concerts!

A new passion of mine has become wild swimming. This year I have had seven wonderful swims. Blea Tarn was not disappointing.

Work takes up a lot of my time but working with Sue and her guide dog Kallie often doesn’t feel like work. It feels like muddling through a day with a friend. Sue has become a wonderful confidante.

I have tried to read and follow as many blogs as I can. There is one blogger who has become an online friend (we shall have to meet in person one day, with our dogs) and that is Sharon from her wonderful blog sunshine and celandines. I have enjoyed our many online chats on the culture/holidays and walks we both blog about!

I love street art. So when there is a new Wild in Art animal trail or a mural, I try and visit. Birmingham’s Big Sleuth was entertaining and Paul Curtis’s For all Liverpool’s Liverbirds mural was a must for any Liverbird to visit!

I have tried to notice the smaller things in nature this year. It really does make you more appreciative of life. Feeling the warm sun on your skin to foraging for berries. Seeing a bird of prey being harried by a family of swallows or seeing a snowdrop during the coldest of days makes your heart swell. These small events make life’s worries and trivialities disappear or seem easily overcomable (if that’s really a word!)

There’s four month’s left of 2017, but for now I want to live for today and feel blessed with the memories of the places I have seen, with the people I hold dear.

Thank you for reading,

Live life in the moment

Christine x

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998

A Year in Photos – 2016

Sharon from the wonderful Sunshine and Celandines suggested the topic for today’s post. I already do a yearly video compilation (watch out for that in the new year), but I thought I would post 12 pictures (or video) that give an impression of the year 2016!

So here goes!

January: 

The year began with a little trip to North Wales. On a cold, drizzly day David and I visited Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin. The weather made the scenery even more atmospheric! Who knows how many ghosts wander the rugged, unforgiving slate scattered landscape?

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Rhosydd Slate Quarry, Cwmorthin

February:

On another of David’s days off work, we visited the Lake District and took a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater. Little did we know, we would visit the shores of Derwentwater several times in 2016! I had discovered a new hobby!

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Derwentwater

March:

With spring just around the corner, March was all about the yarden! I busied myself with planting free packets of seeds that I’d requested from Grow Wild, a Kew Gardens initiative!

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April:

The much anticipated Hans Zimmer concert in Birmingham came and went in a blink of an eye! A good time was had by all that night! Hans himself introduced film classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy.

May:

In May, David and I returned to the shores of Derwentwater. This time I bravely stripped to my swim suit and slipped over rocky stones to embark on my first ever wild swim! It would be the beginning of many swims undertaken in 2016 in scenery that is nothing but inspiring!

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Facing Blencathra

June:

For the second year running I took part in The Wildlife Trusts, 30 Days Wild. This year I packed even more wild into June. We built a pond, harvested our first crop of maris bard potatoes, grew borage for bees, and I even went without technology for a day!

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Maris Bard Potatoes

July:

In July, David and I took a day trip to Sheffield to see their herd of colourful elephants.

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August:

The year wasn’t all fun days out and wild swimming! There was lots of hard work to be done on the house. With detritus clogging up the space under the hallway and sagging/rotten beams found under the dinning room, the long summer days were filled with the sawing of wood and hours of reconstruction.

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Dining room floor

September:

At Browns Liverpool, I partook in my first, but very rich afternoon tea. The red velvet cake was delicious but the whole afternoon was a sugar overload!

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Afternoon Tea, Browns, Liverpool

October:

Autumn became centre stage in all its colourful glory as I participated in Wild October! I watched a garden spider spin its web, relived childhood by kicking fallen leaves, turned 40 and holidayed in the Lake District.

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November:

The iconic Weeping Window from the Tower of London poppies came to Caernarfon Castle, just in time for Armistice. The poppies are touring the UK, thanks to 14-18 Now, and are a fitting memorial to the fallen.

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The Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle

December:

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Christmas Tree

December is all about Christmas and spending time with family. My little 3ft Christmas tree, adorned with birds and polar bears always goes up on the 1st. Artie once again had an Advent calendar to count the days to Christmas, and this year I managed to get a Christmas wreath for the front door!

So there you have it, my 2016 in pictures!

For some this year has been a harsh year, but for David and I there have been more happy times than sad. Indeed we have made many wonderful memories out of new experiences this year.

I wish you all good health and happiness for 2017! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Many Firsts.

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Derwentwater

I did not hold out much hope for the weather over the weekend. The forecast predicted rain and heavy cloud. Yet David and I decided to keep to the plan I had devised anyway. So, the following morning we left the B&B before sunrise and headed towards Keswick. We parked the car at the Theatre by the Lake, and walked towards the lakeside.

A white dawn broke over Derwentwater. From Friar’s Crag we walked towards the National Trust Centenary Stones, though they looked rather underwhelming with the water having receded. From this bay I planned my first swim of the day. At 9am the water was cold and there was no one about save David and I, and the lake! It was magical, and I loved it!

As an early birthday present David had gifted me a waterproof camera (nick-named Wilson (I’ll explain why later!)) which I trialled at Derwentwater.

After my swim of about 10 minutes, with burning hands and numb skin, I attempted to get dry and dressed. With the sun breaking through the clouds we retraced our steps back towards the car before heading into Keswick for our walk towards Walla Crag.

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Derwentwater from Walla Crag

The walk took us through some nice woodland and across a fell. The whole walk took about two hours. Parts of the ascent was steep, muddy and tiring. We touched the peak of Walla Crag at lunch time. I ate my fruit salad, buffeted by a chilling wind, while looking towards a blue Derwentwater below. We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

We arrived back at the car earlier than anticipated. So looking at the map, I chose Bassenthwaite Lake to visit, being only 15 minutes drive from Keswick.

We luckily managed to find free parking alongside the lake. Indeed the lake seemed almost deserted, much like early morning at Derwentwater! With having a spare swim suit in my rucksack (as you do). I made the impromptu decision to go for another swim!

I had intended to have a sunrise swim at Derwentwater and a sunset swim at Loweswater, but Bassenthwaite became my second swim of the day!

I was not in the water for long. I felt cold, probably because I had not fully warmed up from the swim that morning. After a cup of lukewarm coffee, we headed towards Loweswater for sunset. Much like the sunrise, the sunset did not really happen, but we enjoyed a pleasant autumn stroll along the lake, before I donned my bikini and waded out into the cold and very reedy water.

Loweswater was my shortest swim that day, more of a dip. I did not like the reeds catching at my ankles, so I cut short the swim to shiver on the pebbly bank as twilight fell.

14595792_10154199594089200_8827333379966744528_nWe decided to risk driving the 30 minutes to Ennerdale, a designated dark sky area, in the hope that the clouds would break long enough for us to do some star gazing. We arrived tired and hungry around 7pm and waited for the night to darken. There were no other tourists, save us. We stood listening to eerie calls of birds roosting before the sky above became emblazoned with a multitude of stars. There were wisps of cloud but none could detract from the faint ribbon of the Milky Way. I loved gazing up at the sky and feeling the peace of the area. We will definitely have to visit again when the night is more clear, but what David captured is good for his first attempt.

We returned to the B&B exhausted yet feeling accomplished. It had been a tremendous day, though at times it did seem endless! We had achieved many firsts in the 14 hours of travelling! I had amazingly completed three swims/dips in one day! Loweswater and Bassenthwaite were new lakes to us, and it was the first time David had seen the Milky Way.

It will be hard to top such a day!

Have you visited any of the lakes mentioned? What were your memories of them? Have you been star gazing, seen the Milky Way?

Do continue to follow me as I write about my final day in the Lake District.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Remembering a Kindred Soul… Mac.

A while back I read a blog post by Isobel in which she remembered her long lost animals by lighting a candle.

I thought about doing the same.

I have lost many pets down the years. Recently I said goodbye to the gentle Lady Gouldian finch, Aura.

The purpose of this post will be to celebrate the life and 10 years I shared with my ‘boy’ Mac. I have had many cats during my lifetime but none were like Mac. He took a piece of my heart with him when he left me in 2007.

mac5aI can still remember the day, (like it was yesterday), when I first set eyes on Mac. It was a warm August day in 1997. My 20 year old self, had been to town to get a Sarah Brightman album. Unbeknown to me, my mum and brother, Stephen had been to a computer shop and on their way home had come across a house with kittens playing in the gated area. My mum being a cat lover too, commented how adorable the feisty kittens were and the owner, an elderly woman asked if she would like to take one home. So, come the time I came in through the front door, cassette in hand, a tuxedo kitten had been chosen and was waiting for me.

It was love at first sight! Then began a decade-long love affair!

It’s hard to put into words just what a loving cat Mac was. He was always by my side. He was ‘my’ cat, and would follow me about the house. We used to have fun, playing hide and seek together and he loved his roast dinners, of potatoes and peas. We were inseparable! Mac was there when I was lonely, and I poured my wishes and dreams into him while he sat purring patiently.

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One anecdote was when Mac went missing for a week! Seven days of missing my ‘boy.’ It was hell! Of a day I walked about dazed, come the night I cried myself into a fitful sleep.

One Sunday, I was lounging in bed when a neighbour called. She said she thought Mac was in her house. Mum went to look and low and behold there he was! He had been holed up in the neighbour’s back bedroom scared and probably wondering where I was. Luckily the neighbour had a cat herself and of a night, Mac would tiptoe downstairs, help himself to the dried food on offer and relieve himself in the cat tray. He was such a good boy! I was amazed that the neighbour’s cat did not sniff Mac out, or if he did, he was equally scared! I was just thankful to have my Mac back. He seemed unfazed by his vacation. I never let him out the house again!

Sadly Mac never reached old age. He contracted bowel cancer and became a shadow of his former self. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… saying goodbye. So on the 10th of October 2007, I said farewell to my ‘boy.’ In Mac’s place I received a dark wooden box with a bag inside, tied with a blue ribbon, full of sharp bone fragments…

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…and all I was left with… was memories.

Mac  1997-2007.

Photo Challenge: H2O – ‘Wild’ Swimming!

via Photo Challenge: H2O

Here goes: I’m going to use this challenge to indulge in some reminiscing. You are all probably getting a bit fed up with this subject. It seems of late, I just have a one track mind… that track is my wild swims!

On my Facebook page, in the past week I posted some pictures highlighting some of my ‘favourite’ swims. So I thought, on my blog I could expand on the theme. So forgive me for indulging… just a little bit! 🙂

Actually, it’s quite difficult to chose an actual favourite, out of the six swims I have done between May to September. I asked David what swim/location he enjoyed the most. We both agreed that Rydal Water had a special charm. Perhaps the low lying mist and the fact that it was early in the morning added to the magic.

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Rydal Water

My very first swim in Derwentwater, has to hold a special place in my heart. I remember being excitedly nervous, but determined to make my dream a reality! I even amazed myself that day!

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Facing Blencathra, Derwentwater

I am already planning on revisiting the shores of Derwentwater again for my birthday treat this October. I secretly can’t wait!

My most epic swim has to be in Wast Water! With giants such as Yewbarrow and Great Gable watching over me, it was scenery to inspire! It was also my longest swim of 20 minutes, though the shivers on shore later were fierce! Wast Water is a place I most definitely want to revisit.

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Wast Water

Another place I want to revisit is Buttermere, my favourite lake! The time we visited, it was a cool, drizzly June, definitely no sign of summer! I also suffered the disappointment of not swimming in Buttermere’s ‘sister’ lake, Crummock Water that day. Now having swam in Rydal Water and Grasmere, another two lakes adjacent to each other, I can safely say I will return to Buttermere!

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Buttermere

Grasmere had a lot to live up to after my magical swim in Rydal Water! I think the whole experience of bagging two swims in one day was quite overwhelming for me! The late summer light on Grasmere made the scenery look like an oil painting!

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Grasmere

The coldest swim I’ve experienced, has to be my only tarn of the season, Easedale. You expect a glacial tarn to be colder than the lakes, but with the weather turning as I slipped into the silent waters, it didn’t help with temperatures. It made for a very moody, thought provoking swim.

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Easedale Tarn

So that’s me all reminisced out! Well, not really… I can go on and on! 🙂 One thing is for certain, I am very happy to have discovered this new hobby. It gives a different element to walks in the countryside, of being totally immersed in the landscape, not just teetering on the edge!

My hope for the coming year: is to continue to enjoy walks/swims around the Lake District and to bag a few swims in Snowdonia too! The Miner’s Track(though it’ll be tough) has Llyn Glaslyn as its jewel and I want to revisit where this passion all started, Llyn Idwal.

I’d like you to come with me on my journey. Perhaps I can inspire you to try wild swimming? We will learn many things along the way and perhaps it will lead to a journey of self discovery?

Thanks for reminiscing with me.

Christine x

H2O

‘Wild’ in Art!

WARNING! This post will be a COLOUR overload!

I was inspired to write this post after visiting Sheffield’s herd of elephants and writing about it in my Sunday Sevens #15. Mark at worldwarzoogardener1939 commented that Paignton Zoo are doing a trail with rhinos and Marwell Zoo have Zany Zebras gracing the streets of Southampton this summer! I would love to visit them all but 2016 seems to be the busiest year regarding animal street art in the UK! One of the biggest promoters of these events is Wild in Art, check out their website for past and future events.

Over the past eight years David and I have been lucky enough to visit a fair amount of trails, stretching as far north as Aberdeen, to Norwich in the east! My first encounter with these colourful animals was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. Since then there has been an explosion of animals gracing the cities and towns of the UK. From lions in Bournemouth to horses in Hamilton. Below is a selection of the trails we have seen. Enjoy!

2008 was the year of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. During the summer, 120 6ft lambananas graced the city’s streets. I have fond memories of seeking each and every one of them out, there was even one atop Moel Famau in North Wales!

The winter of 2009 saw 135 5ft penguins bring cheer to the cold streets of Liverpool, St Helens and the Wirral. I don’t think they were as successful as the lambananas the previous year, even David seemed jaded in seeing them all. However I managed to capture them all on camera and even a few months after the auction date, acquired one for myself. A hint of madness but our home wouldn’t be the same without Snowy standing sentinel under the stairs!

Staying in the North West, Chester in 2010 had a herd of rhinos career through their streets.

Also in 2010, Skipton found they had a flock of sheep bringing cheer to their town…

..and we visited Newport for the first of their two Super Dragon trails.

2011 saw two very diverse trails. The first was in Congleton where a sleuth of bears had taken up residence.

The second was in Edinburgh, where the city was transformed into a jungle for the summer.

In 2012 it looked like David and I never visited any art trails, though in fairness we did buy our first house!

2013, looked more promising! My appetite was reawakened when I saw some of the Lindt Easter eggs. You can read my post here.

The summer of 2013 saw us visiting a spate of trails. We visited Manchester for the national tour of the Elephant Parade. Read my post here.

We then visited Norwich and Colchester to see both Go Go Gorillas and Stand Tall trails.

2014 saw David and I take a tour to Aberdeen, Scotland to see their pod of dolphins in torrential rain! Read my post here.

2015 saw us returning to Norwich to see their Go Go Dragons trail. I am always impressed with the quality of art from this city! I look forward to seeing what their hares look like in 2017!

Also in 2015 Liverpool had their celebration of ducks which commemorated the history of the city.

While Birmingham witnessed a parliament of owls in their Big Hoot!

As I’ve said previously 2016 will see more trails than ever before. There are pigs in Ipswich, snowdogs in Brighton and Hove and Newcastle and Tyne and Wearand lions in Paisley. That is just to name a few! Sheffield’s herd of elephants are on the streets until 5th October when they will be auctioned off for charity like most of the above. They are a great way of getting the public behind a charitable cause and can raise hundreds of pounds!

Have you seen/followed any animal sculpture trail? What do you think of the initiative? What kind of animal would you like turned into art next?

Christine x