Catch-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here’s a little catch-up!

Being Lucky!

In July to mark their new season, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra held a week long competition on their Facebook page! I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Thursday competition!! The prize was for two tickets to see Psycho with music performed by the Philharmonic, (ideally on my birthday!), and also two tickets on-board the Ghost Bus run by Shiverpool tours! I have done many ghost walks while holidaying in Edinburgh but not in my own city. So I am very excited to see what the bus tour has to offer! 😀

Culture and Sightseeing!

During one Saturday, David and I took a short visit to Birmingham to see their street art of Owls. The Big Hoot it was called! In total we spotted 33 of the 89 owls on the streets, not bad for a few hours on the trail!

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While walking around the city, we enjoyed the many different types of architecture to be found!

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Last Thursday came the news I had been hoping for, for so long! The Tower of London Poppies were finally embarking on their UK tour! It was beyond my wildest dreams that Liverpool could be one of the first few to be chosen for this unique art installation but that is what exactly happened!

The instillation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited, that was first seen at the Tower of London in 2014, captured the imagination of the nation! The Weeping Window will be coming to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in November 2015 to January 2016 and the second part of the installation, The Wave will be housed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this coming September to January 2016! I hope to get the opportunity to photograph both! You cannot imagine how excited I am at seeing them! 😀

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Wildlife:

Last week, our house was a B&B for a poorly pigeon whom we called Jack! David noticed the lethargic bird last Monday and after debate we made a box up for him (and later a cage) and brought him in of a night. He seemed generally fit, apart from green runny poop! The worrying thing was that he could not fly and even though he attempted too, he could not get any height! So for seven days we would leave him out in the garden for the day (Artie was not allowed to go outside!), and of a night he resided in our back bedroom!

Jack the pigeon

Jack the pigeon

We were going to take him to a vets to get checked out but over the weekend he seemed to be getting more strength and confidence.

This Monday while filling up the bird feeders, (we have many Goldfinch and House Sparrow fledglings visiting), Jack took to the air and landed on a nearby shed roof. He was not to be seen come the evening and we hoped that he had found his strength and flown off with some newly made friends!

On Tuesday morning we saw Jack back in the garden, this time eating seed that had fallen from the feeders and integrating with a small flock of fellow pigeons! We hope he continues to visit the garden and hopefully Jack’s story has a happy ending.

The Garden:

At the weekend David and I spent six hours in the garden cleaning, re-potting and planting. I bought a Dahlia from Grosvenor Garden Centre, Chester. I fell in love with the black foliage and the flower heads attract bees! I also bought an Anemone to replace my blighted Michaelmas Daisy and some wall art!

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And finally I’ll end with one last picture. After two months growing from seed, my Borage has finally flowered!

Borage flower

Borage flower

What events are you looking forward to seeing?

Christine x

30 Days Wild…Week Four.

As I embark on the last week of The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild, it becomes important more than ever, to continue to value and respect the wildlife that is around us.

Monday:

I find it difficult to enjoy nature while I am out and about going to work. However today I snapped a picture of a flower that was gracing the gates of my employment. I did a quick Google search and found that it was a Rosa canina, or Dog Rose which is a deciduous shrub.

White heart shaped petal flower

White heart shaped petal flower

Tuesday:

James Horner

James Horner

Though not nature orientated, I woke up this morning to the sad news that composer James Horner had died in an aeronautics accident. I admired Horner’s music well before Hans Zimmer’s. My first CD of his, was his stunning American Civil War soundtrack to the film Glory!


The weather turned out to be half decent today. In the afternoon I managed to sit out and potter about my garden. The Passion Flower has grown ‘madly’ again and has hundreds (maybe an exaggeration) of buds on it! There are also purple flowers on the Hebe!

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Wednesday:

I decided to follow a suggestion from the 101 ‘wild’ things to do which was to watch a nature webcam. Years ago I used to visit a websi from a farm in Yorkshire, called Marlfield. The website is called Lambwatch. (It’s best viewed on IE.) I checked it out today and found that they not only have one webcam pointed at a field, which during spring is filled with lambs, but have three others! One of which was a webcam in a Swallows nest. Knowing I love Swallows I spent a good hour watching the brood of about 4 growing baby Swallows.

I wonder if the visiting Swallows near me will also be feeding a brood of similar size? I shall have to wait until they fledge, it was mind July last year! I shall keep my eyes towards the sky!

Thursday: – Norwich… ‘a fine city!’ (Indeed!)

Thursday was the beginning of our night away to Norwich to see the Go Go Dragons street art exhibition! Mum kindly looked after Artie while we were gone the night.

It was not the first time we have gone on a hunt for dragons. The first was in 2010 in Newport!

Newport dragon 2010

Newport dragon 2010

We set off on the M62 around 9am. I didn’t see much nature along the motorways, save for a few silhouettes of Buzzards and Kestrels hunting and along the A11 there was a field full of purple and white foxgloves!

We got to Norwich by 1.30pm and spent the next two hours walking around the city streets. The weather was very humid and come the evening the sun shone through heavy laden clouds.

We first visited Norwich two years ago when we popped in, on our way to Colchester, to see their Go Go Gorillas trail.

Go Go Gorilla - Optimus Prime

Go Go Gorilla – Optimus Prime

I was impressed by the artistic talent, so much so that come news that dragons were going to grace the city’s streets I had to pay them a visit!

The dragons I think even surpassed the gorillas! Here are just a few from the first day!

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With tired feet we made our way to the B&B for the night. We stayed at the same B&B, 175 Newmarket Road, and incidentally the same room as two years ago!

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

For the evening’s meal we went to The Merchant’s of Spice, curry house north of the River Wensum. David ordered Chicken Tikka Pasanda, which was flavoursome while I had the Vegetable Karahi which was filled with peppers, green beans and new potatoes. The naan was nice though was drizzled with a lot of butter! The atmosphere of the restaurant was luxurious and the ambient music was not overpowering. The service was efficient and they cleaned unused plates and cutlery swiftly. At the end of the meal we were once again handed orange soaked hot towels to wipe our hands, always a plus in my book! 😀

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Friday:

We had breakfast early on Friday so we could leave the B&B and head into Norwich before 9am! While we were packing I noticed a colourful Jay amongst the tree canopy around the house. It moved too quickly for me to get a picture so one of David’s taken on a day trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park will have to do!

Jay

Jay

I must comment that Norwich has fully embraced planting for wildlife and on most of their roundabouts and along the sides of dual carriageways there is an abundance of wild flowers!

We spent the next four hours walking the city’s streets with map in hand! The positive of following a trail map is that you get to see parts of the city you wouldn’t necessarily see! There are some lovely churches and narrow tudor-esque streets in Norwich. However the north of the city is a bit derelict, like many towns. We found ourselves in a part of the city that was covered in graffiti! We did not feel safe! So we hurried back south towards the river.

We saw 31 dragons on the Thursday and the Friday we saw a total of 32! So we saw 63 out of the 84 dragons on the streets, though we did see several more but could not take photos!

Here are some of my favourite dragons from Friday’s hunt!

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Even though we never got to see the whole 84 dragons, I found following the trail map more satisfying than going to see them all in one place which we did last year when we went to Aberdeen to see ‘all’ the dolphins!

Wild Dolphins

Wild Dolphins

Here’s a selection of some of the art work found on the dragons and of David and myself posing with our favourites! 😀

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After lunch at around 1.30pm we said goodbye to Norwich and set off on our journey home, and what a ‘long’ journey home it turned out to be! Instead of the 4.5 hours it should have took us, our journey lasted over 7 hours! Arriving home around 9pm!

There was news of the M6 being shut around junction 16 and then the A14 was at a snails pace. There was nothing to do but to try and stay cheery, listen to the radio and try to keep hydrated and well fed. We took regular breaks. We tried to get the sat-nav to navigate around the blocked part of the M6 but it wanted us to go further afield into Wales, so we decided to see what was in store for us on the motorway!

We paid the £5.50 to go on the M6 toll and the first junction was at a stand still. I thought that it was a waste of money but once we past the first junction it was smooth travelling until the M6 toll merged into the M6. Then the travelling was in fits and starts, so much so that I got a migraine with the stress. I thought we would never get home and my phone decided to die! We stopped off at Keele Services and had a fast food dinner! It was not what I had planned. I had planned something more healthy, after the curry the night before, but there was nothing to be done. So a Burger King it was. I had a vegi wrap while David had a chicken sandwich and chips. I also had a Costa coffee which, with the Zomig I had taken, helped ease the migraine!

For the next two hours, though fuelled, we continued on our slow journey home. To break the monotony David said I should take some pictures of the Cheshire countryside.

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On our arrival home, we were welcomed by a familiar sight. Artie looking out of the window at us!

Artie welcoming us home

Artie welcoming us home

Saturday:

Back home to ‘normality!’ I found that the Passion Flower had started to bloom! There was one sitting proud for all to see! I look forward to many more budding!

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

For Saturday’s dinner I made a healthy Roasted Pepper and Bean soup.

Ingredients:

  1. Two pointed peppers sliced in half
  2. One red onion sliced in quarters
  3. Two garlic cloves
  4. One chilli chopped
  5. 500ml of reduced vegetable stock
  6. Tin of choppd tomatoes
  7. Tin of cannellini beans
  8. Pepper to season
  9. Serve with wholemeal bread

Method:

  1. Put peppers, onion and garlic on a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins on oven 200°/gas mark 6
  2. Chop the chilli
  3. In pan put in stock, chilli, tomatoes, and beans and warm to simmering
  4. Once skin is blackened on peppers take out of oven, strip and chop
  5. Return chopped, peppers, onion and garlic into pan
  6. Season with pepper
  7. Cook for 20 minutes

I served the soup with Wholemeal granary bread that I had made and David had shaped into dogs!

Red Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Roasted Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Sunday:

I spent today’s lunch with our finches. We let them fly around the living room at weekends. Here’s a selfie I took with Chocolate our Bengalese Finch, she was getting very close to me!

Chocolate and Christine

Chocolate and Christine

More webcams! This time from Paradise Park in Cornwall. They are streaming a webcam from their Red Panda den. Their female panda has had cubs. You can view the webcam here: http://paradisepark.org.uk/events-and-news/webcams/

I think I am going to have to attempt to separate the Borage seedlings either today or sometime during next week! Look how much they have grown in a month!

Borage seedlings

Borage seedlings

There are only two more day’s of June and 30 Days Wild, but I will continue to admire the nature that is around me in the coming weeks/months. Will the Borage and Teasel seedlings bloom? How many Passion Flowers will I get? Will I see any fledgling Swallows? Only time will tell!

Polar Bears, Traffic Jams and Ducks!

It’s been a busy weekend!

Friday, David and I both had the day off work and we drove the two hours to Doncaster to, Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We had visited preciously but this time I wanted to see the newly arrived Polar Bears. YWP has two at the moment, Victor and his grandson Pixel.

Pixel was the more active of the two as can be expected and I enjoyed seeing him frolic in the huge lake they have in their enclosure. We stopped to listen to the Polar Bear talk and the keeper said they hope to house up to at least eight male Polar Bears! That will be something to behold!

In their collection YWP also have shy Amur Leopards and Tigers. There was one Amur Tiger on show, (the other is off show nursing cubs!). The Tiger showed a spectacular Flehmen response to a smell on a bush. This is when the cat smells a scent and shows its teeth by scrunching up its nose. Even domesticated cats do it as well!

We spent 4 hours at the park and left at 3 pm, ‘in plenty of time to miss the rush hour traffic’, I thought! We were not so blessed as when we visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park the previous weeks as it was intermittent driving and then stopping from the M1 to the M62! We hadn’t even reached the dreaded M60 before it was 5pm and David was starting to feel dizzy!

I managed to get David to agree on stopping off at a service station. Birch was only 1 mile away when the dizzy spells started, probably brought on by too much driving, sun stroke and hunger! We both had a Costa each and then David had a Burger King chicken sandwich and I had a very fattening vegi burger. At 26g of fat I would have opted for the salad if I had known! I wish fast food could be healthy as well as convenient! The break did us both good. It roused my spirits and as we hit the motorway again, the traffic jams eased so it was a straight, none stop route back home! Poor Artie was left alone for 11 hours straight, he must have thought we had deserted him!

On Saturday, not content with walking for miles the previous day, we headed into Liverpool city centre to wander the streets in search of ducks! We followed the Aquaducked map and snapped the 20 ducks on display. They each informed of 20 firsts that had happened in Liverpool! Amongst one of my favourites was the Beetles Duck. It was indeed colourful!

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Liverpool… a City of Giants!

25th to the 27th July was the return of Royal de Luxe’s giant marionettes to Liverpool.

In 2012 not long after my father had passed, Little Girl Giant, Xolo her dog and the Diver came to thrill the streets of Liverpool in A Sea Odyssey, and left a lasting impact on the psyche of all who saw them.

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In 2014, they once again took over the streets of Liverpool, this time with dear old Grandmother in tow. They were part of the World War One commemorations. Liverpool was celebrating the heroism of it Pals, 5,000 men who volunteered for the war effort! Almost half never returned and those who did were left with scars both physically and mentally.

David and I on the Friday took the bus into town at 8am on a bright sunny morning and stood for over three hours waiting and watching as Little Girl Giant and Xolo awoke to start their journey around town and witnessed the Grandmother visit the city for the first time.

While waiting for the Giants to wake up, David and I were magnets for the media. We were approached by BBC Merseyside, Juice FM and a gentleman asked if he could take our picture for a magazine, though I didn’t catch the name of it! David and I must look approachable or was it the red cat suit I wore on the day?

David and I in Newsham Park

David and I in Newsham Park

It was hot, too hot and the swelling crowds seemed endless, like a sea of humanity stretching fathomlessly through the city’s streets.

For the next three days the weather played along and visitors came from both far and wide to witness the magical spectacle.

As the Giants took over the city’s streets, public transport was sorely affected. On the Friday we ended up walking half way home as buses were diverted. We finally picked up one by the Women’s Hospital, both disgruntled and with sore feet!

I struggled with a migraine all weekend. The heat and standing in the sun for hours did not help.

On the Friday evening, after trying to sleep off the migraine, David and I went to Newsham Park where the evenings events were to be held. We went with his family. As expected the fields were already filled with people, so we were not so lucky as in the morning in getting a front row spot!

The giants were over an hour late as Grandmother had a malfunction with her head!! At least it was a nice warm evening under a golden sun!

Giant spectacular, Liverpool 2014

Giant spectacular, Liverpool 2014

Finally the Giants entered the make shift stage. There were Pipers pipping, drummers on top of double decker cars and Xolo ran around entertaining the crowds. The grandmother sat down next to the Little Girl Giant and told the tale of how the Giants made mankind! They then all bedded down for the night while cheesily John Lennon’s ‘Imagine‘ played into the twilight.

We did not go to see the other two days. Saturday was a blur as I recovered from my migraine and Sunday, because we knew there would be crowds, we decided to cut our loses. At least we had seen the Giants during their visit, and we had seen them two years ago. However I did not feel the emotion that I had on their first visit to the city. Perhaps I was still in mourning then? Either way, the Giants this time around was as good if not more productive for the city and its credibility. May they return in the future with a much stronger tale to tell.

Christine 2014.

Trying to Keep the Black Dog at Bay!

I have been rather depressed this week with one thing and another. It has left me feeling rather headachey and stressed out about money. Work at the University finished on Friday, nice for a three week break but I don’t know whether I have any hours after that. I really need to find another job to cover me for over the summer, otherwise the trip to Scotland, Aberdeen’s Wild Dolphins and The Kelipes, with a quick visit to Edinburgh will not go ahead and I will be bereft. 😦

This weekend has all been about keeping the Black Dog at bay. If you feel down, ‘do something that you are good at’ I say, ‘something you enjoy.’ So on Saturday after shopping, cleaning the house, and exercising for 30 minutes I cooked David and I a meal of honey glazed mustard trout, (called Jack) with salad, vegetables and new potatoes.

For the glaze I mixed two tablespoons of lemon juice with two teaspoons of mustard and a tablespoon of honey. Then I smeared it over two fillets of Trout. Cooked it in a 180 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Boiled the potatoes and made the salad.

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I ordained the table with napkins in the shape of peacocks, (well what I tried to look like peacocks anyway), had a nice glass of wine and poured David a cool glass of Pepsi.

I even dressed up! I bought the dress from Jane Norman years ago and had it taken up, (as I am short) but thought it was taken up too much. I found that it fitted me well. I felt very glamorous and sexy!

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Sunday and it was the birthday of my favourite actor 🙂 David went to help his brother with his house and I relaxed home alone. I had a nice soak in the bath, with Classic FM playing and a glass of wine in hand. Afterwards I made a loaf of bread. My finest yet! Then chopped up many vegetables and made Blind Scouse! It was very filling!

 

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Re: Gardening. I was distressed to see a black ‘plague’ on my newly bought poppy. All the heads were eaten from it! Flowers are very expensive, especially if they die within weeks of purchase! But I am happy to see the Magnolia tree I bought has started to bloom. I just hope the weather changes for the better and we get some nice warm weather, and a bit of sun. So the flowers and myself can feel more ‘alive’ again!

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Christine xx

…and Finally!!!

After over 18 months of hard work, changing both back and front doors, having a new roof put on and totally redecorating all rooms. We have… MOVED in to our new house!! 😀

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We spent all of the 27th moving my bed and essentials in. I was exhausted from all the going back and forth! Thank heavens it was only to next door! 🙂

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Yesterday we spent most of the day shopping for things for the house, like colanders and waste paper baskets! In the evening we had our first meal in our ‘Red Panda’ dining room and today as David was out at his brothers doing yet more painting! I helped myself to some more ‘corked’ champaign and had my first soak/relax in the bathroom! I listened to Classic FM and read Kate Mosse.

Champaign bath!I think we have made a home we can be very happy in! Fingers crossed for a fun filled future! 😀

Happy New Year for 2014!

Christine xx

Gorillas in the Rain…

Day one:

After leaving the house a bit later than I had planned for the four hour journey to Norwich to see their GoGoGorillas. David and I hit rain shower after rain shower, jam packed motorways and A roads on our journey across country which left me feeling stressed!!

We finally reached Norwich around 2.30pm and after finding parking we spent an enjoyable hour walking the streets of this friendly city and caught a glimpse of 15 of the 54 Gorillas that gave colour to the drab, rain soaked historic pavements. I am overjoyed that I managed to see a few of them before they were auctioned off and the one’s we saw were amongst my favourites!

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Leaving Norwich around 4pm, the next two subsequent hours were taken up on driving to Black Bond Hall B&B, Colchester. Andrew greeted us kindly and showed us to our room for the night and then offered us tea and cake in the kitchen. He and his wife Gill have made us feel very welcome. After a meal of fish and chips in a local Colchester chip shop, I relaxed with a shower and enjoyed the calmness of the countryside.

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It’s back to colchester and the zoo tomorrow to see their 100 plus giraffe, Stand Tall art display. I can’t wait!!

Very Distracted!

I don’t know what’s up with me today but I can’t seem to be able to concentrate or motivate myself! I must be thankful for being half packed for my much needed weekend away to the East coast of England starting this Friday!!

Last year I had booked a five day holiday to Norfolk but with my father’s sudden illness and then subsequent passing meant I had to cancel. 😦 This year I had already booked a one nights stay in a farmhouse not far from Colchester as I intend to visit the ‘Stand Tall‘ exhibition of painted giraffes at the zoo. With my boss at the Royal Liverpool Hospital being on holiday for two weeks I decided to try and extend the one nights stay to three!!

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I managed to get my own way, and booked another two nights this time in a B&B not far from Norwich, Norfolk. I will get there eventually! I intend to visit Banham Zoo to see their collection, as well as their Red Panda pair but then I don’t know what else to do. Go to other zoos in the region or visit a few sights in Norwich like the cathedral?

I usually have a whole itinerary written down by now, but as the extra two nights were just decided upon I am in a flurry as to what and where to visit. I also keep checking the weather forecast daily as most of what I want to do is mainly outdoors and is weather dependent. Unfortunately it looks like this lovely sunny ‘late summer’ weather we are having doesn’t look like it is going to last into next week.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed with me that the weather holds for the weekend and I look forward to sharing with you all my pictures and video. 🙂

Christine x

Happiness is for Everyone.

Friday was the beginning of the August long weekend and AT LAST I have something more interesting to write about than garden birds! David with car packed full with deck chairs took my Mum, brother Daniel, his friend Paul and myself to Sefton Park to see the opening of the Liverpool International Music Festival.

First on the bill was the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. It was a must see and being free was not to be sniffed at! So sitting under a cloud laden sky we all eagerly awaited the beginning of the concert. The organisers said there were up to 10,000 people at the opening night and we were five of that 10,000!

The concert was presented by Jamie Crick of Classic FM fame and whom I thought was a little bit ditsy as he tripped over his words and also got the programme wrong on one occasion. The orchestra opened with the theme from James Bond and went on to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ride of the Valkyries before culminating with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and at the crescendo a flurry of fireworks accompanied the rousing finale. The concert was enjoyed by all and we left the park feeling uplifted and happy.

On Saturday we left early for Manchester’s Trafford Centre where we spent 1.5 hours walking around the shopping mall. We were not shopping but talking pictures of the Elephant Parade, where there were 30 colourful painted elephants gracing the upper and lower levels of the mall. I loved all the varying artistic designs and also managed to purchase my own memento of the occasion though it knocked me back £45!

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Oh no!!

Today, with only working four hours I was home relatively early in the afternoon. The bird feeders again were full of the usual suspects, Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Starlings and Pigeons. However on closer inspection of the feeding station I noticed a little parcel on one of the mesh feeders. Wondering what it was I took a closer look and was horrified at what I saw!!

A Magpie must have been raiding a nest nearby and the package must have been dropped in my yard! (I can’t think of how else it could have got there!) What I saw was a cracked egg! I first thought that it must have been laid by a visiting Pigeon but on closer inspection, inside the shell was the ready formed body of a bird. My stomach lurched! I have never witnessed anything like this at the bird feeders!

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Then later, I got nostalgic and started rooting amongst the videos on my Sony pocket camera. I came across a video I took when the Lindt Big Egg Hunt was in Liverpool. The egg was designed by artist Mikey Georgeson and I share the video with you. I particularly liked the small poem painted on it.

My gift to you then is an egg,
Not mine to give nor yourself to beg
If you want it then it’s yours
Hold it gently till it soars.