Sunday Sevens #63

It’s Sunday again! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.)

Earth Hour:
Last night I observed the annual Earth Hour by WWF. For the past seven years I have joined in this world wide movement by turning off my lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. Did you take part in the initiative?

Book I’m reading:
I’ve picked up Winter by Ali Smith. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Flowers:
Inspired by the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines, who shared pictures of wild flowers she had seen on a recent dog walk. I decided to do the same and take some snaps of the flowers I see on my walk to work.

Family walks:
This Sunday’s family walk with Riley was a 2.5 mile walk around a spring resplendent Sefton Park.

#Walk1000miles:
My miles this week has been 39. Bringing my annual total to 550 miles.

New Friends:
On Tuesday David surprised me with two more friends for the aviary. Helen a female owl finch and Rize a female Lady Gouldian finch. How beautiful are they?

That was my week, how was yours?
Thanks for reading,
Christine xx

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Sunday Sevens #59

I’ve been wanting to update you all in a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), for a few weeks now but have not had enough photo content to warrant a post. However I’ve decided to put together pictures from the past two weeks. I hope you enjoy the update?

Family walks:

Sundays have become days when we are joined by members of our family and take Riley on a long walk. Last weekend we visited Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and walked six miles following the paths overlooking flocks of black tailed godwits and teals.

This Sunday we took a leisurely 4.5 miles walk around Liverpool’s Otterspool Prom and Festival Gardens in thick mist. It made for some atmospheric pictures.

#walk1000miles:

The days are noticeably getting longer! This week I have managed to walk 48 miles, which brings my overall total to 356 miles. I am enjoying every step!

Book I am reading:

I’ve just finished reading Joanna Cannon’s Three things About Elsie. I won’t spoil the plot for you but I found many passages in the novel profound. The last chapter had me in tears! Have you read a novel that has affected you?

For my next read I have picked up JoJo Moyes’s last installment of the Me Before You trilogy, Still Me. Have you read any of these books?

Yarden:

With all the early Spring-like weather we have been having recently in the UK, the plants in the yarden are beginning to wake up! During winter I feared for the raspberry but I’ve recently noticed new leaves starting to sprout! The crocus is giving the yarden a splash of colour and there are bluebells leafing. The greatest surprise was that the camellia which usually flowers in April has already begun to bloom!

RSPB Membership:

Saturday, David and I visited Burton Mere Wetlands. It’s the first reserve we’ve visited with our new membership. We spent an enjoyable three hours and 4.6 miles walking the trails and viewing the pools from the hides.

I love discovering new species and learning about them. We saw a flock of redshank, shoveler ducks and a little egret. I can’t wait to visit another RSPB site in the future. Where do you think I should visit next?

So, that was my week(s), how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A New Years Jaunt to Keswick

For the past three years, David and I have headed out for a walk on New Years Day and 2019 wasn’t any different. This year we managed to take smiley Riley along with us. We got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am (it was still dark) and headed up the M6 towards the Lake District. We took the usual pit stop at an eerily quiet Lancaster Services before driving the remaining 1.5 hours, arriving in Keswick just before 9am.

After booting up, with Riley on lead, we headed towards Portinscale and the western shores of Derwentwater. We spent a good two hours walking to and along the shore of Derwentwater. We passed alpacas in a field of the Lingholm Estate, discovered Hawes End jetty was being rebuilt and picnicked before a resplendent Blencathra and Skiddaw in the strong winter sunshine. Whilst David took pictures, Riley and I paddled in the shallows of Derwentwater and ran chasing sticks along the shoreline. I was surprised at how quiet the lakeside was. It was only after 11am that the crowds started to arrive, by then we were heading back towards Keswick. It was a perfect day and a wonderful start to the new year!

Below find a collage of pictures from our time at Derwentwater.

We walked back to Keswick and joined the throng among the bustling streets. There were just as many dogs as there were humans in Keswick and I relished the chance to share this dog friendly town with Riley. Indeed Riley seemed to enjoy himself and attracted quite a few adoring fans. While we stood outside the Old Keswickian chip shop waiting for David to come out with a portion of chips for Riley’s humans, people approached Riley asking to stroke him. It was like he was a celebrity!

David and I settled on a bench alongside the eastern shore of Derwentwater to eat our chips while Riley chilled at our feet. I think the 10 miles walking had tired him! To end the day, even though the afternoon sun was fierce, we took Riley to a very busy Friars Crag overlooking the Jaws of Borrowdale.

We retraced our steps back to the car and tiredly headed back home. Riley slept the three hours home while David and I made another short stop at Lancaster Services for a restorative Costa coffee. All in all it was a positive beginning to the new year and one I shall remember for a long time to come. Riley at the shores of Derwentwater was a dream come true, but where in the Lake District do you think we should walk him next?

Thanks for reading,

Happy New Year!

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-one

Day Twenty-one: Today is the Winter Solstice or the shortest day or longest night. It also happens to be a full moon and the Ursid Meteor Shower, but it’s forecast to rain!

For many the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter, however there is much to celebrate the coming of the shortest day as the days from here start to lengthen.

Throughout human history this day has been observed.

Germanic pagans celebrated Yule where boughs of evergreen plants such as mistletoe and ivy decorated homes. Candles and Yule logs were also used to bring light to the longest night.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia. This was a time for feasting and good will to others where presents were shared and trees decorated. Sound familiar?

winter solsticeI have decided to celebrate the Winter Solstice by making a wreath from ivy and lighting candles.

How are you celebrating the Winter Solstice?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

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Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

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Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Sixteen

outdoorsDay Sixteen: For today’s photo prompt of winter walk/outdoors, we took Riley wearing his Christmas jumper for a walk around our local park. He spied a tree branch which he wanted to carry. I think it was far too big for him! 🙂

Have you managed to get out today?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018

Since I loved blogging every day this year for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. I decided to trawl the internet for photo/blog challenges for December. There were many ideas on Pinterest but none were current. So I decided to create my own from a couple of suggestions I found. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Christmas Tree
2. Advent
3. Snow
4. Christmas tunes
5. Penguin/s
6. Weather
7. Front Door
8. Shopping
9. Pet/s
10. Christmas book
11. Angel
12. Comfort in a mug
13. Christmas Movie
14. Christmas Jumper
15. Hygge
16. Winter Walk/Outdoors
17. Decoration
18. Stocking/s
19. Wrapping
20. Baking treats
21. Winter Solstice
22. Tradition
23. In remembrance
24. Christmas Eve
25. Merry Christmas!
26. Family
27. Gift
28. Grateful for ?
29. This year – a reflection
30. Goals for 2019 (if any)
31. A toast!

After I had compiled my list, I decided to do another online search with a hashtag and found a few current lists on Instagram. The hashtag I used was, #decemberphotochallenge2018, if anyone would like to join me?

Have you ever been interested in blogging for a month? Already have, if so what did you like/dislike about the experience? What suggestions for December would you have chosen for your list?

Thanks for reading and have a happy December!

Christine x

An Update on the Yarden

With winter being prolonged, spring has been slow on the arrival. However, the past few weeks in the NW of England (and for most of the UK) the weather has been fair, which has helped the residents in the yarden.

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Honey bee on Salvia

The long winter of Beasts from the East and Pests from the West meant I lost my beautiful salvia to the frosts. The rosemary, marjoram and aquilegia also succumbing.

Though there were some fatalities, with spring well and truly upon us, the resident plants have been thriving! Below is a selection of the flowers that are blooming at this moment in the yarden. Enjoy!

How is your garden growing?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – January to March

the-year-in-books

A new year means a new selection of books.

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge.

I started the new year finishing off a book from 2017.

A Parliament of Rooks – Karen Perkins

I did a short review of this book in my Sunday Sevens #40. Though the narrative brings clear visions of a modern day Howarth, the actual characters and tale fell rather flat. The modern day characters were rather annoying and two dimensional but if you like anything relating to the Brontë’s then you will enjoy this book.

The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe

I’ve read this poem a couple of times now. The first time I read it I was on a bus on a dark, cold January morning. I thought, ‘what on earth was all that about!’

Then on the second reading, I think I have understood a little more. The narrator is a man who mourns his lost love, Lenore. A raven visits him and in answer to the man’s questions the raven only says ‘nevermore.’ This perplexes the narrator who gets more and more exasperated. Others’ interpretations of the poem is that of the man slipping into madness.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

What do you think? Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Debut novel and one of Richard and Judy’s Book Club for spring 2018. The Witchfinder’s Sister is about Alice Hopkins who returns from London, widowed, to be reconciled with her brother Matthew (the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General) in the midst of the witch hunts of 1645-47. The English Civil War is waging, a time of religious, political upheaval, which the printing presses are at cost to publish. Reading what few facts on Matthew Hopkins there is online. I read that he and his accomplices were responsible for the deaths of up to 300 women in just three years. Legitimised serial killers is what I thought of them. Though men were not immune to being called ‘witch’ it was mainly females that were blamed for unnatural deaths of babies, droughts, famines and disease. When science and understanding was hundreds of years away, those without a voice (midwives, bewitching young women) were victimised. The author dips into that paranoia. Alice is at first an innocent bystander but is soon forced to be complicit in the torture and deaths of a number of women as she and Matthew travel through Anglia. Though a piece of fiction, it made me angry that this reign of terror was allowed to happened (an encouraged) in not just Britain but in Europe and the USA too.

The Crucible – Arthur Miller

After reading Beth Underdown’s novel, I just had to read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I found my old copy and re-read the play written at the height of the Korean War (1950-53). The play, written when Communism was seen as a threat to the western world, can also be read as criticism of the ‘witch-hunt’ McCarthy Trials. Miller cleverly links this contemporary fear to the paranoia of the witch trials in Salem (1692-3).

Unlike Beth Underdown’s novel, who writes from the viewpoint of a witness, The Crucible quickly draws you into the drama where accusations and blame are voiced by Abigail Williams and friends. A sense of heightened fear is present straight from the start where Betty Parris, one of Abigail’s friends is lying prone, mute, for no apparent reason. The girls have been accused themselves of dancing with the devil but Abigail turns the tables on the adults and begins to accuse members of the cast. They believe her, due to her ‘purity.’ One of the main characters John Proctor who has had a fling with Abigail and afterwards rejected her, tries to show Abigail as a telltale but the cast, some of high office, seem bewitched by the girls’ accusations that devilry is rife in Puritan Salem.

The play in some ways is a tragedy. The final act is seen as redemption for John Proctor who finally denounces Abigail, however this does not stop the executions. In little over a year, due to the hysteria created by girls who tapped into the bleaker side of human nature, of fear and jealousy, 20 people were tried and executed in Salem.

The Ice Queen – Alice Hoffman

This book wasn’t what I had expected. ‘A fairy tale for grownups’, it was advertised. The story however is so sad. I was choked with emotion reading the final chapters. Perhaps it was the butterfly migration that set me off? The whole story is well written, you meet many strange characters along the way. The tale is of loss, love and acceptance. The best message I got from this book was that to conquer death you have to live. Something I have been trying to achieve these past few years. Is this a book you would enjoy? Let me know!

Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks

I have to admit, I found it hard to get into Hanks’ writing. The choice of first short story to open this collection wasn’t the strongest. I found the unending list of commercial brands exhausting to read. Does it really matter what name of footwear a character wears or what brand of fridge freezer a man gets his chilled beer from? There are better ways of creating a time in history than listing company names. I found Hanks’ writing very like Dan Brown’s, perhaps it’s a style American’s default to? I did persevere and his style grew on me. There were a few stories I enjoyed, These are the Meditations of my Heart, Stay with Us (screenplay) and The Past is Important to Us. Have you read this collection? What were your thoughts?

The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot

Regarded as one of the most influential poems of the 20th Century. The Waste Land was written a few years after the devastation of WW1. The poem loosely follows the legend of the Grail, and is set in five parts which lack any cohesion. The fragmentation of structure and voice is a reflection of a post war world. I enjoyed the lyricism of the poem and the images it created. I wouldn’t say the poem was easily understandable. The many vignettes of peoples’ daily lives is intersected with lines taken from world mythologies, literature and languages. I think the poem needs further in-depth study. Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

Autumn – Ali Smith

I downloaded this book onto my Kindle before I decided to read 1 star ratings on Amazon. What I read worried me a little but once I started reading the stream of conscious type narrative, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though the story doesn’t really go anywhere, it is a study of time, and poking fun at British life and society. I liked Smith’s style of writing. I look forward to seeing what her next novel Winter is about.

1st quarter books

A Gathering Light, The Secret Life of Bees, The Pier Falls and Pax

A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly

I don’t remember who recommended this novel to me but I didn’t really enjoy it. I found the narrative very tedious. The secondary tale about a real life crime rarely featured. The writer could have done so much more with this idea but the result was a novel I would not recommend to anyone! How about you? If you have read this book and felt differently, then do let me know!

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

Set among the backdrop of racial tensions in 1960’s South Carolina, this coming of age tale is both entertaining and emotive. The protagonist, Lily goes on a journey that takes her away from her abusive father, to the protection of three bee keeping sisters, where she learns about her mother and herself. The novel has a strong cast of female characters. From the tormented May to the resilience of Rosaleen and the wisdom of August. It is a feel good book, one that I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon

Sadly Haddon’s collection of short stories left me feeling sad and morbid. Most of the tales centre around death which was rather difficult to read one after another. There were a few standout stories. I enjoyed the tale of the Wodwo or ‘wild man,’ it made me think of Ted Hughes’s book of the same title. Another was the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Woodpecker and the Wolf. The title does not bring to mind astronauts stranded on an desolate, unforgiving planet. However I enjoyed the characters and there is a happier ending!

Pax – Sara Pennypacker

I decided to get this book as other bloggers have read it and been enchanted with it. The illustrations by Jon Klassen are beautiful but I have to admit I struggled to get into the narrative. As the story progressed, however I soon warmed to the characters. I enjoyed the Pax chapters more so than the human story. The underlying sadness to the writing is that animals suffer during war, and there is a lot of animal suffering in the novel which was painful to read. I had expected the ending to be emotive but I just felt numb, it wasn’t very satisfying. It made the whole novel seem a bit of a waste of time to me. Have you read this novel? Did you enjoy it?

A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central – Anja de Jager

This copy was kindly gifted to me by a lady who I chat to whilst waiting for the bus to work. Anja de Jager draws inspiration from cases her father worked on as a policeman in the Netherlands. To date she has written three crime novels in the Lotte Meerman series. This was the second book. It was easy to read and could be read as a stand alone novel. I enjoyed the read and will probably look up the other novels in the series in future.

The Famished Road – Ben Okri

I’ll probably still be reading this book come April. It is such a word dense book, separated into eight books. I’ve read book one and the language and imagery is beautiful, almost psychedelic. The tale is of spirit-child Azaro, who turns his back on the land of spirits to experience the life and death of the living. Okri blends human hardships with fantastical beasts from the spirit realm and beyond. I am enjoying the telling so far. I will let you know how it goes.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x